PHOENIX — A new report appears to confirm what many Tucsonans may have always thought: They’re smarter than Phoenicians.
Or at least better educated.
The study by WalletHub ranks Tucson as No. 36 in a list of “most educated cities” of the 150 largest communities in the nation. The Phoenix metro area, which includes all the cities in Maricopa County, was much farther down on the list, at No. 81.
According to WalletHub, the rankings are more than bragging rights, akin to who wins the annual Territorial Cup game between the University of Arizona and Arizona State University. It’s an indicator of the ability to weather bad economic times.
“Research has shown that skilled workers who are also degree holders tend to pump the most money into their local economies over time,” the report states. “A city’s prosperity, one can then assume, depends in large part on the productivity of its educated citizens.”
That level of education has enabled Tucson to excel over its more northern neighbor.
There are a higher percentage of adults 25 or older in Tucson who have at least a high school degree than in the Phoenix area. Ditto for those with some college or at least an associate’s degree, as well as the percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree.
And there’s a real disparity when looking at residents with a graduate or professional degree: 12.1 percent for Tucson versus 9.9 percent of those living in the Valley of the Sun.
WalletHub also gives Tucson extra credit just for having the University of Arizona as such a large part of the community.
“Cities with universities have a certain financial, social and cultural impact on the area based on the fact that a top university is there to begin with,” said Raz Daraban, communications manager for the financial website. “In other words, it shapes not only the students passing through but the surrounding area as well, ranging from companies, faculty, residents and so on.”
Giving points for the presence of a major university is likely what enabled Ann Arbor, Mich., to score at the top of the list. The home of the University of Michigan scored very high in the percentage of residents with degrees at least in part because of pure math: The community of about 115,000 includes more than 43,000 students.
Other top-scoring cities on the most educated list also are relatively small: Raleigh and Durham, North Carolina; Provo, Utah; and Manchester, New Hampshire.
Conversely, the bottom-rated cities were places without top universities, places like Visalia, California.
Tucson also gets extra points because a greater percentage of its residents are employed in computer, engineering and scientific occupations.
WalletHub also grades communities based on the quality of their public schools. But in that category it found no real difference between the state’s two metro areas, ranking both at 60th among cities studied.