Auburn Family

Smartest Metros in the U.S.? Auburn-Opelika Ranks #4 out of 380 MSAs

Auburn ranks number four in an analysis of the 380 metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) in the United States, according to The survey reviewed data on the number of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree, the percentage of increase in the number of college educated residents in the population and compared it to the previous year’s population.

Some of the most dramatic growth is taking place in two kinds of small-scale geographies: college towns and what might be best described as amenity regions. At the turn of the millennium, college towns already had a decent base of educated people; now they seem able to attract and nurture tech companies as well.

Much the same pattern can be seen in several college towns, including No. 4 Auburn-Opelika, Ala.

Looking Forward

The rapid growth in the concentration of residents with bachelor’s degrees in these smaller cities suggests that the geography of brainpower is likely to change in the years ahead. For decades the Southeast and Midwest have lagged behind the Northeast and the West Coast in education, but this gap is closing somewhat, at least in the smaller cities. Save Burlington, Vt., not one small metro area in the Northeast or California ranked within the top 65 of our overall list.


To determine the metro areas that are gaining brainpower in the 21stCentury, we scored the nation’s 380 metropolitan statistical areas based on three criteria. We started with the growth rate in the number of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree from 2000 through 2013 (25% weighting in final score). But since the places that post the highest growth rates tend to be those starting with low levels of educational attainment, we gave greater weight to the percentage point increase in the share of the population that is college-educated over that span (50%), and we factored in the share of educated people in the population in 2013 (25%). We also separated out results for the 51 MSAs with over a million residents.  (Source)


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