In the U.S. city edition of the nature-versus-nurture debate, it would appear that nurture has an advantage—cities with a large number of colleges and universities consistently have the “smartest” adult populations. But as our list of the smartest cities this year proves, education is not the only predictive factor in heightened cognitive ability.
To compile the 2012 list of the smartest cities, The Daily Beast first turned to Lumos Labs, the company behind the online “brain gym” Lumosity. With data collected from more than 1 million users as part of its human cognition project, Lumos Labs was able to analyze performance for nearly 200 metro areas in five cognitive areas: memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving. The median Lumos Lab score, presented as an estimated IQ score, was worth 50 percent of our final, weighted ranking. The other half of our ranking was based on the percentage of adults over age 25 with a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree. While most cities on the list are hubs of higher education, a few of the top-performing metropolises have relatively low levels of higher education. In Lafeyette, Ind., for example, the number of residents older than 25 with college degrees is average, but they had the second-best performance on the cognitive tests, beating out hyper-educated cities like Madison, Wisc., and San Francisco.