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The Smartest City in America: Seattle or Raleigh?

Updated on July 30, 2019
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish is a successful employment & training pro, setting Midwest regional records with tens of thousands placed in gainful employment.

Seattle, Washington
Seattle, Washington | Source

Money Magazine's Smart Cities

Money Magazine recently looked at US cities that are home to the highest percentages of Bachelor’s Degree and higher-certificate owners across the nation. The distinction of "Smart City" for Money Magazine differs a bit from rankings furnished by Forbes.com. in the 2010s.

The Forbes rankings were performed about a year and a half more recently than Money's as well, and the definitions of "smart" continue to evolve each year..

Forbes.com provides data on the Top 25 Cities where we find the highest percentage of postsecondary degrees among people ages 25 and older, based on data from Sperlings Best Places. This data is a step further removed than that of the US Census Bureau, but may be just as accurate.

Livability, Workability, Sustainability is the Outcome. Smart is the Accelerator.

— Smart Cities Council; 2019

Another difference from Forbes is that Money Magazine published a Top 26 Cities list, because of ties between cities. A confounding aspect is the jockeying of positions in the two lists annually, depending upon new graduation figures and the human migrations of degree holders in and out of the cities. The job market can influence this movement, but college towns often have more jobs than on-college towns and can attract and keep graduates to a greater extent..

If you consider just the presence of Bachelor’s Degrees as “intelligence”, then Seattle is the smartest city in the whole USA for Money Magazine, based directly on US Census data -- Nearly 53% of Seattle residents possess Bachelor’s Degrees.

Not only this, but Seattle is home to a thriving IT/Computer Industry that requires many degreed professionals in several fields that include IT, Health and Medicine, and Aerospace, as well as others.

From the many fine colleges and universities in the region, these degreed workers often stay in the Greater Seattle Area. Well paying careers are to be had in Seattle, the suburbs Mukilteo, Everett, Redmond, and Tacoma, and other nearby suburbs and cities.

Forbes has chosen Boulder, Colorado. It is located near Louisville, which is also named the Best Place to Live in America.

The Daily Beast

The Daily Beast online has determined its own lineup of smartest US cities by determining its own Daily Beast IQ Score for each (featured on CNN).

See the interesting link below, which places Raleigh-Durham Metro Area in North Carolina, associated with the renown Research Triangle, as the Smartest City in America. This may be the most comprehensive and most recent ranking of Smart Cities.

Money Magazine's Smartest Cities

City Name 
Percentage of Residents that posess at least a Bachelor's Degree 
Seattle WA
52.7%  
San Francisco CA 
50.1% 
Raleigh NC 
50.1% 
Washington DC
45.3%
Austin TX
44.1%

Data gathered from the US Census Bureau.

Intelligence?
Intelligence? | Source

Top 5 Smartest Cities

  • Seattle WA - Visit Seattle with this link to Money's Smartest City.
  • San Francisco CA - San Fancisco receives coverage at:

Top 5 Nursing Schools in the San Francisco Bay Area is also useful, especially looking at degrees and graduation numbers.

  • Raleigh NC - Jobs are increasing in the Research Triangle region. See related links above at the end of the first section of this page
  • Washington DC Stimulus and government jobs have added positions here under the Obama Administration, while other jobs increase as well in Washington DC.
  • Austin TX
(Average Money Magazine "Smart Score" = 48.6%)


You Decide -

Which of the three No. 1 Smartest US Cities do you think is the Smartest?

See results

The Rest of the Best

The remaining Smartest Cities, according to the US Census Bureau and to Money Magazine's criteria, % of residents in posession of a Bachelor's Degree, are:

  • Minneapolis NM 43.2%
  • Atlanta GA 42.4
  • Boston MA 40.9
  • San Diego CA 40.4
  • Lexington-Fayette KY 39.5
  • Denver CO 39
  • Charlotte NC and Portland OR (tied) 38.8
  • St. Paul MN 36.5
  • San Jose NM 36.1
  • Colorado Springs CO 34.9
  • Honolulu HI 34.7
  • Oakland CA 33.8
  • Pittsburgh PA 32.3
  • NYC , Anchorage, and Albuquerque (tied) 32.2
  • Omaha NE 31.9
  • Nashville-Davidson TN 31.7
  • Columbus OH and New Orleans LA (tied) 31.4%

Additional American Smart Cities, by Region.

Midwest: Average Smart Score 37%

Minneapolis NM 43.2%

St. Paul MN 36.5%

Columbus OH 31.4%

  • Interestingly, Columbus is the #1 High-Tech US City for the 2010s, but annually, 34% of its kids receive Public Assistance.

South: Average Smart Score 36.8%

Atlanta GA 42.4%

Atlanta and its suburbs have access to top colleges and universities, research centers, business incubators, and world renown products, services, and tourist attractions. Underground Atlanta and other city favorites are so hot in popularity that the name Hotlanta has stuck to the city.

Lexington-Fayette KY 39.5%

Charlotte NC 38.8%

Nashville-Davidson TN 31.7%

New Orleans LA 31.4%

Smart City Expo Atlanta is redefining what it means for a city to be “smart” with equity, prosperity, humanity, inclusion, and justice serving on par with blockchain, A.I., IoT, big data, and automation.

— Smart City Atlanta Expo, 9.11–13.2019

West Coast: Average Smart Score 36%

San Diego CA 40.4%

Portland OR 38.8%

Honolulu HI 34.7%

Oakland CA 33.8%

Anchorage AK 32.2%

East Coast and Northeast: Average Smart Score = 35.1%

Boston MA 40.9%

Pittsburgh PA 32.3%

  • This city is a too well-kept secret. healthcare is booming in Pittsburgh PA, because of great hospitals and schools, along with the highly focused work of an organization that successfully implements and teaches the Best of the Best Practices of Medicine and Health. Results are jaw-dropping in SW Pennsylvania.

NYC 32.2%

Southwest and Central West: Average Smart Score 34.8%

Denver CO 39%

San Jose NM 36.1%

Colorado Springs CO 34.9%

Albuquerque 32.2%

Omaha NE 31.9%

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS

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