Residents of ‘Frost-Belt’ Cities Found Least Educated Urbanites

June 06, 1984 4 min read

By Susan Goldberg
Special to Education Week

Detroit--Residents of the nation’s oldest industrial cities are generally the country’s least educated urban dwellers, a Wayne State University study has found.

The highest percentages of high-school and college graduates in urban populations are found in the newer Western cities, according to the study, which was based on an analysis of 1980 data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In their examination of education levels in the populations of the nation’s 35 largest cities and 34 largest metropolitan areas, which include cities and their surrounding suburbs, the researchers found that:

Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia, and St. Louis have the lowest percentage of high-school graduates; only about half of their residents 23 years or older had completed high school as of 1980.

The same cities also have the smallest proportion of college graduates; less than 10 percent of their residents had completed four years of college.

Minneapolis, Portland, San Diego, San Jose, and Seattle boast the highest percentage of residents with high-school dipomas--75 percent.

College graduates tend to cluster in Denver, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C., where those with degrees made up at least 25 percent of the population in 1980.

Nationally, an average of 66.3 percent of U.S. residents 23 years or older have obtained a high-school diploma, while an average of 16.3 percent have graduated from college.

Available Jobs

The results of the study reflect the types of jobs traditionally available in different areas of the country, according to William Simmons, assistant director of Wayne State’s Michigan Metropolitan Information Center and director of the study.

“You don’t need a degree to work in an auto factory,” said Mr. Simmons. “But if you go to San Jose or some other cities where the occupations are more in line with new technology, you’re going to need that extra education.”

Wayne State’s president, David Adamany, who outlined the study’s findings here last month, warned that cities like Detroit face “a mas-sive educational gap in ... competition for economic survival.”

Traditionally, Mr. Adamany said, the abundance of high-paying factory jobs in Detroit provided little incentive for Detroit residents to pursue college or even high-school diplomas. But with diminished opportunities in those fields, he said, residents of blue-collar areas such as Detroit will be ill-prepared to assume jobs that may require skills in mathematics, science, and analytical reading.

Mr. Simmons also attributed lower education levels in the older cities to those cities’ generally older and poorer populations. Both groups, he said, tend to have less education than the average American.

The nation’s largest 35 cities, ranked in order of their percentage of high-school graduates among those 25 years and older, from highest to lowest, are: 1. Seattle, with 79.7 percent, 2. San Diego, 3. San Jose, 4. Portland, 5. Minneapolis, 6. Denver, 7. San Francisco, 8. Phoenix, 9. Oklahoma City, 10. Kansas City, 11. Columbus, 12. Los Angeles, 13. Dallas, 14. and 15. Boston and Houston, which were tied, 16. Washington, D.C., 17. Indianapolis, 18. Jacksonville, with 66.2 percent, 19. Nashville, 20. Milwaukee, 21. Memphis, 22. Forth Worth, 23. Pittsburgh, 24. and 25. Atlanta and New York City, which were tied, 26. El Paso, 27. New Orleans, 28. San Antonio, 29. Cincinnati, 30. Chicago, 31. Philadelphia, 32. Detroit, 33. Cleveland, 34. Baltimore, and 35. St. Louis, with 48.2 percent.

The nation’s 35 largest cities, ranked in order of their percentages of college graduates, from highest to lowest, are: 1. San Francisco, with 28.2 percent, 2. Seattle, 3. Washington, D.C., 4. Denver, 5. San Diego, 6. Minneapolis, 7. Houston, 8. Portland, 9. Dallas, 10. San Jose, 11. Atlanta, 12. Boston, 13. Los Angeles, 14. Oklahoma City, 15. and 16. Nashville, which tied with Columbus, 17. New Orleans, 18. Cincinnati, 19. and 20. New York City and Fort Worth, which were tied, 21. Kansas City, 22. Phoenix, with 16.4 percent, 23. Indianapolis, 24. Pittsburgh, 25. Memphis, 26. El Paso, 27. Chicago, 28. and 29. San Antonio and Jacksonville, which were tied, 30. Milwaukee, 31. Baltimore, 32. Philadelphia, 33. St. Louis, 34. Detroit, and 35. Cleveland, with 6.4 percent.

The nation’s 34 largest metropolitan areas, ranked in order of their percentage of high-school graduates among those 25 years and older, from highest to lowest, are: 1. Seattle, with 81.6 percent, 2. Denver, 3. Washington, D.C., 4. Minneapolis, 5. San Jose, 6. San Francisco, 7. Portland, 8. San Diego, 9. Boston, 10. Phoenix, 11. Kansas City, 12. Oklahoma City, 13. Columbus, 14. Milwaukee, 15. Dallas/Fort Worth, 16. Los Angeles, 17. Houston, 18. Indianapolis, 19. Cleveland, 20. and 21. Atlanta and Pittsburgh, which were tied, 22. Chicago, 23. Detroit, 24. Jacksonville, with 66.3 percent, 25. Philadelphia, 26. St. Louis, 27. Memphis, 28. and 29. Nashville and New York City, which were tied, 30. and 31. New Orleans and Cincinnati, which were tied, 32. San Antonio, 33. Baltimore, 34. El Paso, with 59.5 percent.

The nation’s 34 largest metropolitan areas, ranked in order of their percentage of college graduates, from highest to lowest, are: 1. Washington, D.C., with 32.8 percent, 2. San Jose, 3. and 4. San Francisco, which tied with Denver, 5. Boston, 6. Seattle, 7. and 8. Minneapolis, which tied with Houston, 9. San Diego, 10. Atlanta, 11. Dallas/Fort Worth, 12. Portland, 13. Columbus, 14. New York City, 15. Oklahoma City, 16. Chicago, 17. Los Angeles, 18. Phoenix, 19. Kansas City, 20. Milwaukee, 21. Baltimore, 22. Philadelphia, 23. and 24. Nashville, which tied with New Orleans, 25. Indianapolis, with 15.9 percent, 26. Cincinnati, 27. and 28. Cleveland, which tied with San Antonio, 29. St. Louis, 30. and 31. Pittsburgh, which tied with Memphis, 32. Detroit, 33. El Paso, and 34. Jacksonville, with 11.3 percent.

A version of this article appeared in the June 06, 1984 edition of Education Week as Residents of ‘Frost-Belt’ Cities Found Least Educated Urbanites