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October 8th, 2009
09:30 AM ET

"Smartest" cities in America

This list from is creating a lot of buzz.
What do you think? Agree or disagree?

Filed under: Heidi Collins • Josh Levs
soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. Bernadette

    100% of the top 10 smartest cities belong to a state that voted Democrat or for Obama in the last Presidential election. 60% of the 10 dumnest cities belong to a state that voted Republican in the last election.

    October 8, 2009 at 9:50 am |
  2. Sigma

    To be honest, regardless of what cities are smarter than the others, it still does not help the fact that American education is failing in comparison to other countries.

    We should stop the ranking, and start rethinking the way which children are taught.

    October 8, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  3. Mike Armstrong TX.

    All but Chicago is that right .

    October 8, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  4. Robert W. , NC

    Of course the most educated people are liberal democrats. In the sixties a whole bunch of liberal dewmocrats went to college because they hated the Vietnam war and did not want to be drafted. Then they became teachers and infulenced college students toward there beliefs. Makes sense to me.

    October 8, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  5. Robert W. , NC

    I live in NC. I know people are more educated per capita but really, the way they run our state . . .

    October 8, 2009 at 2:07 pm |
  6. Robert W. , NC - correction.

    I live in NC. I know people in Raleigh are more educated per capita but really, the way they run our state . . .

    October 8, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  7. Chris

    I agree with this list. I live in Raleigh-Durham and it seems like everyone you meet here has multiple degrees; including their masters or doctorates. I think it is because there are so many universities here. It seems like there is a college campus on almost every corner: Duke University in Durham, UNC – Chapel Hill, NC State in Raleigh, NC Central in Durham, Meredith University in Raleigh, Peace College in Raleigh, Shaw University in Raleigh, St. Augustine’s in Raleigh, Campbell, and several other community colleges and schools with annex campuses here. I think people come here for their education and many stay. A person above commented on the way this state is run…..I also think that sometimes the number of overly educated people here prevents this area from moving forward. There are so many critical thinkers here….that everything seems analyzed and scrutinized to the point that nothing seems to get done.

    October 8, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  8. joshua bryan

    Huntsville is really the smartest city because we're a city made up of rocket scientist. Think about that.

    October 8, 2009 at 2:50 pm |
  9. mother superior

    Book smart and common sense are two different things.

    October 8, 2009 at 4:07 pm |
  10. kayla

    Where do you see that American education is sliding in comparision to other countries?

    From my own educational experience I can tell you that the USA is THE place to get an education. I've met many international students during my education at the University of Florida who come to the USA to get the best education that they can get. They don't go to China, Europe, Australia, Canada for the best, they come here. Also, USA is the home of the top colleges in the world as well as the top research facilities in the world. If people from other countries are blessed enough to study and get a degree from here, they go back to their countries (if they go back at all) and are viewed at a much higher standard than others because of studying here.

    No, not all of our children go to college and the win the nobel prize, but we need people of all skill levels to have this country function. After all, you wouldn't see a college grad flipping burgers.

    In the end, those who want will in regards to education.

    October 8, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  11. kelly

    The fact that the more educated a person becomes, the more liberal they get does indeed make perfect sense...

    But to think that it's because students are branded with their professors' beliefs shows how very little time you've spent in school. My college education has so far consisted of exposure to all sorts of education material and the opportunity to use this exposure to practice expressing myself. I assure you there are no tests on... uh... hippie-isms....

    Thank you for the clarification.

    October 8, 2009 at 4:34 pm |
  12. Christina

    As a proud resident of Berkeley, I think this list is pretty accurate. Even the people at my local garden nursery and bakery have PhDs.

    October 8, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
  13. Russ Vatalaro

    Is Honolulu on the list? Where is the full list?

    October 8, 2009 at 4:37 pm |
  14. Danielle

    In the Vietnam War era, Robert W., people didn't go to college to avoid the war. They went to college because they could afford it (or their parents could afford it). There were a lot of men who hated the war, but had no reasonable means to opt out of it.
    In regards to the study, I'd like to know if, when calculating nonfiction book sales, used book sales were included? Smart cookies don't buy new's a waste of money.

    October 8, 2009 at 4:42 pm |
  15. Sue

    How refreshing to see attributes other than financial wealth rated!!!

    October 8, 2009 at 4:45 pm |
  16. Henry Miller, Libertarian, Cary, NC

    "100% of the top 10 smartest cities belong to a state that voted Democrat or for Obama in the last Presidential election."

    And I suspect that the residents of those cities are regretting that mistake. Judging by the demographics, the Independents who voted for Obama certainly are.

    October 8, 2009 at 4:47 pm |
  17. AJ

    I agree with mother superior. Anybody who sat in the horrendous, several hour, traffic jam trying to get into the U2 concert in
    Raleigh last weekend would probably say they may be "book smart" but "flunked' the common sense test by causing that nightmare.

    October 8, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  18. Rodney - Compton

    Geez-Louise... Is there ever going to be a story where comments don't get involved in Democrats versus Republicans? They could do an article on baby ducks swimming in a pond, and somehow the comments would morph into:

    Liberal immorality resulting in a single-mother duck caring for her family without a father. or...
    Big-business conservatives causing the duck family survive without health insurance.

    October 8, 2009 at 5:17 pm |
  19. Stephanie

    I live in the Raleigh-Durham area, and I teach at one of the universities here. I fit much of what is on the list, and I know many others in this area who also fit. I am not surprised that we are number one on the list, but I don't see the need for the list. This kind of list will probably do more harm that good.

    October 8, 2009 at 5:38 pm |
  20. C. Schmidt

    I generally agree with the criteria used to rank the cities; especially the proportion of people who vote in important elections. I strongly believe that one of the dumbest acts is not to vote.

    October 8, 2009 at 6:55 pm |

    Why not Huntsville, Alabama?

    More than 50% of city population have a Bachelor's or higher. In the metroplex around Huntsville is the highest concentration of engineers in the USA. The Research Park complex is the second largest in the USA with over 150 companies. There are four universities in the Metro area and University of Alabama Huntsville is world class in optics and space technologies. Huntsville is rated as number 1 business location for scientists and engineers this year and in top 10 places to relocate a business.

    October 8, 2009 at 7:00 pm |
  22. Paula

    Last Year, Minneapolis-St.Paul was # 1. I'm staying here.

    October 8, 2009 at 7:01 pm |
  23. MLB

    So what is Bernadette's point about the smartest cities voting DEM? Are you trying to draw a spurious correlation between "smart" and being democrat?

    October 8, 2009 at 7:03 pm |
  24. V T

    I want to comment on Sigma's post. US is failing behind other countries??? Which country are you referring to that has an open enrollment for the masses of Americans where no child is turned down? There is no special school for economic "classes" of people. In our public schools we have the wealthy, professionally tutored, parent advocated child sitting right next to the poverty child with no external or internal family resources. I get so tired of people cutting our American schools. I am a graduate of public schools all the way through graduate school and I am love my education and the benefits that I have achieved from attending those schools!!!!!!!!! Keep your heads up, teachers 🙂

    October 8, 2009 at 7:09 pm |
  25. j

    Bernadette your right. FYI, you are FAR more likely to vote democrat if you have higher eduction.

    October 8, 2009 at 7:15 pm |
  26. Jeff

    Baltimore? Charm City? Are you kidding me? Just because Hopkins is there? Baltimore is a poor, blue collar town. They may have some smart folks there at the top of the curve, but the vast majority is dumber than a pile of rocks. They should divide their rankings by the murder rate to get at a more accurate picture. (for the record, I am from Baltimore and went to Hopkins undergrad)

    October 8, 2009 at 8:09 pm |
  27. Tom

    It comes as no suprise that all of these smartest cities elected Democrats to the House of Reps. I know that introspection doesn't come naturally for them, but I hope Republicans looking at this ask themselves why they are supporting the party of idiots.

    October 8, 2009 at 8:13 pm |
  28. Susie

    I lived in Chapel Hill for many years. I've recently moved home to New Orleans (one of the dumb cities). I'll take New Orleans over Chapel Hill any day. They may be smart, but they have no soul........ And BTW, I have a master's degree.

    October 8, 2009 at 8:16 pm |
  29. kgarten teacher's spouse

    Interesting that some folks talk about how their kids are taught. The job starts at home and by the time they make it to my wife, some of them are a lost cause. Kids with lip gloss, kids that are mean to the point of no correction AND parents that don't seem to have a clue. I don't see my city on the list because it is not a million people, but I have lived in that size town on multiple occasions (until recently Memphis). My home is in Indiana and there are smart and stupid people in every corner of world. Quit ranking and pay attention to your own kid. Make them responsible and respectful.

    October 8, 2009 at 8:54 pm |
  30. Laura

    I think the San Jose area is ranked right up there because of all the computer geniuses it attracts. Lack of political engagement? We're too smart to listen to the smoke&mirrors and variety show that runs the political stage.

    October 8, 2009 at 9:38 pm |
  31. Laura

    Oh yeah, and I found it funny that they mentioned Cal Berkeley but not Stanford, which is right in between and SF and San Jo.

    October 8, 2009 at 9:40 pm |
  32. tbrucia

    Yes, book smart and common sense are two different things - and combined they are great. (You don't need to choose between them; that Hobson's choice would be 'dumb').

    October 8, 2009 at 10:21 pm |
  33. teacherman

    Fresno being the dumbest metro area in the country is right on the mark. Local leadership sacrifices progress for inertia and that's just the way they like it. Anyone with a brain that was raised here usually leaves the first chance they get.

    Good job, Daily Beast.

    October 8, 2009 at 10:24 pm |
  34. AI

    Intellectual Morons !

    Having more intellectual morons in a city does not accumulate to be smarter or better.

    October 8, 2009 at 10:25 pm |
  35. Curious Jorge

    To J. Bryan...Just the one? Indeed, you the prove the point well. Think about THAT.

    October 8, 2009 at 10:27 pm |
  36. Jim Carter

    I can only speak for city #52 out of 55. Louisville indeed is deserving of this ranking. It's hard to imagine a community that's more lacking in common sense and formal education. Even the more educated/affluent citizens are amazingly clueless. I'm ashamed to say this is my hometown.

    October 8, 2009 at 11:01 pm |
  37. Doris

    For what it's worth, I moved from Minneapolis to Phoenix several years ago, and by comparison I call Phoenix the Ozarks of the west.

    October 8, 2009 at 11:37 pm |
  38. Jason

    Ha, Baltimore is on there, but the Financial and Legal Capital of the world is not smart enough for the top ten, these things are just really pointless and stupid.

    October 8, 2009 at 11:41 pm |
  39. We should be first

    My impression of North Carolina is of an overly compliant business culture where people dress well, conform, and work reliably but not creatively fror very large companies who headquarter there and hire good rule followers.

    Contrast that with the Bay Area culture -a hotbed of innovation, entrepreneurship, rule-bending, startup guts and hustle. Different ways that people use their brains. But just grinding away accumulating graduate degrees and fitting into the corporate hierarchy does not make for true smarts. I don't see any real originality coming out of North Carolina.. maybe it just doesn't make the national news...

    October 9, 2009 at 12:27 am |
  40. chris regan

    Measuring intelligence has proven unreliable with any degree of accuracy in all but the extreme ends of the spectrum (which is still not accurate), but the measurements used here have nothing to do with intelligence. What it may measure is interest in non-fiction, academics, and voting, but those do not necessarily equate to intelligence. It's a worthless survey.

    October 9, 2009 at 1:40 am |
  41. JP

    I agree with the list. Primarily because I'm from Connecticut and we're high up on that list. :p

    October 9, 2009 at 2:03 am |
  42. Glenn

    About book smarts v.s. common sense: If you don't take learning seriously then you don't have common sense.

    October 9, 2009 at 4:41 am |
  43. Maria

    Now if they did the cities with the most crime and murder plus poverty they would also be Democratic cities.

    October 9, 2009 at 5:17 am |
  44. nancy Zhao

    Even in the smartest cities it's always the dumbest people who are driving in front of you. nancy in MPLS

    October 9, 2009 at 5:58 am |
  45. Tod Fetherling

    Not sure how Nashville was left off the list. The healthcare capital of the world and everyone is brain surgeon.

    October 9, 2009 at 6:04 am |
  46. Mike

    Worst city to love in!

    Sheboygan Wisconsn and surrounding areas. It was like living in the dark ages, 5 years at the Kohler CO. was sheer torture in the community. The biggest cultural things to do was to go to the 500 bratwurst events they have every summer and drink cheap beer.

    October 9, 2009 at 8:38 am |
  47. Joan Barnett

    Congratulations to Pres. Obama. I am thrilled ! A well-deserved award for Obama's willingness to reach out to others with respect and an offer of peace.
    What a refreshing improvement from the previous eight years with a president who called our enemies "evil" instead of trying to remedy some of the reasons for the hatred.

    October 9, 2009 at 9:34 am |
  48. Jon Divine

    Please note that Gandhi did not get the Nobel Peace Prize. Sadat, Begin, and few other leaders got Nobel Prize desptie being terrorists and going to war. Obama is presiding over couple of wars. And he gets a Nobel prize. The most deserving leader for peace prize is not even mentioned anywhere. He avoided the war and took path of diplomacy and peace despite instigation from an enemy next door. The most deserving leader is none other than Prime Minister Singh of India.

    October 9, 2009 at 9:50 am |
  49. Erin Shumaker

    I live in the Raleigh-Durham area (known as RDU by the locals). I heard about this list on the radio and thought it wasn't true. Now I've heard about it again, and I believe! It makes me feel so much smarter knowing I live in the smartest area in the country! Go Tarheels!

    October 9, 2009 at 10:12 am |
  50. Doris Lamb

    I think the Peace Prize is well-deserved for President Obama's work toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Doris Lamb, Austin, Texas

    October 9, 2009 at 10:20 am |
  51. J. Chris

    As a resident of Boston, I can attest to these results. No complaints here 😀

    October 9, 2009 at 10:36 am |
  52. D.J.

    Why is that people don't want to see this president succeed? People would rather see him fail, even though that means more Americans being hurt. It makes me wonder if people are trying to mask the real problem they have with him (race). All I hear is he hasn't done this yet, he hasn't done that. It took us years to get into this mess, which was not on his clock, and it will take years to get out of it. It's just amazing all these unrealistic expectations put on one man. He has only been in office for nine months and he's supposed to fix what the previous administration took eight years to destroy? Give me a break! He has great determination and has taken on so many tasks. He has been handed these cards, he didn't deal them. Let him enjoy this accomplishment! Congratulations on all your efforts, hard work, and many sleepless nights I'm sure President Obama!

    October 9, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  53. john white in new orleans

    Heidi...President obama could find a cure for cancer and the republicans would find something negative to say. to hell with them.

    October 9, 2009 at 10:54 am |
  54. Chris

    In response to “We should be first,” I would agree with your post, however, I think North Carolina is changing. Research Triangle Park (RTP) is a hotbed of innovative companies located in an area between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill. RTP has been around for a long time; however, I think this area is just now starting to hit a creative streak. More and more creative-based companies are making news in this area related to technology, biochemistry, gaming industry, major advertising firms and even music studios and television editing companies.

    Many used to think of N.C. as a conservative state during the days when Helms was our senator, however, that is changed also. It is becoming a more progressive place with creative and liberal thinkers choosing to live here.

    I would add to my earlier post that Raleigh-Durham is an outstanding place to live. We are located between gorgeous mountains and some of the best beaches in the world. It is a very short drive to both. We have leaders here committed to protecting open space, great parks, greenways and cultural events. We get a taste of all four-seasons, with long spring and fall periods and relatively mild short winters. Maybe smart people know where to settle once they find the right place to live.

    October 9, 2009 at 12:43 pm |
  55. Cecelia

    I agree that Raleigh-Durham (and Chapel Hill) NC could be among the smartest cities in the US. NC State is one of the best engineering schools and then there is Duke and UNCC medical schools that produce among the best physicians and care in the nation. To be honest, I am not sure what is so surprising about this, JOSH!, because you have a lot of intellectuals in this area. period. And lets not forget besides the schools in the UNC system in that area, Raleigh Durham has the Research triangle park there where you have pharmaceutical companies and other fortune 500 companies. I graduated in the area from undergraduate and I can tell you this area is well regarded as having some of the best schools in the US, which could lead to one of the smartest cities in the US. I don't think it was a laughing matter at all. I agree (maybe not with Baltimore).

    October 10, 2009 at 7:32 am |
  56. Dee

    Dear, Raleigh-Durham isn't a city. Raleigh and Durham are two different cities in two different locations. They're pretty much neighbors but they are not one in the same.

    October 10, 2009 at 7:33 am |
  57. Marina Gipps

    Daily Beast Bias: The criteria for "Smartest Cites" is flawed: Non-fiction book sales are irrelevant. Let's try cities with the highest number of Scientists, Mathematicians and Poet Laureates instead.

    October 10, 2009 at 7:41 am |
  58. Cameron Strickland

    I'm not sure about the SMARTEST city but with places like Duke Universtiy, UNC-Chapel Hill, other universities as well as Duke Medical(world renown for its heart and cancer research), and Research Triangle Park (the largest research park in the US) you cannot deny that we deserve to be up near the top!

    October 10, 2009 at 7:44 am |
  59. David Stanford

    Where is the full list–from smartest to "dumbest?" I like the idea of looking at the number of non-fiction books sold. It's a good indicator of a population of readers who don't mind sitting with a book to learn, instead of reading a story.

    But I really want to see the list. Josh, you said there was a link to the list on this page; I don't see it.

    October 10, 2009 at 8:20 am |
  60. Ken

    Hey Josh:
    What percent og those bosses were women?

    October 10, 2009 at 8:28 am |
  61. Bryan Crumpler

    RDU #1 is definitely right, hands down. The sheer brains of Morehead Scholars, Rhodes Scholars, Fullbright Scholars, Park Scholars etc. in and around RDU is already a good indicator of the neurological prowess concentrated in the area.

    October 10, 2009 at 8:32 am |
  62. George

    This is one of the more ridiculous lists I have seen. Smartest cities...LOL. It means nothing. I do not see any evidence that being on the list makes life any better or worse for the inhabitants. Show me something that makes a difference in the lives of people not mess like this. By the way, I will admit to sour grapes because my city is ranked low I hear. At least I am more honest than this list.

    October 10, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  63. Steve

    Memphis is #51 on the list. This is totally wrong! No Way! As a resident of Memphis I tell all my out of town friends that Memphis has the dumbest people in the world. "Felony Stupidity" really applies here. Memphis definitely belongs at the bottom of the list!

    October 10, 2009 at 12:10 pm |
  64. liza

    Josh, at least Las Vegas residents can count to ten. Your list showed 1-7,9,10.

    October 10, 2009 at 12:31 pm |
  65. Josh Levs

    Hello! As we've explained, it was a tie at #7 - Seattle-Tacoma area and Washington DC area. They were both #7, and then you go to #9!

    October 10, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  66. Sharon Heflin

    I've lived in Las Vegas for 32 years–not by choice, but because of a series of events that have made it necessary. It is no surprise to see Las Vegas at the bottom of the "Smartest Cities" list. As my representative Dina Titus put it, "We are at the bottom of every good list and at the top of every bad list."
    Clearly, the State of Nevada does not value education enough to fund public education adequately. Because parents in a large segment of our population have no high school diploma, many of them do not value education. When they can make more money when they begin working as a dealer or parking valet for a hotel than I did when I retired, why should they care? I taught English, U.S. and World History in the local public school district for 23 years. I know whereof I speak.

    October 10, 2009 at 1:00 pm |
  67. Richard Vienneau


    Obituary printed in the London Times:

    Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years. No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape. He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as: Knowing when to come in out of the rain; why the early bird gets the worm; Life isn't always fair; and maybe it was my fault.

    Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge). His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place:

    Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

    Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children. It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an Aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

    Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

    Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.
    Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.
    Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents Truth and Trust, by his wife Discretion, his daughter, Responsibility, and his son Reason..
    He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers:

    1.I Know My Rights.
    2.I Want It Now
    3.Someone Else Is To Blame
    4. I'm A Victim .

    October 10, 2009 at 1:29 pm |
  68. A.M. Barbosa Vicente

    I totally agree with that list 🙂 , by the way I live in Boston. To tell the truth this list doesn't mean anything. Here in USA we have the best educators and the best system in the World. We just need to send a powerful signal to young people, so they can understand that we face a real competition. They need to engage more and do better to make sure they get high score.So they can face the real World better.

    October 10, 2009 at 7:30 pm |
  69. Ken

    I have told my son many times that "smartness "consist of three things
    1. Book Sense
    2. Common Sense
    3. Wisdom to use both.
    If we would use all three, mainly wisdom, realize we should stop aruging with each other, work together for a common goal, and have faith in God, we would all be better off. In the end the smartest people will have lived in a placed where they accepeted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The smartest people will end up in Heaven.

    October 10, 2009 at 10:58 pm |
  70. Debbie

    Hi Heidi: My name is Debbie from Conn. The recent release of "In the Middle of the Night" is a outrage. Brian McDonald is making money off the death of the Dr. Petit's family, who died in a home invasion here in Cheshire, Connecticut. I feel this is an example of poor moral fiber for authors like Brian. It is my opinion that Authors like this should be mandated to get a release by the families to write these books and to donate a large portion of their profits to the families before they write about catastrophic events that tear peoples lives apart. Why should authors like Brian profit from this? I'm sure the medical community here will not support this book and will put what effort they can into boycotting Brian McDonald. Thank you

    October 18, 2009 at 11:10 am |