California Has 5 of the 10 Least Educated Cities in the Nation

WalletHub, a personal finance website, recently released its 2023 rankings of the most and least educated cities in the United States, shedding light on educational disparities across metropolitan areas.

The rankings were based on various factors, including the percentage of adults with a high school diploma, college experience, or higher education degrees, as well as the quality of public schools and universities, and gender and racial gaps.

Ann Arbor, Michigan, emerged as the most educated city in the U.S., showcasing its commitment to educational excellence. Following closely behind, San Jose, California, claimed the second spot, solidifying the Golden State’s presence at the top of the rankings.

However, the data also revealed a concerning trend for California, with five cities being represented among the ten least educated metropolitan areas. These cities included Visalia (150), Bakersfield (147), Modesto (146), Stockton (145), and Salinas (141).

WalletHub’s experts pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic had an adverse impact on education, causing school test scores to drop and further widening the gap between low-poverty and high-poverty districts. Student absenteeism also played a role in the overall educational performance of certain cities.

According to Joydeep Roy, a visiting professor of economics and education at Columbia University, nearly a third of California public school students were chronically absent during the 2021-2022 school year, compared to only 14% before the pandemic. Such challenges have likely contributed to the lower rankings of these cities in terms of educational attainment.

The Most Educated Cities, as per the WalletHub rankings, are as follows:

RankMetro AreaTotal ScoreEducational AttainmentQuality of Education & Attainment Gap
1Ann Arbor, MI94.7111
2San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA83.1243
3Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC82.25222
4San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA80.77514
5Madison, WI80.59354

On the other hand, the Least Educated Cities included several California locations:

RankMetro AreaTotal ScoreEducational AttainmentQuality of Education & Attainment Gap
141Salinas, CA28.66141115
142Corpus Christi, TX28.35140141
143Beaumont-Port Arthur, TX28.0314485
144Hickory-Lenoir-Morganton, NC27.66142126
145Stockton, CA24.7114598

WalletHub experts emphasized the importance of investing in education and attracting highly educated individuals to cities. Educated individuals are known to increase labor force productivity and heavily invest in the next generation, considering education as a crucial key to children’s success.

The rankings also shed light on other California cities, with San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad, Santa Rosa-Petaluma, and Sacramento-Roseville-Folsom making respectable showings.

Sociology professor Molly Martin from Pennsylvania State University further emphasized the significance of education, stating that highly educated individuals typically view education as the “golden ticket” for children’s future achievements.

While Ann Arbor, Michigan, shines as an example of educational excellence, the rankings highlight the need for attention and investment in education across various U.S. cities, particularly those experiencing disparities in educational attainment.

It’s crucial for policymakers, educators, and communities to address the challenges faced by the least educated cities and work towards providing equitable educational opportunities for all residents. By doing so, these cities can strive to improve their rankings and create a more promising future for their communities.

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