Palo Alto is California's 'most educated city'

Local residents have highest rate of bachelor's degree and graduate degree attainment

Palo Alto is California's most educated city, according to a report by California Watch.

Nearly eight in 10 residents aged 25 and older have earned at least a bachelor's degree.

In addition, Palo Altans have the state's highest rate of graduate or professional degree attainment -- 49.8 percent.

The data come from a California Watch analysis of the 2008-2010 American Community Survey, a statistical survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. California Watch is a project of the nonpartisan Center for Investigative Reporting.

Statewide, 80.6 percent of Californians have at least a high school diploma, about 30 percent have bachelor's degrees or higher and 10.9 percent have a graduate or professional degree.

About 10.5 percent of Californians have less than a ninth-grade education.

Compared with the rest of the nation, California has a slightly higher rate of bachelor's and graduate degree attainment, but also more residents with less than a ninth-grade education.

Trailing Palo Alto on the top-10 most educated California cities list, in terms of bachelors-degree-or-higher attainment, are: Los Altos at 76.2 percent; Saratoga at 75.9 percent; Cupertino at 73.4 percent; Manhattan Beach at 72.9 percent; Lafayette at 71.4 percent; La Canada Flintridge at 70.7 percent; Davis at 69.1 percent; Berkeley at 68.4 percent and Menlo Park at 68.1 percent.

Topping the list of cities with the highest percentage of residents with less than a ninth-grade education is Bell Gardens, with 44.9 percent, followed by Maywood with 44.5 percent; Florence-Graham with 43 percent; Cudahy with 37.9 percent; Lennox with 37.6 percent; Bell with 36.5 percent; East Los Angeles with 36 percent; Watsonville with 35.4 percent; Huntington Park with 34.9 percent and Coachella with 34.7 percent.

Chris Kenrick


Posted by Jared Bernstein, a resident of Professorville
on Nov 16, 2011 at 10:44 am

Who woulda guessed?

Posted by A deep thought -, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2011 at 11:04 am

My grandmother's formal education stopped when she was in the second grade. But her gut instincts about situations, people, and deep matters of eternal value were superior to people I know here, that graduated from Ivy League institutions. She was never fooled.

My grandmother also had more class than do these ivy leaguers. She was a lady, handling herself with dignity. Everyone loved her, even her many sons-in-law, that spoke well of her & taught their children to respect her.

My grandmother was worthy of trust. Can residents of "The most educated city" say that?

Posted by Not an English major, a resident of Ohlone School
on Nov 16, 2011 at 11:08 am

I did not major in English, but I believe there is a missing apostrophe in the 3rd paragraph. I believe it should read:

"In addition, Palo Altans have the state's highest rate of graduate or professional degree attainment -- 49.8 percent."

BTW - 50% seems ridiculously high, but when I think about most Palo Altans I know that # seems about right.

Posted by Mimi Wolf, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2011 at 11:09 am

Palo Alto may be the "most educated" but Berkeley has the Freight and Salvage.

Posted by Marianne, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2011 at 11:15 am

To :deep thought":

What's the point of your comparing your singular grandmother to the whole of Palo Alto population?

By the way, Palo Alto has a high number of Stanford grads, which are not Ivy Leaguers, so that too is out of place.

In the US, having graduated college is important because it is where people are socialized to get along in society. I have a business which would in theory only need high school education, but the college-educated individuals are more productive and add move value to the business than less educated individuals and there they are taught work ethic, morality, and many other skills -- granted with varying degrees of success.

Posted by Sarah, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 16, 2011 at 11:41 am

Interesting. IF the most highly educated city in the USA doesn't see the need for highspeed rail and fights it as mightily as they are doing now, then there's probably no hope for less educated areas
to get onboard with it. Might as well drill baby drill.

Posted by stanford worker, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 16, 2011 at 11:48 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Seems to me that all those degrees didn't breed any sense in the PA population-- they still pay > $1 million for a tear down house!

Posted by smarts, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 16, 2011 at 11:51 am

Being smart is fantastic. Being smart with NO COMMON SENSE is not fantastic. Why are these educated people allowing the city politicians and management to "mull" over important issues that should have been implemented/resolved in past years with previous councils? The same issues are being rehashed over, and over, and over - hence, all the mulling.

To Marianne - The "Grandmother" was LIFE EDUCATED. Baby Boomers were taught what REAL work ethics are by their parents/grandparents. They are a dying breed, however. Gen X and Gen Y will have FEW with the same ethics. However, according to you, they will be more socialized. Just what we need, more young people going to work to socialize and know how to talk the talk and not walk the walk.

Posted by TrudyDo, a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Interesting--well-educated but really stupid (read the bleeding hearts dithering over the homeless car dwellers in the comments section of a previous article in today's postings).

Posted by Driver8, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 16, 2011 at 12:42 pm

Ahh. OK, now I get it. They were so busy learning in academia, they never took the time to learn how to drive safely and politely on the roads. At least I know the reason now ;)

Posted by adult, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2011 at 12:52 pm

What percentage of those dropouts over at Facebook are more than 25 years old? Glad we kicked them out of town before they lowered the city's education level.

Posted by David Pepperdine, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2011 at 2:37 pm

So smart we are. Then why do we pay so dearly for our water, compared to all the relatively uneducated cities out there that also get the same Hetch Hetchy water? Ah, the good old Utilities Department. Where would we be without them!

Posted by I'm In the 20%, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2011 at 2:56 pm

@"A deep thought" -

My grandfather went to Harvard but his gut instincts about situations, people, and deep matters of eternal value were inferior to people I know here that did not graduate from Ivy League institutions. He was always fooled.

Wish he had met and married your grandmother - oops... then neither of us would exist.

Posted by CrunchyCookie, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 16, 2011 at 3:11 pm

CrunchyCookie is a registered user.

Cool, though the rank order isn't news. We've been the most educated city in California since at least the turn of the century; the 2000 census reported 74% of our 25-and-over crowd as having a Bachelor's (the 2010 census shows 79%).

Posted by Ahahyeahright, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 16, 2011 at 3:44 pm


Posted by real resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2011 at 5:00 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Where would we be without the utilities department? Paying more for PG&E and getting less service. And getting fleeced once in awhile to boot. (Actually, when I was with PG&E I was paying twice as much, but then PA got fleeced by Enron, a private company.)

Can public utilities be destroyed by vitriolic people who have already tanked our nation, our manufacturing, our economy and our spirit of togetherness in this nation with their out-of-touch ideology? Sure, and given how much better the public utilities in California have worked for the public than the private for-profit ones, you can bet they'll keep trying.

Which is why I wasn't going to let that comment pass. The great utility was one reason I moved back to Palo Alto. If you're so smart, maybe you'll cash out your Palo Alto home and move back to a PG&E area and leave our utility (which most of us love) alone.

Posted by PA-Best-Educated?--It-Doesn't-Show!, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm

> Paying more for PG&E and getting less service.

The PAU does not produce a monthly, or even quarterly, price comparison of services with PG&E. Neither are price comparison reports for the other commodities, such as water, and garbage pickup, produced. Sometimes the local papers will make these comparisons, and when they do, Palo Alto is never the cheapest, or best, in any category.

While electricity tends to be cheaper than PG&E, natural gas is not. Water prices, and sewerage prices, are by no means cheaper. And as to "service", there is simply no way for anyone in Palo Alto to make such a claim--at least honestly--unless they own property in PA and some PG&E city, and pay the utilities for both. The idea that someone who lives in Palo Alto can claim that the "service" is "better" begs the question as to how someone might know that PAU service actually is better.

This ability to make claims without any provable facts is another way that Palo Altans can claim to be smarter, and "better educated" than people who would never make statements that can not be easily proven.

Posted by mike, a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 16, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Reading some of the comments above suggests either education is not everything OR the educated are not posting here in representative numbers...

Posted by JT, a resident of College Terrace
on Nov 16, 2011 at 6:19 pm

Did they also rate communities based on their smugness? I'm sure we did well in that regard, too.

Posted by observer, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2011 at 6:54 pm

That must be why we are considering pushing kids who are not college bound out of our schools. Wouldn't want to mess up our demographic.

Posted by CrunchyCookie, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 16, 2011 at 7:48 pm

CrunchyCookie is a registered user.

Well the thing is, we're so awesomely educated here that we don't need a study to know that we're also #1 in smugness. I'd guesstimate 87% of our population fits that description -- and that's a number you can hang your hat on, as I am a product of the PAUSD.

Posted by real resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Tsk, tsk, such jealousy and sour grapes!

Posted by real resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2011 at 8:37 pm


Have had property in both areas over many years. PG&E is/was/has been an effing nightmare. Frankly, not surprised about what happened in San Bruno or the records fiasco. Have objectively had many good service experiences with PA, far better than could be expected from any utility.

Ideological automatons would rather go after our FAR better utility in order to make it all fit their warped view of the world than open their eyes about PG&E and expect more of it.

What are you doing here if you hate it so much?

Posted by Me Too, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm

@real, please don't suggest that other people leave town if they don't like X. We shouldn't tell our neighbors to move out just because they disagree with us on something.

I certainly don't "love" our utility, as you say. I do know we have some fairly high rates on some things, less on others - and that our utility rates are a hidden tax that gets passed on to the general fund, for better or worse. I don't know much about PG&E, but other utilities I've used in other states did fine by me; I can't say that Palo Alto's has done anything out of the ordinary for me, positive or negative, in the last 10 years.

Posted by Outside Observer, a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm

The only redeeming feature for Palo Alto is it's Asian population.

Remove that and smugness goes up to five nines.

Posted by PA Native, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 16, 2011 at 9:28 pm

It is tiresome to read the same posters jumping from each thread, complaining about PA being snooty when in reality, on the whole, PA has very friendly, nice, modest people. Don't use shoppers at Stanford Shopping Center and Whole Foods downtown as your base of impressions because those aren't necessarily Palo Altans. In fact, look at PA clothing worn, and it's obvious they are not shopping at Stanford. People who complain about others being "smug" have low self-esteems. If they felt good about themselves, they would not have to lash out at others. And if they don't feel good about themselves, they should improve themselves instead of whining.

I appreciate the intellect of Palo Altans - the parent and school emails lacking grammatical errors, the competance and reliability of most here, the interesting conversations at my childrens' sports events. More impressive is the modesty of most Palo Altans. One can never know if the person they are talking to is financially loaded because they are so modest and friendly here.

I grew up here and while it has become a bit more upscale, the intellectuals are still the most wonderful aspect. I would not want to live in a place such as Orange County.

Posted by Yeah!!, a resident of Stanford
on Nov 16, 2011 at 10:10 pm

PA Native, you are right on! We moved to PA last year and absolutely love it! Everyone we meet is so down to Earth. It's awesome to have so
many PhDs/MDs/JDs/etc. in our town who can carry conversations on many topics without putting so much importance on clothing brands, designer bags, and so on. I love it when I see lots of children wearing clothes from
Target/Old Navy/etc. and their parents are highly educated and with money.

Walk over to Menlo Park, Atherton, and Portola Valley and it's a completely different story. You have lots of stay-at-home moms who seem to spend all their time working out in their Lululemon outfits, doing their hair/nails, or dressing up in designer
duds to drop-off/pick-up their kids from school. They care more about money and brands than PAltans do, that's for sure!

So happy to be a part of PA !!

Posted by E, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2011 at 10:12 pm

My, my touchy subject.

We like in Palo Alto because the density of interesting people goes way up. Just the other day I overhead a teenager pitching a nonprofit idea to a venture capitalist. What a great environment for kids!

Posted by ClarenceBoddicker, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 16, 2011 at 10:56 pm

As someone who was born and raised in PA, post doc ed, lived in tens of locations of the world and currently residing in PA, let me say welcome! BTW, where are you?

Posted by lamePA , a resident of another community
on Nov 16, 2011 at 11:41 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by CrunchyCookie, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 17, 2011 at 2:27 am

CrunchyCookie is a registered user.

Methinks some of you peoples are confusing smugness with superficiality/materialism. We're generally innocent of the latter qualities (a good 1/3rd of the cars in my neighborhood are from the 80s/90s, and I have no memory of brandwhoreism from my youth), especially compared to the fake plastic people of The OC (or The LA). But we make up for it by doubling down on our elitism of looking down on those lesser human beings with mere 92%ile SATs, GPAs south of 4.1, and diplomas from any school not named Stanford.

Brainpower and achievement instinctively sound like less shallow subjects to be smug about, but are they really?

Posted by Not an English major, a resident of Ohlone School
on Nov 17, 2011 at 8:53 am

Sorry for being pedantic, but I'm not sure if you mean "smug".

According to Merriam-Webster, smug means "an often unjustified feeling of being pleased with oneself or with one's situation or achievements ".
Web Link

We Palo Altans don't just sit around and talk about how awesome we are.
We get stuff done.
Yes, we do have high aspirations and we celebrate achievements.
But don't confuse that with smugness.

Let's just be happy that we live in a city where we can have this type of debate.

Posted by superficiality/materialsm cont., a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2011 at 9:40 am

err...there are PLENTY of BMW and Mercedes local drivers here who make absolutely sure you see them driving their cars, I call that a sensitivity to "name brand labels." Some kids are given the keys to these vehicles.
Also, what a shock: elite, costly, lightly-populated Saratoga contains highly educated residents. This was quite an illuminating survey.

Posted by Marianne, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 17, 2011 at 11:00 am


Let me explain something to you. By the time these "kids" reach the workforce, the game is over. College is the last ditch effort to socialize them. There is a HUGE difference in the social skills of a college-educated person vs a high-school one. If I have to spend any time teaching employees socials skills, they are as good as fired. I have a small business and no time and effort to teach them what they should have learned in kindergarten through college.

College education is fundamental, and Palo Alto should be proud to have the most. I certainly am.

Posted by smarts, a resident of Barron Park
on Nov 17, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Marianne - Thanks but I don't need you to explain anything to me. There is a major social crisis in this country that has been looming over us for years, and it has taken this current disastrous economy to bring it to the forefront, yet it is overshadowed by this and other countries fiscal instability.

I raised children who were taught manners, to be polite, right from wrong, and they were held responsible (age appropriately) for their mistakes. I do have to say they learned quickly because I had NO PROBLEMS while raising my children from kindergarten to high school. Peer pressure was not an issue. TV marketing ads did not influence "what they should and should not have or be". I reinforced at home what teachers taught in school. I demanded respect from my children; however I was adult/parent enough to give them respect too. They had good study habits in public schools, which has lead to them having good, self-disciplined college study habits. They are also working and both of their employers are extremely impressed with "how mature and responsible they are for their age". They have great customer-service/people/social skills also which is attributed to their "good old fashioned upbringing".

When a two-family member income became necessary to provide for the family, therein lies the beginning of the problem, which started decades ago. So having said that, I disagree with you about high-school educated vs. college-educated social skills. It has more to do with life skills children are taught.

Both of my children currently work for small businesses and are great contributors to the company(s) growing success. I wish you well with your business and hope you are lucky enough to find staff that will help your business grow and be successful.

Posted by Marianne, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm


Thank you for your remarks.

When we find smart young people with a work ethic, I think of is how admirable the parents are. When we find young people lacking socials skills, I wonder where the parents were while the kids were developing.

I do not think college is a panacea to these problems with all college graduates, but college does pick up some slack where parents were absent for any number of reasons.

Posted by Frank, a resident of another community
on Nov 17, 2011 at 2:24 pm

It's really a shame that many of us that were raised in Palo Alto and attended it's fine schools, prior to the high tech boom, cannot ever afford to reside there again. We were fortunate as children that our parents were able to buy or rent in the city back then at a reasonable cost. Different era, different people.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 17, 2011 at 4:19 pm

And it seems like these areas (at least the areas near here) attract the highest number of working psychologists and psychiatrists. Makes you wonder if two go hand in hand.

Posted by yeah, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Nov 17, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Sure, Palo Alto is the most educated city. But is there a report on what city is the most educated, but seriously lacks common sense? If not, I'd like to nominate Palo Alto.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 18, 2011 at 6:08 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

And then there is me...

Posted by Perspective, a resident of Meadow Park
on Nov 18, 2011 at 6:15 am

Walter you have more sense than 90% of the folks I know here. Wisdom from living and learning far outweighs any college degree, period.

Don't knock yourself....

Posted by Adobe, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Nov 18, 2011 at 6:41 am

I completely agree with you, Yeah!!!. For those of you complaining about unfriendliness and snobbery, try spending some time in places like Hillsborough or Atherton. Palo Alto attracts people who care about family and community who are willing to put up with small lot sizes and smaller houses to get that. I think even those grousing here realize that they live in a really special place. Otherwise, wouldn't they have moved away a long time ago?

Posted by Educator, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 18, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Uppity, upper middle class snobs whose only soul is the credentials of the almighty Stanford. Two-faced, holier than thou, technology savvy, and doesn't have a humanistic bone in it's overpriced, 50 year old houses. And Marianne lives in a bubble and probably represents all of the above.

Posted by Educator, a resident of Menlo Park
on Nov 18, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Oh, and this educator went to a STATE COLLEGE. OH THE HORROR OF IT ALL!

Posted by Antoine Dodson, a resident of another community
on Nov 19, 2011 at 4:09 am

Book smart is one thing......

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