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Santa Monica Named Smartest Suburb in America

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October 15, 2014 –Santa Monica is a city full of nerds, know-it-alls and smarty pants, topping a list of the smartest suburbs in the United States compiled by the real estate website

Out of the 109 different suburbs and cities ranked by the website, Santa Monica was voted number one based on the number of museums in the city per capita, the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher and the number of nearby colleges and universities.

“So much for any stereotypes about Santa Monica residents being vapid, beach-loving, wealthy… okay, they may still be some of these things, but they’re also really intelligent and cultured,” writes Movoto’s Natalie Grigson.

According to Movoto’s analysis, of the 109 places studied Santa Monica has the sixth most museums per capita.

It also ranked 10th overall for the percentage of its population who have bachelor’s degrees or higher (64.5 percent) and 11th for the number of nearby colleges and universities per capita, which includes Santa Monica College, UCLA and Loyola Marymount.

In determining the rankings, the website also looked at the number of public libraries per capita, percentage of residents who graduated from high school and’s rating based on test scores for the area.

Movoto then averaged these rankings into one overall “Big Deal Score,” where the lowest score was considered the best.

The study used data from business listings,, and the U.S. Census American Community Survey for all 109 different suburbs observed.

Movoto’s criteria for suburb is “any large population center near one of the nation’s 50 largest cities, but also factored in whether or not the place was called a suburb on Wikipedia, in the list of inner-ring suburbs, or in any official capacity,” according to the website.

Santa Monica is not the only suburb representing California on the list.

Among the top 50, were Berkeley (3), Cupertino (6), Seal Beach (9), Alameda (10), Albany in Northern California (11), Folsom (19), Pacifica (26), Roseville (30) and Santa Clara (33).

“If you’ve ever thought that California was filled with beach bums, surfers, and valley girls, well, you’re right—but with half of the smartest suburbs in the state, it’s also clearly filled with well educated and intelligent people,” Grigson writes.
The top ten smartest suburbs outside California were Evanston, Illinois (2); Cambridge, Massachusetts (4); Towson, Maryland (5); Scottsdale, Arizona (7), and Newton Massachusetts (8).

The study comes three months after Movoto ranked Santa Monica as the second “Most Stressed Out Suburb In America.”  (“Stressed? Website Says That’s a Santa Monica Thing,” July 15, 2014). It also comes as the bayside city conducts a $1 million study to gauge the happiness of its residents.

The link between happiness and intelligence is mixed, according to various studies on the subject

More than 30 studies have linked higher intelligence to depression, not to mention anecdotal evidence from artists, teachers and writers.

“It’s true what they say, ignorance is bliss,” writes Justin Hook for “You, on the other hand, realize how terrible other people are, how terrible you yourself are, how royally screwed the world is, how quickly you’re dying, how little any of that matters.”

“Yes, your life is interspersed with moments of joy, but you can’t reason yourself into retaining happiness,” he adds.  “That’s like telling your brain to enjoy the cookie you ate yesterday while currently eating your way out of the world’s largest jar of Vegemite. It’s not logical.”

However, a meta-analytic review of many studies from the Netherlands says that there is no correlation on an individual level between intelligence and happiness.

"Despite the fact that it definitely seems preferable to be clever rather than dull, there is very little evidence that intelligence is related in any way to happiness," the study states.

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