When looking across all 441 midsize cities, we can describe what the average American city might look like and some of the notable outliers 2.
The median age for all cities is 35. The city with the lowest median age of 22 is College Station, Texas, home to Texas A&M University. The city with the highest median age, 49, is Largo, Florida.
Marriage rate: 40 percent
Forty percent of people in midsize cities are married. This is compared to a national average of 50 percent. The proportion of married people in our cities ranges from 62 percent to 23 percent. The city with the highest proportion is Fremont, California. The lowest is Rochester, New York.
Divorce rate: 12 percent
You know that oft-repeated bummer of a statistic saying half of all marriages end in divorce? Well, here’s some good news for the romantics out there: that hasn’t been true for over four decades now. According to the ACS, only 12 percent of the surveyed population in midsize cities reports being divorced. This is slightly lower than the national average of 14 percent. The city with the lowest divorce rate of 7 percent is Fremont, California, which also has the highest marriage rate. (There must be something special about the people of Fremont!) The city with the highest divorce rate is Reno, Nevada, at 16 percent.
Population with a bachelor’s degree: 32 percent
Thirty-two percent of residents in midsize cities have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. The smartest city in our study is Cambridge, Massachusetts, where 75 percent of the population has a bachelor’s degree.
Median earnings with no high school diploma: $20,547
Median earnings with a high school diploma: $26,774
Median earnings with a bachelor’s degree: $47,221
Education makes a difference. Workers with a high school degree earn about 30 percent more than workers without a degree — a difference of $6,227 per year. Workers with a bachelor’s degree earn 76 percent more than workers with only a high school degree — a difference of $20,447 per year.
Poverty rate: 18 percent
Poverty rate for men: 16 percent
Poverty rate for women: 19 percent
The average poverty rate across all cities is 18 percent. Women reported a higher rate of poverty than men in 86 percent of the cities. The city with the lowest estimated poverty rate of 2 percent is San Ramon, California, a suburb of San Francisco. The city with the highest estimated rate, 40 percent, is Flint, Michigan.
Vacant housing: 10 percent
Owner occupied housing: 53 percent
Renter occupied housing: 47 percent
Ten percent of housing is vacant across our study cities. It’s hardest to find a place to live if you’re in Meridian, Idaho, which only has 0.7 percent vacancy. You should have an easier time if you’re in Miami Beach, Florida, where 39 percent of housing is vacant. The highest percentage of homeowners is located in Sugar Land, Texas, at 87 percent. The highest percentage of renters is located in Hawthorne, California, at 79 percent.
If this leaves you with more questions than answers, you aren’t the only one. This is the starting point in a conversation about cities and what makes them unique and what binds them together. In the months and years ahead, we will explore the implications of public policy through data-driven research and how those policies impact our everyday lives.
There is a fundamental curiosity that drives our work, from the seriously tough issues facing communities nationwide (e.g. how do we build a better education system that is equitable for kids of all income levels and races) to the occasional quirky thought (e.g. what makes people more likely to get and stay married in some cities compared to others).
We hope you are as compelled by these curiosities as we are. We are going to be asking big questions, but we may not always find satisfying answers. But in that pursuit itself, we believe communities grow stronger, healthier and more democratic. We are excited to start this dialog in cities and places across the country.
Jacqueline Homann has worked at a number of international and federal institutions. She is a graduate of the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin and holds an M.A. in policy studies.