College towns are smarter

Venture Beat reports that the towns with the smartest people are small college towns, based on how more than 3 million people around the U.S. performed in brain training games created by Lumosity. VB explains, “These games measured performance across five cognitive areas: memory, processing speed, flexibility, attention, and problem solving. Then the scores were ranked by location.” ┬áHere’s a direct link to the Lumosity paper.

These are the top 10 smartest cities, ranked by median scores:

1. Ithaca, NY
2. State College, PA
3. Lafayette-West Lafayette, IN
4. Iowa City, IA
5. Ames, IA
6. Ann Arbor, MI
7. Bloomington, IN
8. Madison, WI
9. Lawrence, KS
10. Pullman, WA

First, I might quibble with the methodology of ranking cities by median scores. Probably there are more smart people right here in NYC than in, say, Ames, IA. (Though I know at least three extremely smart people from Ames who might dispute me on this).

Interesting implications for education and where we should choose to raise our children. If your only goal is educational excellence, is it better to be in a homogenous highly educated community than a diverse community of high and low achievers?

Also makes me wonder if the public schools in these towns are any different than the public schools elsewhere around the country. Are the teachers smarter too and using more creative teaching practices? Or are the schools simply blessed with students who are the offspring of PhD parents?

POSTED BY Jill Barshay ON July 25, 2013

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My problem with the study is everyone was not given an equal chance to participate. Therefore, the author is limited in the inferences he can make.
The study was based on those that played the game. That is a convenience sample. To make projections about a general population (e.g., an entire city), the author would have to randomly select people and have them play the game.
Having a convenience sample means the results represent only people who have internet, were attracted by the commercials, had time to play the game, etc. A probability sample (i.e., 1 in x people were randomly selected from a representative list) would mean the results represent the city or nation.
Another example of probability vs. non- probability sampling would be IPads. If we wanted to know how effective IPads were in improving math scores, we could randomly assign Ipads to students. But if we only looked at math scores for kids that already had Ipads, there would be a bias to the estimate (families that can afford Ipads, family that like technology, families with internet WiFi, families that like Apple,etc.).

Jill Barshay

@Josh. Delighted to explain to my friends from Ames, Iowa why my people aren’t stupider. I can smugly explain that we New Yorkers are too busy for fun and games.

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