News & Politics

Forbes Says Washington Is Fifth-Smartest Metro Area

We try hard to wrap our minds around the latest internet ranking.

Photograph via Shutterstock.

Forbes, the business magazine and silly ranking farm, says Washington is the fifth-smartest metropolitan area in the United States, when measuring the percentage of the local population with at least a bachelor’s degree and the increase in college-educated residents.

According to Forbes’s data, 48.7 percent of people in the Washington-Alexandria-Arlington area have at least four years of higher education, a jump of 6.2 percentage points over 2000, or a 45-percent increase in the college-degree-wielding population. While our share of residents with college degrees is higher than the top four metropolitan areas, those regions finished higher in Forbes’s rankings thanks to their higher growth rates of college graduates. First-place Boston, where 44.8 percent of people have bachelor’s degrees, experienced an 8.8 percent increase from its tally in 2000. Padding out the top five are Pittsburgh; San Jose, California; and Grand Rapids, Michigan.

But just why is Washington smarter than 376 of the 380 metropoltian areas Forbes reviewed? Chalk it up to the “boomtown” phenomenon, writes Forbes ranker-bot Joel Kotkin.

“Another big employer of educated people is government, and with Washington in expansion mode over the past decade, it’s no surprise that our nation’s capital features in the top 10—twice,” he writes. “The proportion of the population of Washington-Alexandria-Arlington that is college-educated has risen 6.2 points to 48.7%, the highest concentration in the nation, on the back of a 45% increase in the raw numbers.”

So when you go home next week and your Fox News talking point-spewing uncle berates you for wallowing in the crapulence of the nation’s capital, at least you can tell him you’re statistically more intelligent. Unless, you know, he’s from Boston, Pittsburgh, Silicon Valley, or central Michigan.

Find Benjamin Freed on Twitter at @brfreed.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.