WalletHub released its yearly “Most & Least Educated Cities in America” report this week, and it ranked Durham and Chapel Hill together in the sixth most educated city, while Raleigh-Cary appeared in the eighth position.  

The the other N.C. cities included in the list were:

  • Asheville, 28
  • Charlotte, 52
  • Greensboro, 96
  • Winston-Salem, 111
  • Fayetteville, 113
  • Hickory, 144

Cities that rank high on the list showcase not just a high level of educational attainment among its citizens, but it also showcases the quality of the education in the city and a lower attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged certain groups.

Wallethub cites data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to show that higher educational degree attainment is correlated with lower unemployment rates and leads to higher salaries. Wallethub also cites another study done by the Economic Policy Institute that shows that “Overwhelmingly, high-wage states are states with a well-educated workforce” and that this leads to them contributing “more through taxes over the course of their lifetimes.”

This favorable ranking of N.C. cities comes right off the heels of CNBC ranking North Carolina as the No. 1 state for business in America and later also as the No. 1 state producing the workers that employers want to hire. Counterintuitively, however, the state only ranked seventh on education alone according to one of CNBC’s metrics for measuring the best state for business as well as WalletHub ranking of the state as only  the 26th best state in education. 

This misalignment between N.C. having some two of its biggest urban centers ranking as some of the best  in the country but not ranking so well as a state overall points towards an urban-rural divide in education.

Jenna Robinson, President of the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal, spoke to CJ about this topic stating that “North Carolina’s rural areas have a chicken-and-egg problem. Educated workers want to go where there are good employment opportunities. And employers want to go where the educated workers are. In North Carolina, this means that our urban areas keep growing and becoming more prosperous while our rural areas fall behind.”

“North Carolina’s colleges, universities, and economic development organizations have all tried to address this issue, but they have all found it very hard to reverse the trend of rural decline,” Robinson stated. 


WalletHub’s study looked at the 150 largest metropolitan areas and measured eleven different relevant metrics. These factors went into evaluating two important dimensions by which the rank was determined: educational attainment and quality of education and attainment gap. 

Education attainment included four different metrics that separately measure the share of adults aged 25 and older that fit into different mutually compatible categories including having: a high school diploma or higher, at least some college experience or associate’s degrees or higher, a bachelor’s degree or higher, and a graduate or professional degree.

Quality of education and attainment gap was measured by more complex factors. Quality of the public school system is based on grading from GreatSchools.org. The average quality of universities alongside the number of students enrolled in top 913 universities per capita were both based on Wallethub’s own “College & University“ rankings report. Other important measures included the number of summer learning opportunities as well as the racial and gender education gaps and the achievement gap between low-income students and their advantaged peers.

According to WalletHub, extra credit was given to certain metro areas that showcased an advantage for women over men and/or black people over white people compared to metro areas with no gender-based/racial inequality.