Island on top 20 list of most educated small towns

Mercer Island once again finds itself on a “best of” list. It has been ranked 20th on a list of the 20 most educated “small towns” in America in the most recent issue of Forbes magazine. The story indicates that of the highest degrees earned by Island residents over 25, 37.1 percent hold advanced degrees and 37.2 percent hold bachelor degrees. The calculated percent of associate degrees is 2.3 percent.

The author describes her methodology in the following way: The story uses “data from the U.S. Census 2005-2007 American Community Survey, which polled more than 2,500 regions with 20,000 to 65,000 residents about their educational attainment. The number of graduate degrees — including master’s degrees, Ph.D.’s, professional degrees, bachelor’s degrees and associate degrees — were each divided by the population of the town over age 25 and then weighted to give a final average for each location. High school diplomas were excluded from our analysis, since it’s safe to assume that most residents with bachelor’s degrees also have high school degrees.”

The piece in Forbes magazine, a magazine which describes the players and forces of wealth, describes our community in the following way:

“This idyllic island near Seattle is home to enormous houses, hiking and equestrian trails, and over 35 parks. That’s enough to attract the wealthy and highly educated staffs of Seattle University, University of Washington and Seattle Pacific University.”

All of the communities in the top 20 were near to or the home of universities. More than a few are perhaps better defined as intergral parts of larger communities and centers of commerce, and whose borders were indistinguishable from urban city limits. Dozens of on-line commenters noted this fact along with the argument that the definition of a small town was much less than the size used in the study.

The piece also notes that towns such as these did not have issues with poor schools or unemployment that usually plague rural districts and larger, more urban cities.

The story includes the observation that educational attainment is closely tied to wealth.

“Because college graduates make about $22,000 more per year than those who stopped after high school, and people with graduate degrees bring home an additional $37,000 to $57,000 per year, highly educated residents are the ones who boost the property values and median incomes in the towns in which they live.”

The list was largely constructed as one of the ways to look at the factors that may explain or influence the concentration of wealth — wealth, in this case, as measured by real estate. The article points out that the average median property value of the five most educated towns is around $900,000, well above the national average. The average median sales price for homes that sold on Mercer Island in 2008 is slightly higher.

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Forbes top 20 most educated towns in the United States

1. Bethesda, Md.

2. Wellesley, Mass.

3. Palo Alto, Calif.

4. McLean, Va.

5. Los Altos, Calif.

6. West Lafayette, Ind.

7. Potomac, Md.

8. Lexington, Mass.

9. Mountain Brook, Ala.

10. University Park, Texas

11. Brookline, Mass.

12. Chapel Hill, N.C.

13. Wilmette, Ill.

14. Blacksburg, Va.

15. State College, Pa.

16. Saratoga, Calif.

17. Needham, Mass.

18. Cupertino, Calif.

19. North Potomac, Md.

20. Mercer Island

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