Top 10 Midwest Cities in Enlightened Developers

As I’ve written before, I often think about which American cities are the best hosts for software developers. I’ve stumbled upon another metric contributing to the conversation: Number of Developers with Stack Overflow Careers accounts.

It seems to me that developers with accounts on Stack Overflow tend to be more enlightened than those who do not. If we assume that a representative number of those developers have “Careers” accounts, then we can easily compute a ratio of enlightened developers in a city.

  1. To query the number of developers in a city, navigate to:

  1. Simply type in the city name and click “Search”.
  2. You’ll see a nice map representation with the number of “Careers” accounts in the area (I used a radius of 50 miles)


The nice thing about this approach is it is simple and currently free. I’ve been experimenting with this search page since 2009, back when no city in Ohio had more than 9 members. It’s nice to see such growth in the site.

To instead get more accurate data, the StackExchange API could be used to compile the locations of every Stack Overflow user. The locations could then be parsed and plotted on a map with additional processing to query how many are within a certain distance. Actually, that sounds interesting. I think I’ll have to do that soon!

Keeping with the consistency of my blog, let’s take a look at the cities in the Midwest with the highest numbers of developers with Stack Overflow Careers accounts. You can contrast the below numbers with a large city, like San Francisco, CA, which has 3500.


1. Chicago, IL
2. Detroit, MI
3. Pittsburgh, PA
4. Columbus, OH
5. Cleveland, OH
6. Kansas City, MO
7. Indianapolis, IN
8. Milwaukee, WI
9. St Louis, MO
10. Madison, WI
11. Cincinnati, OH
12. Grand Rapids, MI
13. Des Moines, IA


How Should the Midwest be Defined?

Allow me for a moment to rant about what I consider the “Midwest.” Many people who live outside the Midwest maintain too broad a definition of the Midwest. Omaha and Minneapolis are not Midwestern cities. They reside in the Great Plains. Louisville & Nashville are not Midwestern cities. They are in the South. There is a certain culture embodied by a Midwestern city that excludes those previously mentioned. Midwestern cities are not major metropolises nor are they merely farm country. They reside somewhere in between, as medium-sized cities, and are typically within a short drive of another city falling in the same category. Refer to my hand-drawn map of the Midwest.


An ideal map of the Midwest can split state borders. It should seem clear why northern Wisconsin & Michigan are not included. They are so far North that the culture is different enough not to be representative. Culturally, the cities I choose to include are similar. They tend to have cold winters, their people speak with only slight accents, and they all have an inferiority complex with Chicago. Lastly, every city is within a 3 hour drive to a Top 100 US city in population. This last point is what disqualifies Minneapolis, which is a significant drive to Madison.


About Stu
I am a software developer living in Cincinnati, OH. I primarily focus on .NET and Microsoft technologies and have bounced around quite a bit in my short career between multiple cities in the Midwest (including Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, and St. Louis). I would like to learn more about programming, technology, marketing, and how to run a business. -Nathan Stuller

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