Recently, the Washington Post published a study on the smartest (and dumbest) states in America.
Alabama placed as the fourth dumbest state, right in between Mississippi and Florida.
We’ll be looking at high school completion rates rather than college-related metrics of smartness, for the sake of figuring out which cities in Alabama are contributing to the state’s stupidity more than the rest.
After crunching the numbers, we came up with this list of the ten dumbest cities in the Heart of Dixie:
- Fort Payne
How we determined the dumbest cities in the Heart of Dixie
In order to rank the dumbest cities in Alabama, we had to determine what criteria defines a dumb person.
We started by making a list of every place in the U.S. with over 5,000 adults based on the 2014 American Community Survey. That left us with 78 places in Alabama to rank.
We then looked at the following dumb-tastic criteria for each of the places on the list:
- % of city’s population with less than a high school education (Age 25+)
- % of high school drop outs (Ages 16-19)
Note: We only looked at cities with populations greater than 5,000, leaving us 78 cities in Alabama to rank. We also looked at the graduation rates of the entire population, not the current rates for high schoolers.
Adult Population: 7,232
Adults Without A High School Diploma: 29.3%
Dropout Rate: 30.0%
According to the data, Atmore, located in the southern part of the state, is far and away the dumbest city in Alabama.
29.3% of Atmore’s adults never completed high school, which is twice as high as Alabama’s average and the third highest rate in the state for cities with populations over 5,000.
What’s more troubling, an even greater proportion of Atmore’s high school students are dropping out: a whopping 3 in 10 high school students drop out before the age of 19, which means they won’t exactly be qualified for any intellectually intensive work.
That’s a dropout rate more than 6 times as high as the state average, so this is the nexus from which Alabama’s title as the fourth dumbest state in America comes.
Adult Population: 6,263
Adults Without A High School Diploma: 30.3%
Dropout Rate: 18.9%
Located in northwestern Alabama, Russellville ranks as the second dumbest city in Alabama, with a slightly higher percentage of adults without high school degrees as #1 Atmore.
More than 3 in 10 of Russellville’s residents over the age of 25 never completed high school, which is more than twice as high as the average rate in Alabama.
On top of that, the dropout rate in Russellville is the third worst in the state, with nearly 2 in 10 students leaving high school. That’s a recipe for a dim city to remain dim.
Fun fact: Russellville, Arkansas is also one of the dumbest cities in its state, so if you’re looking for a smart southern city, it might be best to avoid Russells.
Adult Population: 13,433
Adults Without A High School Diploma: 28.1%
Dropout Rate: 8.9%
Another north Alabamian city, Albertville is the third dumbest city in the state, mostly because of the massive population of adults without high school degrees living there.
28.1% of folks over the age of 25 in Albertville never completed high school, which is the fourth highest rate in the state.
On the “bright” side, Albertville’s dropout rate is in the single digits, which is a rare thing for this list, but an 8.9% high school dropout rate is still 3.2% higher than the state average.
Adult Population: 9,884
Adults Without A High School Diploma: 22.7%
Dropout Rate: 15.6%
Alexander’s motto is Hope. Courage. Pride. Unfortunately, it says nothing about intelligence, so maybe the city never put much of a premium on smarts to begin with.
The dropout rate in Alexander is 15.6%, which is more than twice as bad as the average for Alabamian cities with populations over 5,000, and the seventh highest rate of those cities.
High schoolers may be dropping out in droves because Alexander’s adult population doesn’t seem to value education much either, since 22.7% of people over the age of 25 never completed their GED, a rate 8.5% higher than Alabama’s average.
Adult Population: 15,986
Adults Without A High School Diploma: 19.8%
Dropout Rate: 16.0%
Anniston is home to the country’s largest chair, which seems like a pretty dim accomplishment, but hey, it got the city into the Guinness Book of World Records for a few years.
Anniston doesn’t have much in the way of wits, with the fifth highest rate of high school dropouts in Alabama.
On top of that, nearly 2 in 10 adults living in Anniston never completed high school, and with 16% of high schoolers dropping out, it seems Anniston is destined to remain highly uneducated for years to come.
Adult Population: 18,213
Adults Without A High School Diploma: 19.3%
Dropout Rate: 15.2%
Located just southwest of Birmingham, Bessemer is the sixth dumbest city in Alabama, which slightly better statistics than Anniston in both categories.
Still, 15 out of every 100 high school students drop out by the age of 19, which means Bessemer’s up-and-coming generation may be a bit lacking in intellectual prowess.
The current generation is even worse, with 19.3% of the adult population of Alabama lack a high school degree, so there’s fewer places to carry on a conversation about big ideas in Bessemer.
Adult Population: 8,371
Adults Without A High School Diploma: 18.4%
Dropout Rate: 16.0%
Sylacauga ranks as a fairly dumb city, mostly because it has the sixth highest rate of high school dropouts of Alabama cities with populations over 5,000.
Sylacauga’s dropout rate is more than 10% higher than the state’s average, with 16% of high school students deciding that basic education isn’t really necessary.
But when 18.4% of the generation that preceded them never bothered with a high school degree, you could say that Sylacauga’s youth generation was nurtured to think this way.
Adult Population: 24,923
Adults Without A High School Diploma: 20.6%
Dropout Rate: 9.6%
Gadsden is the most populous city to make this list and the eighth dumbest city in Alabama overall.
More than 2 in 10 of Gadsden’s adults never completed high school, so the city isn’t exactly a hub of high culture.
On top of that, nearly 1 in 10 of Gadsden’s high school students drop out each year, meaning the city isn’t poised for huge intelligence boost in the years to come.
Adult Population: 6,127
Adults Without A High School Diploma: 17.3%
Dropout Rate: 14.3% 9th
A northern suburb of Birmingham, Fultondale touts itself as “A Friendly City.” It’s nice that they’re honest, because while folks here may be nice, they sure aren’t the brightest bulbs in the room.
Fultondale’s dropout rate of 14.3% is the 9th highest in Alabama, and more than twice as high as the state’s average.
It’s not just an uneducated youth population that makes Fultondale a dumb city; 17.3% of people over the age of 25 in Fultondale don’t have a GED, so wherever you look, there’s an education deficit.
10. Fort Payne
Adult Population: 9,188
Adults Without A High School Diploma: 31.4%
Dropout Rate: 2.8%
Fort Payne has the highest rate of adults without a high school degree in all of Alabama’s cities with populations greater than 5,000.
A staggering 31.4% of adults never completed high school in Fort Payne, which is more than twice as bad as the state average.
On the other hand, Fort Payne’s dropout rate is actually quite impressive. Only 2.8% of high schoolers drop out, which is half of the average rate in Alabama.
So while Fort Payne’s current adult population may not be the sharpest tools in the shed, the next generation will at least have a basic education under their belt.
Putting a dunce cap on our analysis
If you’re measuring the locations in Alabama where there are a high number of teenage dropouts and adults who never received a formal education, this is an accurate list.
Smartest cities in Alabama: Vestavia Hills, Daphne, Fairhope, Trussville, Madison. Vestavia Hills and Trussville are suburbs of Birmingham, but so were a couple of the dumbest cities, so Birmingham’s suburbs can swing either way in terms of intelligence. Daphne and Fairhope are neighbors on the eastern shoreline of Mobile Bay.
Other notable cities: Alabama’s capital, Montgomery, ranked as the 26th dumbest city in the state. 14.9% of Montgomery’s adult population lacks a high school degree, and 9.3% of its high school students are dropping out.
Birmingham was close behind Montgomery, ranking as the 29th dumbest city in the state, with a dropout rate right around the state’s average of 5.7%. 16.1% of Birmingham’s adult population does not have a high school degree, however.
Mobile is the 39th dumbest city in Alabama, which means its right around the middle of the pack for cities with populations greater than 5,000.
Huntsville is pretty smart in the context of Alabama, with a 4.9% dropout rate and 10.7% of adults not having a high school education.