Best Places to Live for Young Adults

A study of the best states to live for young adults yields some surprises; see if you are in one of the best states for millennials.
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As graduates and other young adults look to move out of the house and get a place of their own, they face the question of where to live. For some, the natural thing is to stay close to where they grew up, while others can’t get out of town fast enough.

In either case, young adults looking for a place to live should know that conditions from state to state can affect their chances of making a happy and successful start. Some data on what different states have to offer young adults can help them make the right choice. MoneyRates looked at eight different data sets to measure the best places to live for young people:

  • Young adult employment, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Percent of population aged 20 to 24, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Affordability of a four-year public college education for in-state students, based on information from the College Board
  • Rental availability, based on Census Bureau data
  • Rental costs, based on Census Bureau data
  • Percentage of households with broadband, based on Census Bureau data
  • Number of bars and other night spots relative to the young adult population, based on Census Bureau data
  • Number of fitness facilities relative to the young adult population, based on data from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association

These eight sets of data were grouped into three major categories: job market, affordability & access, and lifestyle. Based on the average ranking in these three categories, MoneyRates ranked all 50 states plus the District of Columbia according to which are the best states to live in if you are a young adult.

10 Best places to live for young adults

1. North Dakota. Though it may be a bit remote geographically, North Dakota consistently ranks high on the list of best states for millennials. Why? Start with the ease of getting a job there. North Dakota has the lowest rate of unemployment among 20 to 24 year olds, with an unemployment rate less than half that of the average state for that age group. It’s not all work and no play though, since North Dakota actually has the second-highest concentration of bars relative to its young adult population. Across the board, North Dakota ranked better than most states for each of the eight criteria measured in this study.

2. Nebraska. You might expect that young adults would flock to places like New York, Florida or California, but Nebraska is actually more popular with that age group. Its population has the sixth-highest proportion of 20 to 24 year olds of any state. Nebraska was also among the ten best states for young adult employment and nightlife concentration.

3. Iowa. Clearly, the upper Midwest fared very well in this study. In Iowa’s case, the attractions include the nation’s third-lowest rate of young adult unemployment, and also ranking among the ten best states for rental affordability, leaving millennials more money to put into their savings accounts. Some of that discretionary income can be enjoyed within the state’s concentrated nightlife options.

4. Montana. Believe it or not, no state has a higher concentration of bars relative to its young adult population than Montana. You can also work off all that partying because the state has the fourth highest concentration of fitness facilities. Ranking among the ten best for both educational and rental affordability, those who are saving for college might find their dollars stretch farther in Montana than in some other states.

5. Kansas. It is relatively easy to find a job and a place to live in Kansas: the state ranked among the ten best for both young adult employment and rental availability.

6. Idaho. Once again, this is a case where a state not associated with youth culture seems to attract more than its share of young adults. Idaho’s population includes the seventh highest proportion of 20 to 24 year olds in the nation. One reason may be that college costs are the sixth-lowest of any state.

7. Wyoming. No state has a lower cost for in-state students attending public colleges. Wyoming also ranked among the ten best states for rental availability and nightlife concentration.

8. South Dakota. This state ranked among the five best for proportion of young adults in its population, rental affordability, and nightlife concentration.

9. (tie) Utah. A tie rounds out this top ten list, so the last two states are listed here alphabetically. If you question Utah’s popularity with young adults, consider this: no state has a higher portion of its population aged between 20 and 24. Utah also ranked in the top ten for young adult employment, college affordability, and access to broadband. On the downside, it ranked dead last for concentration of fitness facilities, and among the ten worst for concentration of bars.

9. (tie) Wisconsin. While Utah placed ninth with a combination of highs and lows, Wisconsin tied for the same position with more of consistent route: its only top ten ranking was in nightlife concentration, but it was below median in for just two of eight criteria.

What is the best place for you to live? Personal preference comes into it, but the goal of this study is to highlight some of the realities you may face in different locations so you can check out things like cost and leisure options before you make your decision.

Richard Barrington, a Senior Financial Analyst at MoneyRates, brings over three decades of financial services expertise to the table. His insightful analyses and commentary have made him a sought-after voice in media, with appearances on Fox Business News, NPR, and quotes in major publications like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. His proficiency is further solidified by the prestigious Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation, highlighting Richard’s depth of knowledge and commitment to financial excellence.
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