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11 Best Cities For Young Adults and Professionals in 2022

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You’re young and mobile. So, where should you move?

Among the 50 United States, there are close to twenty-thousand incorporated cities. Each city offers different opportunities and possibilities. Some have an abundance of high-paying, entry-level jobs. Some are inexpensive and easy-to-navigate. Others are great for finding your tribe and making a life.

You can move anywhere as a U.S. citizen. Yet, the majority of people live within 20 miles of their parents. And, that’s completely okay.

But, if you’re in looking to buy a home in your twenties or thirties and long to move to someplace new, or buy a home out of state, you might want some help choosing your next, adopted hometown.

What follows is our scientific analysis of the Best U.S. Cities for Young Adults, ranked nationally and by region. We used data from more than 70 public resources and ignored such trendy statistics as the number of farmer’s markets per capita; and, overall walkability.

We considered every city in every state and applied our mathematics fairly. We over-weighted cities that let you keep a large percentage of your paycheck; and, gave extra consideration to cities that make it easy to get around. Each ranking is also broken up into sub-regions. We omitted subjective factors completely. You’ll find no mention of the trendiness of a town, or its hipness.

What are the best cities for young professionals? Where should young adults move after graduation? Use this list to get you started.

The Best U.S. Cities For Young Adults

1. Durham, NC

Downtown Durham, NC
Photo by Chuck Givens on Unsplash
  • Grade: A
  • Regional Ranking: #1 in the South
  • Estimated Population Age 20-34: 100,100 people

See mortgage rates in Durham.

2. Pittsburgh, PA

downtown pittsburgh, pa
Photo by Tyler Rutherford on Unsplash
  • Grade: A
  • Regional Ranking: #1 in the Northeast
  • Estimated Population Age 20-34: 346,400 people

See mortgage rates in Pittsburgh.

3. Nashville, TN

downtown nashville
Photo by mana5280 on Unsplash
  • Grade: A
  • Regional Ranking: #2 in the South
  • Estimated Population Age 20-34: 240,500 people

See mortgage rates in Nashville.

4. Des Moines, IA

downtown des moines, ia
Photo by Austin Goode on Unsplash
  • Grade: A
  • Regional Ranking: #1 in the Midwest
  • Estimated Population Age 20-34: 107,000 people

See mortgage rates in Des Moines.

5. Charlotte, NC

downtown charlotte
Photo by Carissa Rogers on Unsplash
  • Grade: A
  • Regional Ranking: #3 in the South
  • Estimated Population Age 20-34: 286,800 people

See mortgage rates in Charlotte.

6. Syracuse, NY

downtown syracuse
  • Grade: A
  • Regional Ranking: #2 in the Northeast
  • Estimated Population Age 20-34: 86,500 people

See mortgage rates in Syracuse.

7. Columbus, OH

columbus, ohio
Photo by Hans-Jürgen Weinhardt on Unsplash
  • Grade: A
  • Regional Ranking: #2 in the Midwest
  • Estimated Population Age 20-34: 341,500 people

See mortgage rates in Columbus.

8. Austin, TX

austin, texas
Photo by MJ Tangonan on Unsplash
  • Grade: A
  • Regional Ranking: #4 in the South
  • Estimated Population Age 20-34: 389,000 people

See mortgage rates in Austin.

9. Greenville, SC

greenville, sc
Photo by Emmy Gaddy on Unsplash
  • Grade: A
  • Regional Ranking: #5 in the South
  • Estimated Population Age 20-34: 94,700 people

See mortgage rates in Greenville.

10. Houston, TX

houston, texas
 Photo by Alisa Matthews on Unsplash
  • Grade: A
  • Regional Ranking: #6 in the South
  • Estimated Population Age 20-34: 1,200,400 people

See mortgage rates in Houston.

11. Albany, NY

albany, ny
Photo by Roger Lipera on Unsplash
  • Grade: A
  • Regional Ranking: #3 in the Northeast
  • Estimated Population Age 20-34: 132,100 people

See mortgage rates in Albany.

12. Dallas, TX

dallas, tx
Photo by R K on Unsplash
  • Grade: A
  • Regional Ranking: #7 in the South
  • Estimated Population Age 20-34: 1,198,700 people

See mortgage rates in Dallas.

13. Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis, in
Photo by Steven Van Elk on Unsplash
  • Grade:
  • Regional Ranking: #3 in the Midwest
  • Estimated Population Age 20-34: 331,900 people

See mortgage rates in Indianapolis.

Where Should I Move – The Top 100 Cities

Our Methodology

Homebuyer performed a sizable amount of original research in our search for the Best U.S. Cities For Young Adults.

This is an objective analysis based on statistical studies and credible resources. The only component of our study that can be considered “opinion” is our opinion that Young Adults should be able to afford the city in which they live.

We would say that about any age group.

Affordability matters to everyone. When your life is affordable, you give yourself options. You can use your excess money to buy a home with a low down payment (or a big one); to set aside money for retirement; and, to protect your loved ones with a proper life insurance policy.

Including affordability, we identified six categories that matter to people of all ages and assigned a relative weighting to each.

Then, using government and private sources, we logged local data for more than 3,500 cities — from Abbeville, Louisiana to Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico — before narrowing our data set down to the 100 most populous cities for people aged 20-34 where entry-level jobs are ample.

We ranked these “Best Places for Young Adults to Live” from A to F. The six categorical rankings are as follows.

1. How far does a paycheck get you in the city? (50% of score)

Your salary is not your paycheck. Your salary is what you earn. Your paycheck is what you take home after taxes and fees.

Depending on where you live, your paycheck can be shrunk. Many cities levy taxes on people working within city limits to pay for public services such as parks and sanitation.

Tax rates can be as high as six percent, or $6 from your paycheck for every $100 you earn.

Furthermore, the value of your paycheck varies based on where you live.

In some cities, renting an apartment, shopping for food, and buying clothes costs more than the national average. Your paycheck gets used up faster. There’s less left over to spend on things such leisure, fun, and savings.

We wanted to capture this dynamic as part of our “Best Places To Live” study for Young Adults because it’s a real-world event that’s rarely discussed. Your salary may not be as important as you think.

We did an abundance of research related to each city’s entry-level salary range, taxes charged to workers by the city and state, and the city’s specific cost of living to find what a dollar earned in each city is actually worth. We sourced income data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, referencing workers twenty-five years or older with a Bachelor’s Degree; cost of living data from the government’s Cost of Living Index as published in the Statistical Abstract of the United States; and, tax data from each state’s Department of Revenue and each city’s City Office.

There are multiple Cost of Living indices available through the Statistical Abstract of the United States. We chose the index that factors the cost of grocery items, housing, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and miscellaneous goods and services into its result.

We ignored the cost of renters insurance because it’s property specific and linked to additional coverages including personal liability and auto insurance, which can be bundled for discounts and savings. We computed the median earnings for each city, adjusted for state and local taxes; then, normalized that figure for the city’s cost of living.

This allowed us to rank every U.S. city by its relative income-earning potential. Cities in which workers keep more of their paycheck received the highest scores.

2. What’s the after-work and weekend scene like in the city? (10% of score)

There’s a positive correlation between the number of restaurants, bars, and clubs in a city, and its vibrancy.

When you want to go out — after work or on the weekend — you want to have options. A city’s food-and-social scene matters to Young Adults looking for the best places to live. Using data in the Economic Census of the United States, we found the number of food and drink establishments in a city and adjusted it against that city’s total population aged 20-34 to find the number of restaurants, food trucks, coffee shops, bars, clubs, brunch spots, and other venues per person.

Cities that boast more places to eat and drink per young person received higher scores than cities with fewer places to eat and drink.

3. What’s the public transportation situation like in the city? (10% of score)

Owning a car can add a lot to your monthly expenses.

First, there’s the cost of the car. Whether you chose to lease or buy your car, that monthly payment comes due each month, along with the cost of parking. In some cities, there’s an abundance of street parking available at all times.

More commonly, you’re paying to park your car at home, at work, or both. Those costs can add up. You’ve also got the cost of gas; and, of car insurance (by the way, you should probably shop for cheaper car insurance).

All of these reasons are why we considered the strength of each city’s public transportation system in making our list of “Top U.S. Cities For Young Adults and Professionals”.

Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, we gathered data on the number of workers age 20-44 who walk or take public transportation to work which includes trains, subways, buses, and ferries.

Cabs and on-demand drivers such as Uber and Lyft are not considered public transportation.

Cities with a higher percentage of workers who walk or who take public transportation to work were awarded higher scores.

4. How many other young people live there? (15% of score)

When you’re moving to a new city and making a new life, it’s important to find your tribe; people with common interests to you and with whom you can form relationships.

This is why we researched the population density of young people in U.S. cities as part of the “Best Cities for Young Adults and Professionals” study.

To find the population density of people in their twenties, we used the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to find the total population of people aged 20-29 within each of the country’s urban areas, then compared that figure against the total number of people living in the same urban area.

The higher a city’s ratio of young people to its overall population, the higher that city scored in our system.

5. How many entry-level jobs are available in the city? (7.5% of score)

When you’re moving to a new city as a Young Professional, you’ll want to make sure you get the job you really want. So, an abundance of entry-level jobs in the city is important.

To determine the number of full-time, entry-level job openings by city, we searched the Indeed.com database and set a 25-mile radius around each city center, with the assumption that Young Adults and Professionals will commute up to twenty-five miles for an entry-level job.

After finding the number of available entry-level positions in a city, we adjusted it against U.S. Census Bureau data showing that city’s population aged 20-34 which shows the relative strength of the entry-level job market for Young Adults.

6. How much time is spent commuting in the city? (7.5% of score)

As human beings, time is our most valuable asset. How we spend it shapes who we are, and what we can accomplish. This is why we chose to include “time spent commuting” as part of Best Cities For Young Adults and Professionals study.

The less time you spend commuting, the more time you have for interests and hobbies such as sports leagues, gaming, and hitting the gym.

Using data from the American Community Survey published by the U.S. Census Bureau, we found the typical travel time to work for workers over 16 years of age across the country who do not work from home.

Data was split into 5-minute increments up to the forty-five minute mark, at which point larger increments were used. Each city was then assigned a score based on the number of minutes it takes to commute to work.

Cities with lower commuting times were awarded higher point totals.

Yes, You Can Share Our Research!

Homebuyer conducted its research to help Young Adults and Professionals make better decisions with their money, in their career, and for their life.

If you’ve found our research to be helpful, you are welcome to share this article online with proper attribution.

Here’s how to properly share the Homebuyer study:

  • Please include highlights from the study only. Do not copy images or tables.
  • You may list the Top 13 cities only. These are the cities with A grades. You may not list the rankings of cities graded A- or lower.
  • You must include a link to the complete study on Homebuyer’s website.
  • You must link to this page URL using the term “Young Adults and Professionals”.

For follow-up information and usage rights for our research, please email hello@homebuyer.com. We’re happy to help you do more with our data.

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Dan Green
Dan Green

Dan Green is a former mortgage loan officer and an industry expert. He's appeared on NPR and CNBC, and in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, and dozens of local newspapers. Dan has helped millions of first-time home buyers get educated on mortgages, real estate, and personal finance. Have mortgage questions? Ask Dan in the chat.

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