Oak Park is No. 18 on 'most educated places in America'

So says NedWallet.com, an online personal finance resource company


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By Anna Lothson

Staff Reporter

Just how smart is Oak Park? Pretty smart, according to the crew at NerdWallet.com.

At least that's the report back from analysts at the financial site that recommends everything from credit cards, the best gas prices to political advice and travel tips.

The village came in at No. 18 based on the company's examination that factors certain scores based on the residents' education level.

"We used a broad-based approach to show increasing levels of education, from residents with a high school diploma up to those with a doctorate or professional degree," the report reads. "We found that many of the places on this list have underlying industries and educational resources that draw educated residents. Challenging and technical jobs tend to attract more skilled and educated workers, and having educated workers at every level of operation can help sustain a more robust and knowledgeable workforce."

On average, 30.9 percent of Americans have completed at least a bachelor's degree, according to NerdWallet, which is in line with Oak Park's numbers.

But, to come up with the final education score, the group used criteria of four questions:

  • "What percent finished high school or have an associate's degree as their highest level of education?"
  • "What percent completed a bachelor's degree as their highest level of education?"
  • "What percent completed a master's degree as their highest level of education?"
  • "What percent completed a professional or doctoral degree?"

The education data for the report were taken from the U.S. Census for the population 25 and older. In Oak Park, the number of people with a high school diploma as the highest level of education was 23.3 percent. The percent with an associate's degree was 6.3 percent.

A bachelor's degree was the most common, at 30.9 percent, but a master's degree came in strong, at 22.7 percent. Those with professional and doctoral degrees came in at 8 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively.

Oak Park was the only city in Illinois to be named on the list of 20 cities. The top three cities were Bethesda, Md.; Palo Alto, Calif.; and Wellesley, Mass.

Email: anna@oakpark.com Twitter: @AnnaLothson

Reader Comments

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Posted: July 2nd, 2013 3:30 PM

Thank you, "Observer"!!

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 30th, 2013 11:53 PM

I don't get into the quality of education in Oak Park too often. And I don't get into the IQ's of my neighbors at all. When my 3 children were going I was deeply involved in the schools for fifteen years. I knew all of the aspects of education and made sure that my children had the right course, teachers, and experience. My children were a long time out of K-12 when I retired from Oak Park. and When referendums came up, it was hard for me to judge the quality of schools. I had no sense of the curricula, the testing, or the professional educator. I voted Yes each time because I believe when it comes to kids you vote positive unless you know the negatives. I no longer am ignorant of what is going on it the schools. My granddaughter Maggie had a sixth birthday on Saturday and there was a party in my back yard. Maggie invited all the kids from her kindergarten class at Lincoln. There were 20 kids at the party. As a senior I thought it would be a hectic day with kids fighting, crying, grabbing things, etc. etc. etc. I was shocked to find out that the kids were respectful, obedient, helpful, friendly, responsive, funny, and willing to wait their turn patiently. The party lasted 3 hours and there was no trouble, crying, or being mean. I congratulate their parents for the great job they have done raising their kids, but the odds of 20 kids acting so well in unison can only be attributed to Lincoln School, the principal, and Maggie's teacher. The vast number of kids at the party were in the same class at Lincoln. They will continue together in school for twelve more years. The kids in my backyard are ready to be educated because they are already facing life with a great set of values. A teacher taught them those values. The kids I met are ready for 1st grade and prepared for twelve years of K-12 education. Thank you Lincoln for giving me a reason to be able to always defend OP education.


Posted: June 29th, 2013 10:30 AM

This must be why there are so many self-righteous Oak Parkers who believe they are better than others.


Posted: June 29th, 2013 8:08 AM



Posted: June 29th, 2013 12:15 AM

I shouldn't need to say this but apparently i need to: the workforce consists of more than the 1% ivy league fancypants. You need smart educated people to build things and fix things and sell things and ship things, not just to run things.


Posted: June 29th, 2013 12:07 AM

Nope, Joan you don't get the scoring rubric. It's not about "bachelors and beyond". River Forest likely has fewer high school graduates, or folks with associate degrees. Those workers count in this survey, even if they wouldn't in yours, which is what they mean by educated workers "at all levels". You can't staff a factory or with professors and lawyers.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 11:20 PM

Gah, I understand the weighting rubric -- but I have hard time accepting our "score" as a result. Even comparing OP to River Forest, wouldn't your gut tell you that the percentage of residents in RF with higher degrees - college and beyond - is higher than in OP? Or maybe in Wilmette, Oak Brook Terrace, Hinsdale, Winnetka, or Kenilworth ?

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 1:36 PM

@Gah ... finally, someone else who actually took the time to read the source report before commenting, as I have twice previously mentioned. In addition, the report's 'Overall Education Score' for Oak Park appears to be significantly in error, as using NetWallet's weighted evaluation criteria, I came up with a score of 24.0 for Oak Park, not 51.8. Oak Parkers need to refrain from silly ratings for self-validation.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 12:08 PM

Reading is fundamental! From the report: "To measure broad-based education, we prioritized a workforce where the majority of workers are moderately educated over a workforce where some workers are very highly educated. " It's not saying we're the most highly educated (most number of PhDs), but that we have a broad mix of educated people. In this study, a town that is predominately PhDs (i.e. Princeton) would fare worse. I am proud our town is included by this criteria.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 11:55 AM

I am curious to see the entire list.

Joan from Oak Park  

Posted: June 28th, 2013 11:01 AM

Princeton NJ is not on this list? REALLY? It is a small town, filled with university professors, wall street executives and NY lawyers, pharmaceutical company execs, etc. When I lived there 1999-00, I hardly ever met another "Mom" without an advanced degree. And Claremont, CA. is home to 5 colleges and alot of the faculty live in the town, and not many others not affiliated with them. I am sorry, but this is awful research, let's not get excited, OP.


Posted: June 28th, 2013 5:47 AM

OP is an intellectual town which explains its progressive bent. I grew up in OP 30 years ago with parents that were both college educated (one AA which was hard in 70's). The challenge the generational shift that made OP great has been distrupted by a group that is no less educated but more focused on own interest, children - the question is not "are OP generally smart?" - it is "how will OP "collective" use it to move itself forward?"

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 9:58 PM

I find it ironic that all comments have been based on how well educated Oak Parkers are, while in fact, the NerdWallet rating was weighted toward high school and college education, rather than higher degrees. Oak Park's 18th place rating only demonstrates its broad-based education, where residents are moderately educated relative to those that are are very highly educated. Hey Oak Parkers, if you were really that smart, you would have read the linked NerdWallet article before commenting.


Posted: June 27th, 2013 2:12 PM

"I is what I is"- Paula Deen

RF Resident  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 1:40 PM

According to City-Data River Forest is smarter For population 25 years and over in River Forest: High school or higher: 96.8% Bachelor's degree or higher: 69.7% Graduate or professional degree: 38.2% Unemployed: 4.0% Mean travel time to work (commute): 27.1 minutes

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 12:56 PM

Galen - I think the use of datum became obsolete when computers replaced paper and files. It was a pragmatic change. It became very difficult to categorize what a single piece of information was in the world of huge data bases and electronic social communications. By the end of the 1980's, the corporate world, particularly information decided datum was obsolete. I cheered when that happened. I can't tell you how many of my memos came back with notes saying, "Shouldn't that have been datum", or "I think you meant data.".

John Butch Murtagh from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 12:46 PM

Hi Jeff - Everyone is welcome on WJ Comments. I agree with your view. I do not see much benefit from the high level of education in OP. For local elections (President, Board of Trustees, etc), only about 20% vote. If use of education is more important than the certificates. we fail.

Enuf is Enuf from Oak Park  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 12:38 PM

The article draws the wrong conclusion from a very misleading website. NerdWallet weighted High School and Bachelor's educational attainment more highly than Master's, Professional and Doctoral Degrees, so as to measure broad-based education where the majority of workers are moderately educated over a workforce where some workers are very highly educated. In addition, the provided Overall Education Scores appear to be incorrectly calculated as per their weighted criteria.

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 12:22 PM

Too often people confuse education levels with having common sense. I'd say many in Oak Park lack the latter...

op resident  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 12:05 PM

There are plenty of educated people who are also intelligent. But there are also a lot of intelligent people who have not had the opportunity to become highly educated. And then there are the educated people who, intelligent or otherwise, are boors.


Posted: June 27th, 2013 11:50 AM

Plenty of ignorant people try to foist their thinking on others without real perspective either. The trick around here is telling the difference! "Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level then beat you with experience."

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 11:45 AM

As someone with only two undergraduate degrees, plus a CPA designation, I feel ashamed that I am bringing down the average here in our well educated community. Assuming I am worthy of commenting here, I would agree that there are many very smart people in our village, but wisdom is something that can only be measured in the long-term.

Maria, as resident, parent, and teacher from Oak Park  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 11:28 AM

In Oak Park we are educated, and proud of it. I don't think we are condescending about it - I thInk we believe in sharing the educational wealth. I hope the current administration at the high school believes this, and does not continue to undervalue teachers with advanced degrees. All of us want the best for Oak Park kids.


Posted: June 27th, 2013 11:03 AM

Geeks are nice, terrific actually. Smug know-it-alls have enough education to be dangerous and to try to foist their thinking on others without real perspective. Townies are probably not the most educated lot that comprise this group.


Posted: June 27th, 2013 10:17 AM

You say "smug know-it-all" like it's a bad thing. The geeks shall inherit the earth!

maripatquinn from oak park, IL  

Posted: June 27th, 2013 7:04 AM

I am a graduate of OPRF High School, 1961. I think we are pretty terrific. And the gentleman, who said "educated yes, but not sure about nice", doesn't know too much. We are great people here in Oak Park. I have lived all my life. He should get to know us. We night just change his mind. Thanks for the info, Anna. That is really cool.


Posted: June 27th, 2013 6:21 AM

I'd be willing to wager Oak Park wins in the smug know-it-all category too.

Galen Gockel from Oak Park  

Posted: June 26th, 2013 10:58 PM

Yes, it is true that the noun "data" has been wrongly used as a singular noun and has morphed accordingly. My dictionary reports that it is the plural of the singular "datum". My high school English teacher, Miss Dockery, had uncompromising standards, most of which I remember (although do not always employ) 64 years later.

Not a Pot Shot   

Posted: June 26th, 2013 9:52 PM

Make that noun-verb, lest I open myself up to being skewered.

OakParker from Oak Park  

Posted: June 26th, 2013 9:17 PM

Galen - "data" has morphed into being used both singular and plural. It can be awkward to read, when used correctly, so sometimes a sentence rewrite would be best. Unrelated to grammar, I'm not surprised Oak Park is #18; it does make it an interesting place to live.

Not a Pot Shot  

Posted: June 26th, 2013 8:43 PM

I can overlook an occasional non-verb disagreement. Pouncing on grammatical errors on this site is so petty. Truth and fairness are more important in reporting the news. Reporters in general are low paid and must process tons of information at a very fast pace. The critics here need to get some perspective and lose the grandiosity.


Posted: June 26th, 2013 8:35 PM

Educated - yes. Nice not so sure.

Brain Mass Abundant from Paris  

Posted: June 26th, 2013 8:04 PM

I often ponder over morality and the high educated intellectuals whom control the strings of us puppets. It came to me whilst strolling about in Mozarts home town-Salzburg. A psycotic maniac with infinite intruiging ideas, propagating erroneuosly deceptive ramblings to ignorant peons, whom only wished to survive. Generations of braves faded from our land like darkness engulfing light. We walk above ancient grounds of burial and detest. We are truly educated. We are definately doomed.


Posted: June 26th, 2013 6:41 PM

Suck it, Evanston!


Posted: June 26th, 2013 6:39 PM

So, Anna, you may have noticed the need to get used to having everything you write parsed and corrected by the ever so educated and erudite Oak Parkers. It's like a reflexive response with them.

Lois Platt from Oak Park  

Posted: June 26th, 2013 6:30 PM

Respectfully? Did you mean respectively?

Earnest Hemingway from Oak Park  

Posted: June 26th, 2013 6:26 PM

Educated minds can can still be narrow minds. After all, they were educated in most cases by college professors.


Posted: June 26th, 2013 6:02 PM

Smart people must like HIGH TAXES---

Galen Gockel from OP  

Posted: June 26th, 2013 5:49 PM

Given the high level of education in Oak Park, it is appropriate to correct the WJ reporter in the following regard. The word "data" is plural. Thus the reporter should have written that "...data for the report WERE taken..."; not "...data...was taken..." Care must be taken in the WJ editorial offices, lest the paper forfeit its otherwise well-deserved awards!!

Chris Carrier  

Posted: June 26th, 2013 4:56 PM

Many of those places have universities. I wonder if OP would do even better without having to compete with those places.

Tom DeCoursey from Oak Park  

Posted: June 26th, 2013 4:54 PM

Thanks, Anna for this intriguing tidbit of information. It is confusing though, when you equate the 30.9% of Americans with AT LEAST a bachelor's degree with Oak Parkers, of whom 30.9% have exactly a bachelor''s degree. The comparison should be with Oak Parkers with AT LEAST a bachelor's degree, which would include Masters, PhD, MD, etc. This number is 66.7%, clearly higher than 30.9% for the rest of the country.

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