If you’re like me then moving to New York City or Los Angeles as a twenty-something sounded nice until you realized you’d be spending two-thirds of your income on rent alone. Yikes! But finding the ideal city is about more than just affordable housing. It’s also important to have career opportunities and even fellow twenty-somethings to enjoy the local bar and restaurant scene with.
So if you’re looking for something beyond the classics (NYC or LA) then check out the 10 cities we’ve ranked as best for people in their 20s. The results will pleasantly surprise you.
These are the best cities for 20-somethings:
1. Lincoln, NE
Lincoln, Nebraska may not have come to mind right away when considering the best cities for 20-somethings, but it’s time to change that. Lincoln had the second-lowest cost of living on our list and the lowest unemployment rate of all 100 cities we ranked. Lincoln may be populous, but the city has the welcoming feel of a small town with all the amenities of a bigger metro area.
2. Minneapolis, MN
Minneapolis has been written about by the Atlantic for remaining affordable and accessible to people of all social classes despite its size and economic growth. This means good news for 20-somethings. Minneapolis also offers a colorful arts and music scene in addition to having some of the most active and healthy residents around.
3. Boise, ID
Idaho is typically associated with farming and agriculture, but over the last few years Idaho’s capital has slowly turned into one of the most appealing cities in the nation. Boise’s affordability is only the icing on the cake when you consider the beautiful surroundings of the city and its lively downtown. (Bonus: Boise came in at number one for the highest percentage of singles in the 20–34 year range, so get your dating game on.)
4. Cincinnati, OH
Cincinnati, or Cincy, is home to ten Fortune 500 companies and a number of universities and colleges. This has made Cincinnati a popular hub for professionals of all ages, but especially those in their 20s. Cincinnati not only offers career opportunities, but also easy access to some of the best museums and performances by professional theater and dance companies.
5. Lexington, KY
Lexington’s median rent of $504 a month makes moving here tempting enough. Plus, when you consider the countless amenities made easily available and its old-school charm, it’s no wonder 20-somethings are loving this southern city.
6. Lubbock, TX
Lubbock is no metropolis and it doesn’t have the fame of some of the other cities on this list (at least not yet), but Lubbock is truly an up-and-coming town. With one of the youngest median ages on our list (29.4) and a low cost of living, young residents can look forward to a thriving job market and an even better real-estate market. The best part of living in Lubbock is that over 90% of the residents commute less than 30 minutes for work which makes this city #1 in our commuting category.
7. Pittsburgh, PA
Young people are moving into Pittsburgh in droves, which may have something to do with Pittsburgh’s surplus of restaurants and bars. But Pittsburgh’s 20-somethings aren’t just partying their nights away. Thanks to the three major universities in town, young residents are succeeding in their work and studies. It’s the American Dream come true, but don’t just take our word for it.
8. St. Paul, MN
St. Paul is the other half of the Twin Cities duo, and although it’s further down on our list than its Minneapolis twin, St. Paul has a lot to offer. St. Paul’s economy is vibrant and opportunities are plenty thanks to its low unemployment rate and young workforce (the median age is 31.2). On a night off, twenty-somethings can enjoy a hockey game at the Xcel Energy Center and then head out for burgers at the Blue Door Pub.
9. Oklahoma City, OK
Oklahoma City, also known as OKC, is one of the most affordable cities for twenty-somethings on our list. Even better though is OKC’s low unemployment rate and booming economy. Most of OKC is divided into unique districts with lives and cultures of their own. Each district is filled with eateries, shops, and cultural centers that work together to make OKC into a whole.
10. Madison, WI
In 2015 Madison was recognized as the Best City in America by Livability.com, so don’t be fooled by its ranking on our list. One of the coolest things about Madison is its bike-friendly streets which give residents even more commuting options. Madison, like many of the cities on our list, is a college town, so twenty-somethings can expect a lively nightlife and easy access to some great eats.
Do you agree or disagree with our list? If you’ve lived in any of the cities we mentioned, be sure to leave a comment and share your experience with us!
How We Ranked Them
We took a list of the 100 most populous cities in the U.S. and ranked them on a scale from one to 100 in the categories below and weighed each one accordingly.
- Cost of living for one (20%) — This data carried the most weight because if you can’t afford where you live, then why live there? Data was collected from the EPI calculator.
- Median gross rent (18%) — Spending two-thirds of your income on rent shouldn’t be the standard, which is why we weighed this as the second most important factor. Data was collected from the Census Bureau.
- Unemployment rate in 2014 (16%) — If there’s a low unemployment rate then chances are there’s a high demand for workers, which is good news no matter your age. Data was collected from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Median age (12%) — Sharing your experiences with friends in a similar stage of life is both comforting and enjoyable, so we looked at the median age to get a feel for the general age of a city’s residents. Data was collected from the Census Bureau.*
- Singles between 20 and 34 years old (10%) — If you want to date then that’s great, and if you don’t then that’s great too, but we think you should have an option either way. Data was collected from the Census Bureau.
- Number of bars (8%) and restaurants (6%) — When you’re not working, you deserve to have a fun night out. Having a beer or a delicious meal while out and about is a rejuvenating feeling, and you’ve earned it. Data was collected from Yelp.
- Commuting under 30 minutes (5%) — Long commutes are stressful and they can cost you a pretty penny overtime. If you can avoid it then why not? Data was collected from the Census Bureau.
- Car-free commuters (5%) — If you like to bike, walk, or take public transportation to work then you’re doing the environment a favor and your dream city should make this an option. Data was collected from the Census Bureau.
*Data collected from the Census Bureau was from 2014, with the exception of Lexington, KY; Nashville, TN; Anchorage, AK; Louisville, KY; and Honolulu, HI.
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