According to the Movoto Real Estate Blog’s latest analysis, not only are America’s suburbs more interesting than you thought they were, they’re also among some of the smartest cities in the country. But which suburb is the smartest of them all? That honor goes to Santa Monica.
Here are the 10 smartest suburbs in America:
If you’ve ever thought that California was filled with beach bums, surfers, and valley girls, well, you’re right—but with half of the smartest suburbs in the state, it’s also clearly filled with well educated and intelligent people.
But more about our top 10 cities, both in California and elsewhere, later. For now, let’s study up on how exactly we created this ranking.
We started by collecting data for 109 different suburbs using business listings, Greatschools.org, and the U.S. Census American Community Survey. Then, we ranked them from one to 109 in the following criteria:
- Colleges and universities per capita
- Public libraries per capita
- Museums per capita
- Percentage of students with bachelor’s degrees or higher
- High school graduation rate
- GreatSchools.org rating (based on test scores for the area)
We averaged these rankings into one overall Big Deal Score, where the lowest score was the best and brightest suburb, none other than Santa Monica.
If you’re curious about how we defined a suburb, we considered any large population center near one of the nation’s 50 largest cities, but also factored in whether or not the place was called a suburb on Wikipedia, in the list of inner-ring suburbs, or in any official capacity.
To check out how the top 50 smartest suburbs ranked in our analysis, you can head to the bottom of the post for a complete table. Otherwise, let’s dive into this honor roll of places, starting with our most brainy spot.
1. Santa Monica, CA
So much for any stereotypes about Santa Monica residents being vapid, beach-loving, wealthy… okay, they may still be some of these things, but they’re also really intelligent and cultured.
According to our analysis, this suburb had the sixth most museums per capita out of all 109 places. It also ranked 10th overall for the percentage of its population who have bachelor’s degrees or higher (64.5 percent) and 11th for the number of nearby colleges and universities per capita.
2. Evanston, IL
It may be no surprise that Evanston made our list, what with it being home to one of the best universities in the country and all.
Because of Northwestern and several other nearby colleges and universities, Evanston earned most of its points in the category of universities/colleges per capita.
That wasn’t the only subject it excelled in. Evanston also had the ninth most museums per capita, and the eighth most bachelor’s degrees or higher among residents—65.39 percent.
Considering that the average attainment of a bachelor’s degree or higher in the U.S. is a mere 28.5 percent, this is pretty impressive.
3. Berkeley, CA
Over the years, Berkeley has earned itself quite the reputation. It is known for its academia, its natural beauty, and, of course, a mix of old hippies and young hipsters. All true, to be honest, but at least the smart factor we can discuss empirically.
Of all of the suburbs in the U.S., Berkeley had the most colleges and universities per capita, so it’s no surprise that it also had the sixth highest percentage of residents with bachelor’s degrees or higher.
And when residents aren’t busy studying for exams or, well, writing up exams, they can kick back and relax at one of the many museums nearby.
4. Cambridge, MA
Sure, California suburbs did take up a majority of the spots in our top 10, but almost a third of the brainy ‘burbs were in the Northeast—two of which were in Massachusetts.
The first Massachusetts suburb is no real surprise, as Cambridge has quite the reputation as being cultured and well-educated.
By well-educated, we mean really well-educated. Not only did it have the second most universities and colleges per capita, but 73.8 percent of residents held bachelor’s degrees or higher.
To put that into perspective, just take a look at Camden, NJ where only 7.62 percent of residents had college degrees.
5. Towson, MD
Another honor student from the Northeast, Towson, MD did well in our analysis nearly across the board.
Out of a possible 10, it was awarded a score of nine for its students’ stellar test scores. Of course this probably has to do with a lot of factors—good teachers, good schools, etc.—but it certainly couldn’t hurt that this suburb had the 10th most libraries per capita in the U.S.
With 61.94 percent of residents holding bachelor’s degrees or higher, you just know that these kids’ parents are teaching them well.
6. Cupertino, CA
This affluent California ‘burb may not have as many nearby universities and colleges as, say, Berkeley, but it more than makes up for this with its younger students.
Of all of the places we looked at, Cupertino students ranked the highest for their test scores. It also had a 95 percent high school graduation rate, better than 100 other suburbs in the U.S.
No surprise, really, when you consider that 74.24 percent of residents hold bachelor’s degrees or higher. These kids are learning from the best.
7. Scottsdale, AZ
If you’re at all surprised to see Scottsdale, AZ on our list, you clearly haven’t been there.
This suburb of Phoenix, AZ may be known for its affluence and luxury, but more than all of that, it is known for its art scene. Case in point: it has the 14th most museums per capita out of all of the suburbs we looked at.
It’s also a good place to educate your children. It earned a 10 out of 10 for test scores, plus 94 percent of high school students in this city graduated with a diploma.
Compare that to the 32 percent in San Elizario, TX, and it’s no wonder Scottsdale made our top 10.
8. Newton, MA
Boston, MA may get the credit for a rich culture and academia, but that’s just because it’s close to this intelligent suburb, are we right, Newton residents?
Of all of the suburbs we looked at, this one had the very highest percentage of residents with bachelor’s degrees or higher: 75.04 percent. That’s almost three times the national average.
This city isn’t just impressive at the college level—it also scored well for its public schools, with a rating of nine out of 10, and, with a 95 percent high school graduation rate, ranked the ninth best in this category.
9. Seal Beach, CA
Seal Beach is yet another suburb disproving any stereotypes that you thought might be true about Southern California. Well, at least as far as intelligence goes.
Tied with our other California city, Cupertino, schools in Seal Beach had the highest ranking from GreatSchools.org, a perfect 10.
Locals probably spend all of their time studying it up in one of the city’s public libraries, for which it ranked fifth most per capita. No, just kidding, they’re probably all at the beach—just instead of Cosmo, they’re reading Chaucer.
10. Alameda, CA
Where our other East Bay ‘burb had Alameda beat in its number of colleges, Alameda came in with a much higher number of libraries per capita—the 12th most in the country, in fact.
In addition to being brimming with books, Alameda had more museums per capita than 93 other suburbs we looked at. No wonder schools here earned an 8 out of 10 overall.
Being Brainy In The ‘Burbs
When it comes to academia, culture, and a reputation for intelligence, it seems as though big cities get all of the credit. Sure, places like San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, and Boston certainly have their fair share of bright beings, but that’s just because half of them commute from places like these. Yes, we’re talking about you, Santa Monica.
If you’re starting to feel like your brains might be a little too big for your hometown, there’s a simple answer: you can move. And unlike your math homework, that’s something we can help with.