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Ann Arbor vs. Madison – How Do We Compare?

October 11, 2018 Regional Updates
University of Wisconsin and UofM comparison

Our football blog series is back for the third straight year! As before, we’ll use the football season as an impetus to compare Ann Arbor to cities and towns on this year’s schedule. And the question is always – how does Ann Arbor compare to other college towns in the US?

The Wolverines and the Badgers played for the first time in 1892, and while Michigan leads the overall series 50:1:15, they lost last year. A lot has happened in the 126 years these two teams have been playing together!

Some of our more recent comparisons have felt like comparing apples and oranges (is it all that enlightening to compare College Park to Ann Arbor?). Madison, Wisconsin, however, is a natural comparison. Perhaps more so than any of our previous comparisons – since we are only separated by Lake Michigan and share many traits. These similarities mean we often compete in sports, for students, and of course, for business.

Both U-M and UW are incorporated into the city itself, not as urban campuses but as campuses that transition seamlessly into the downtown. The two schools also rival each other for research spending, both breaking the billion-dollar ceiling. Ann Arbor and Madison show up together on many “Best Cities for ____” lists – two good examples are Livability’s Top 50 Best Cities for Entrepreneurs 2017 (Ann Arbor #7, Madison #17) and Top 100 Best Places to Live 2018 (Ann Arbor #1, Madison #7).


Data Dive

Where do we get our numbers? And what do they mean?

  • Population comes from the US Census, 2017 Population Estimates. Check out Ann Arbor’s data here.
  • Enrollment comes from each university’s website (what they report on enrollment).
  • Research spend comes from the National Science Foundation Rankings by Total R&D Expenditures.
  • Educational attainment comes from the US Census 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year EstimatesWe look specifically at the population over the age of 25, and the highest level attained. Check out Ann Arbor’s data here.
  • The rankings come from US News and World Report unless otherwise mentioned.