America's Most - and Least - Educated Cities

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The Washington, D.C. area tops the list of the nation's most educated metropolitan regions, with nearly half of all adults 25 or older holding at least a Bachelor's degree. Close behind are the Bridgeport, Conn., San Jose, San Francisco, and Boston areas, all centers for high-tech and professional jobs.

The least educated populations live in Central California cities like Bakersfield and Modesto - both at the very bottom of the list - in towns along the Texas-Mexico border (McAllen, El Paso) and in the aging industrial and Rust Belt cities of the Midwest (Youngstown, Ohio; Scranton, Pa.).

Those are the findings of a recent study (PDF) by the Brookings Institution, which used Census data from 1990 and 2000 along with the more recent numbers from the Census' annual American Community Survey.

Some of the findings are predictable - college attainment among whites far exceeds that of blacks and Hispanics - but others are surprising and heartening: a higher proportion of people overall are going to college and graduate school, and some of the biggest gains are in struggling economic areas in the Northeast and Midwest.

Still, "already 'smart' areas have been getting smarter fast," the report finds - citing the big education gains in Boston, New York, San Diego, and San Francisco. And the disparity is wide. Top ranked D.C. has more than three times as many college grads as bottom-ranked Bakersfield.

The study ranked 100 metropolitan areas. The top 10 and bottom 10 areas are below. Brookings also offers an interactive tool with many more ways to sort and examine the data.

Top 10 metro areas, by proportion of adults 25 and older with a Bachelor's degree or above

1 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV, 46.8 percent
2 Bridgeport, CT, 43.8 percent
3 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA, 43.5 percent
4 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA, 43.4 percent
5 Boston-Cambridge, MA-NH, 41.9 percent
6 Raleigh, NC, 41.5 percent
7 Madison, WI, 39.8 percent
8 Austin, TX, 38.2 percent
9 Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN-WI, 37.6 percent
10 Denver-Aurora, CO, 37.5 percent

Bottom 10 metro areas, by proportion of adults 25 and older with a Bachelor's degree or above

91 Scranton, PA, 21 percent
92 El Paso, TX, 19.6 percent
93 Youngstown, OH-PA, 19.1 percent
94 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA, 19 percent
95 Fresno, CA, 18.9 percent
96 Lakeland, FL, 18.7 percent
97 Stockton, CA, 15.6 percent
98 McAllen, TX, 15.1 percent
99 Modesto, CA, 15.1 percent
100 Bakersfield, CA, 14.7 percent