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Ann Arbor Spark

October 17, 2019

Ann Arbor vs. State College – How do we compare?

Our football blog series is back for the fourth straight year! We use the football season as an incentive to compare Ann Arbor to cities around the country represented by our U-M football competition. The question is always – how does Ann Arbor compare to other college towns in the US?

State College is not a common comparison to Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor is close to 2.5x bigger than State College. However, in terms of enrollment, Penn State is actually bigger than U-M. Enrollment at Penn State actually exceeds the population of State College, PA.* When you think about it, the town’s name makes a lot more sense. However, both cities are evenly matched in terms of educational attainment (not surprising, given we’re both college towns). It may confuse some readers that Penn State has an address in University Park, though it is located in State College. Long story short, it’s located in both.

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 Estimates. We 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.

*For the data heads out there noticing that enrollment > population for State College, population in the Census is usually calculated in a town by excluding college students – check out this article to go deep into the rabbit hole of census data and what it means to be “counted.”