The District: A city with brains

Washington is the city everyone loves to hate, and those who perpetually rag on the District can add another gripe to their list: D.C. residents are probably smarter than you.

About 47 percent of District residents have completed a bachelor’s degree, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, placing it among other cities at the top of the heap across the country.

“People with an education generally live in urban areas because those are wealthier areas, where people have higher incomes,” said Elaine Howard Ecklund, a sociologist at Rice University and director of the Religion and Public Life Program at the Institute for Urban Research.

The D.C. metropolitan area also has the highest percentage of people with advanced degrees, at 22.6 percent.

“D.C. is seen as a political and cultural center and that could be seen as a reason why people are moving there,” Ecklund said. “D.C. is unique because a huge economic basis is the federal government.”

According to a CNN report, some sociologists attribute the high number of degree holders in D.C. to the many government jobs in the city, however, Ecklund said there could be other factors.

“D.C. is also an immigrant city, and new immigrants are highly educated people like doctors and want to live in urban areas,” Ecklund said.

“American perceptions are that immigrants are low-education and low-income, but actually a large percentage of immigrants are high-education and high-income people,” she added.

The percent of educated people in the city has increased in recent years. In 2005, bachelor’s degree holders represented 45.9 percent of D.C. residents. People with advanced degrees represented 21.3 percent of the population in 2005.

In contrast, the D.C. region doesn’t top the American Community Survey list of high school graduation rates, though the city ranks fairly high in that area.

According to data released from the Census Bureau last month, 89 percent of D.C. metropolitan area residents have a high school diploma, ranking slightly below Boston, Seattle and Minneapolis, Minn., which tops the list at 92.3 percent.

In terms of data collection and accuracy, “Census data is the gold standard according to sociologists,” Ecklund said. “It is the best.”

Data for the American Community Survey is gathered from 250,000 households monthly.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.