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New study ranks Lawrence ninth smartest city in the country


I didn’t even stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night, yet I feel like I am an expert in the world’s toughest subjects. Maybe it is because I work in the ninth smartest city in America.

That’s right, according to a new study, Lawrence is the ninth smartest city in America. The report is by Lumosity, the online company that administers a host of brain exercises and tests to users. The company claims to have the largest database of cognitive performance of any company in the world.

The company tracks how Lumosity users score by geography, and then compiles a host of lists. Lawrence ended up No. 9 on the list of 478 “core-based statistical areas,” which is kind of like a metro area. (What am I doing explaining things to Lawrence residents? You already knew that.)

As one economic development professional told me, rankings are a dime a dozen, but Lawrence is in awful good company in the top 10. In other words, this is the type of ranking that will look good in marketing materials.

Here’s the Top 10:

  1. Ithaca, NY
  2. State College, Penn.
  3. Lafayette-West Lafayette, Ind.
  4. Iowa City
  5. Ames, Iowa
  6. Ann Arbor, Mich.
  7. Bloomington, Ind.
  8. Madison, Wisc.
  9. Lawrence
  10. Pullman, Wash.

The Lumosity folks didn’t stop there, though. They also ranked communities based on what type of cognitive skills they possessed. Lawrence ranked in the top 50 of all five cognitive areas: No. 8 for attention; No. 14 for flexibility; No. 15 for problem solving; and No. 22 for speed. As for what area we ranked the lowest in: Memory at No. 35.

The Lumosity officials also broke down the rankings by age group for each community. This may be very useful information for Lawrence. Every age group in the city — except for one — scored in the Top 50. The under 35 age group ranked No. 15, the 35-55 age group ranked No. 8, but the 55-plus age group was not ranked in the Top 50. (This is where this report can be very useful. Lawrence is trying to become a retiree destination, but perhaps we ought to make them pass some sort of test first.)

In case you are wondering, the community with the smartest 55-plus residents was Columbia, Mo., another Midwestern city seeking to become a retiree destination. Columbia also ranked No. 3 in the 35-55 age category. Interestingly, Columbia did not rank in the Top 50 in the under 35 category, the one which would encompass most of the students at the University of Missouri. (This study may produce a useful marketing campaign for potential Mizzou students. The University of Missouri: You’ll get smarter once you leave us. Or for the alumni association: The University of Missouri — The dumbest years of your life.)

The younger age group really must have pulled down the overall scores because despite ranking in the Top 3 in two areas, Columbia overall ranked No. 41.

The study also ranked four other Kansas communities. But before I give you those, I forgot to mention that the cognitive area that Lawrence scores the lowest in is memory. We were ranked No. 35 Now, onto the other Kansas rankings:

• Kansas City, Mo.-Kans: No. 84

• Topeka: No. 96

• Wichita: No. 211

• Salina: No. 338

Our in-state rival Manhattan was not ranked in the 478 core-based statistical areas. I can only surmise (but since I’m in Lawrence, I’m pretty good at it) that Manhattan didn’t qualify because Lumosity required at least 500 users from a geographic area in order for it to be ranked. I’ll let Lawrence retirees off the hook also , and say the sample size issue is probably why they weren’t included in the Top 50 either. Lumosity required at least 200 users from an age group before they considered it to be a sufficient sample size.

As for other rankings, surely you are curious about who ranked at the bottom of the list. Well here you go, here’s a look at the bottom 5:

• No 474: Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach (That’s no fair. You try taking a Lumosity test while on spring break in Fort Lauderdale.)

• No 475: El Centro, Calif.

• No. 476: Kinston, N.C.

• No. 477: Laredo, Texas

• No. 478: Lumberton, N.C.

That’s it. That’s the last one. But wait. Before we wrap this up, I forgot to mention that the cognitive area Lawrence scored the lowest in was memory. We were ranked No. 35. If you want to read the entire report — you’re brainy, so you do — you can find it here.


BigAl 4 years, 10 months ago

I saw this comment coming from a mile away. But then again, I am smart. I live in Lawrence.

skull 4 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, and first on the "dark spiritual areas" list!!!

Frederic Gutknecht IV 4 years, 10 months ago

OK. Now we've heard from the "dark intellectual areas of Lawrence" clan....

patkindle 4 years, 10 months ago

oops , I thought it said county that would be correct

jayhawklawrence 4 years, 10 months ago

I would love to see them rank state governors and legislators.

Patricia Davis 4 years, 10 months ago

I knew I was smart, I just couldn't remember why.

LogicMan 4 years, 10 months ago

What was the one we were ranked lowest in? ;-)

LogicMan 4 years, 10 months ago

Let's put those smarts to good use and create new high-paying businesses!

Catalano 4 years, 10 months ago

Lowest in memory, huh? Well, that explains why we keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

(Posted so Wilby wouldn't have to remember to do it.)

smileydog 4 years, 10 months ago

Every top 10 city on the list voted for Obama....hmmmm, part of his grand illusion coup. I wonder who owns this internet company? Soros?

jafs 4 years, 10 months ago

Bizarre thought.

Perhaps it means that smart people voted for Obama, instead of the alternative.

skull 4 years, 10 months ago

No, no, no...we're already on the search for the next big Obama conspiracy scandal.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 10 months ago

so ... here in Lawrence instead of % for art, we ought to be doing % for Postit Notes instead?

I'm sure that Town Talk contributed to the overall high Lumosity rating for Lawrence! that, and the downtown coffees.

blindrabbit 4 years, 10 months ago

The Lawrence ranking is especially significant as the rest of Kansas is headed in the opposite direction, adopting a more ignorant GOP-Koch-A-Kola political posture. The bumper slogan "Kansas as Bigoted as You (want, are, guessed)" is becoming more apparent as Smilin Sam and his ilk of C-Street Daydream Believers dominates the State

Chuck Woodling 4 years, 10 months ago

All rankings are the lowest form of self-publicity.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

Fair amount of brain cells and Always Low Wages = Lawrence,Kansas.

I say these rankings depend on the real estate industry for their information = not based on substance necessarily. All about selling houses and used cars.

This survey/ranking is a bit bogus... why? Boulder Colorado is not in the top 10.

Wisconsin is being taken down the same tubes as Kansas = Koch Nazi Empire

blindrabbit 4 years, 10 months ago

Whoever conducted this "smart" survey obviously never attended a Lawrence City Commissioners Meeting!!!!!

hujiko 4 years, 10 months ago

I don't doubt that Lawrence ranks higher than most communities in terms of average intelligence, but if you're gullible enough to believe playing games improves your mental acuity I've got some snake oil you might also be interested in.

happyrearviewmirror 4 years, 10 months ago

Pardon a few of us with first-hand experience for remaining skeptical.

bearded_gnome 4 years, 10 months ago

this rating of course fails most of all from the problem of how the ratings were compiled, who were the participants.

people self-selected themselves into this.

while this is worth a grin and a nod, it isn't worth much more.

now, if researchers did a well controlled study across metro areas controlling for participants and their variables, one could draw some meaningful conclusions.

also remember that "intelligence" itself is a complex concept often hard to conceptualize. makes it difficult to compare.

thus, chicagoans might be high in a particular form of intelligence while Lawrencians higher in another type within the overall blanket term "intelligence."

notajayhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

Perhaps meant as a joke, but not too far off the mark. There are certain forms of intelligence that don't show up very well on standardized instruments. I know carpenters and contractors that can glance at a blueprint and immediately see how many board-feet of 2x4's they're going to need, but they might not score highly on the math section of an assessment. I also know a mason who can walk through a quarry and know just by sight exactly which stones he needs for a project and where they're going to fit, but he doesn't have any formal education in geometry or engineering.

But gnome is correct - without random selection of participants, the results reported in these rankings are not generalizable at all. It could merely mean that Lawrence's recent college grads have too much time on their hands since they can't get a job, while the so-called 'not as smart' contingent is off working for a living.

Jean Robart 4 years, 10 months ago

Who's kidding who? I moved out of Lawrence---does that automatically make me unsmart?

jafs 4 years, 10 months ago

Apparently, according to your own post, the 10 smartest cities in the country voted for him.

The only question that matters when voting is which of two flawed candidates will be a better president - Obama is clearly better than Romney or McCain would have been, for me.

As far as the tendency to blame the president for everything that happens, while ignoring the role of Congress, that seems like a silly game to play. As does blaming him for things that one would have praised in the other candidate.

jafs 4 years, 10 months ago

Some people may play that game either way.

But, it's extremely clear that many R right now are playing it with Obama, and it's not an interesting game to me - it involves ignoring too much reality, and displays a lack of understanding of how our system works.

The ironic thing is that in their attempt to smear Obama incorrectly, many on the right are missing good chances to criticize him in a reality based way, as some on the left have been doing for years.

jafs 4 years, 10 months ago

Much of politics makes me squirm - that's why I don't watch speeches, etc.

But, if only one side's activities create that response, then there's some sort of unexamined bias at work, in my opinion.

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