Sunday, December 10, 2023
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Monday, July 15, 2013
Honolulu: 5th Smartest City in USA
By Selected News Articles @ 7:58 PM :: 7276 Views :: Education K-12, Hawaii Statistics, Higher Education

America’s Smartest Cities

by David Cross, Movoto

Living in the Bay Area, the Movoto gang is constantly amazed at the certifiable geniuses we bump into around town. Recently, one of our bloggers had the enlightening experience of going to a bar trivia night near the Berkeley campus. It was, to be perfectly honest, an awe-inspiring experience getting drubbed by students and professors alike. This brain show led us to think about what city in the country has the smartest population—the literal smartest city in the States. Instead of wondering, we put on our glasses and went at it.

What Did We Find?

It turns out that Pittsburgh is kind of a big deal when it comes to being smart. The home of the Pirates, a surprisingly cunning mascot, beat out Orlando for the top honor. According to our data, here are the 10 smartest cities in America:

1. Pittsburgh, PA

2. Orlando, FL

3. Washington, DC

4. Atlanta, GA

5. Honolulu, HI

6. Tampa, FL

7. Seattle, WA

8. San Francisco, CA

9. Cincinnati, OH

10. Miami, FL

While not all these cities on this list surprised us—we’re looking at you Washington, D.C.—the inclusion of other cities were surprising, namely Cincinnati and Orlando. Neither city has shown up often on our multitude of top 10 lists.

If you’d like a breakdown of how we came up with our list and an explanation of the criteria we chose, pull out your composition notebook and get ready to take some notes.

How Did We Do It?

As with our previous Big Deal Lists, we looked at the 100 most populous cities in the country, and then ranked each city from 1 to 100 based on each criteria. After we slogged through data entry, we calculated The Big Deal Score, the average score a city received across all our criteria. The city with the lowest average score earned the title of smartest city in the country. For more details you can check out this page, which explains our process in more depth.

For this list, we looked at six pieces of criteria. We’ll explain why we picked them in the next section along with cities that ranked high in these areas. Here’s our criteria:

  • Universities and colleges per person
  • Libraries per person
  • Education level
  • Media per person (newspapers, TV, radio, magazines)
  • Museums per person
  • Public school rank

Now let’s take a look at what cities earned the lowest (best) score across our categories.


Why universities? It’s a simple answer. Universities act as an incubator of knowledge, and not just for the students who attend the school. The general public also sees the benefits of universities through community projects such as free seminars, to name just one example. A smart city needs areas that focus on education and exploration. Pittsburgh took the top spot in this section followed by St. Louis and Baton Rouge.


Libraries can be similar to universities, though we aren’t saying you can get your Ph.D in the stacks. What we mean is libraries give a city’s residents a place to borrow free media. Sure, people can plow through CDs and movies, but they can also check out non-fiction books and even technical manuals. Also, let’s not forget free community workshops. If these don’t scream smarts, we aren’t sure what “smart” means.

In this section we looked at the number of libraries in a city’s library system. Buffalo ranked the highest in this category. Cincinnati and Miami came in second and third, respectively.

Education Level

Education level was, pardon the pun, a no-brainer. For this section we looked at the number of residents in a city with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Our thought was that a higher percentage of educated residents equates to a higher willingness to learn.

Using Census data, we found that Irvine had the highest number of residents with a bachelor’s degree or higher, followed by Seattle and, to our surprise, Plano, TX.


Being smart isn’t all about being educated—it’s also about being able to continually educate yourself. This is one reason libraries factored into our list. In the same vein, this is why we chose to include the number of local media outlets available in each city. This includes newspapers, television stations, radio stations, and magazines. The concept is that residents in a city with access to more media will be better informed in all sorts of areas. At the very least, these folks will be able to keep track of their hometown.

The city with the most media outlets per person was St. Paul, followed by St. Petersburg, and then North Las Vegas.


It’s hard to argue that museums don’t benefit a city’s population. Whether the museum focuses on a single topic or hosts traveling exhibits, museums are academic institutions that educate the public. A city with multiple museums is a city that’s supercharging its residents’ collective brain power.

Our survey showed that Washington, D.C. had most museums per capita, which, if you’ve been to the city, is completely realistic. The next two cities on our list were Scottsdale and Anaheim.

Public Schools

When creating this list, we debated whether to include public school scores to the list of criteria. In the end we decided that cities with strong school systems were better preparing their children—and by extension the city—for the future. For this category, we relied on data collected from, a not-for-profit organization that ranks school districts across the country. Irvine earned the top spot in this section. Close behind was Scottsdale and then Chesapeake, VA.

Final Exam

What should you take from all this? While the Bay Area has its fair share of brains, be wary of trivia nights in Pittsburgh. I’m sure they’d be able to answer this head-scratcher no problem: Which country shares the longest border with France?



TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


808 Silent Majority

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center


Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Back da Blue Hawaii

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Broken Trust

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

DVids Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii Legal News

Hawaii Legal Short-Term Rental Alliance

Hawaii Matters

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together



Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Moms for Liberty

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

House Minority Blog

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

July 4 in Hawaii

Kakaako Cares

Keep Hawaii's Heroes

Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

NAMI Hawaii

National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Practical Policy Institute of Hawaii

Pritchett Cartoons

Pro-GMO Hawaii


Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

ReRoute the Rail

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

School Choice in Hawaii

Sink the Jones Act

Statehood for Guam

Talking Tax

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

UCC Truths

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

VAREP Honolulu

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii