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Best States for Young People from MoneyRates.com

MoneyRates.com Senior Financial Analyst, CFA
June 07, 2016

Best States for Millennials 2016

In many ways, the deck is stacked against millennials these days, but there are places they can get a fairer deal. It just might not be in the first places they would think to look.

MoneyRates.com compiled a list of the best states for millennials in 2016, and specifically, the best states for the age group that has it toughest - the 20- through 24-year-olds who are trying to find a affordable education, get their careers underway and get by on a budget squeezed by low wages and high student loan payments.

Top 10 Best States for Millennials

Based on where all 50 states and the District of Columbia ranked on each of the above criteria, here is the list of the overall top 10:

1. North Dakota

Best States for Millennials - 1. North Dakota

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If your only impression of North Dakota is the movie "Fargo," you need to get with the times. An economic boom has led to an influx of young people who find jobs plentiful and the cost of living reasonable. North Dakota has the third highest proportion of its civilian, non-institutional population in the 20 to 24 age group, and has the lowest unemployment rate for that age group at 4.6 percent (compared to 10.7 percent for the average state). College tuition and rental costs are also cheaper than average.

Beyond its economic strengths, what may surprise you about North Dakota is that it ranks among the top 10 states for both access to high speed broadband and the number of bars, pubs and nightclubs per 1,000 young adults.

2. South Dakota

Best States for Millennials - 2. South Dakota

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With above-average rankings in all eight categories, South Dakota makes it a clean 1-2 sweep for the Dakotas. South Dakota boasts the lowest average rents in the nation, and has one of the lowest rates of unemployment among young adults.

3. Nebraska

Best States for Millennials - 3. Nebraska

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Jobs are definitely a key to making a life for yourself - hot spots like L.A. or New York City are not fun if you can't find a job. Nebraska takes third place primarily on having the second lowest unemployment rate for young adults in the nation, and it also ranked above-average in most other categories. The one exception was having the tenth lowest rate of rental availability in the nation, so if you are thinking about moving there, you might want to line up a place to live first.

4. Iowa

Best States for Millennials - 4. Iowa

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An unemployment rate among young adults of just 5.8 percent is Iowa's greatest strength in this study, though it also does fairly well in most other categories. Two exceptions were a mediocre score for Internet connectivity, and a well below-average score for rental availability.

5. Montana

Best States for Millennials - 5. Montana

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This is a great place to live if you want to further your education because Montana has the nation's second-lowest tuition for in-state students at 4-year public colleges. There's also more to do than just attend classes, as Montana ranked in the top 10 for the highest concentration of both nightspots and health clubs relative to its young adult population.

6. Louisiana

 Best States for Millennials - 6. Lousiana

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At last - a warm weather locale. Not surprisingly, Louisiana attracts a lot of young adults - it has the second highest proportion of them in the nation. Beyond that, connectivity is excellent, and college tuition is fairly reasonable.

7. Indiana

Best States for Millennials - 7. Indiana

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In terms of population, Indiana is one of the least youthful states in the nation, but that is unfortunate because it rates well in most categories that would make the state welcoming to millennials. It has high rankings in Internet connectivity, rental availability and affordability, and the concentration of nightspots relative to the young adult population.

8. Kansas

Best States for Millennials - 8. Kansas

Wikimedia Commons/Dylan Edwards

While Kansas falls lower in the two social categories of this survey, nightlife and fitness facilities, it rates well in all the practical categories, and has one of the most youthful populations in the country.

9. Wyoming

Best States for Millennials - 9. Wyoming

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In particular, this is a great state to establish residency if you are planning to go to college because it has the cheapest 4-year in-state college tuition rates in the country. You might also be surprised to learn that it ranks in the top five for concentration of nightspots relative to its youth population.

10. Texas

Best States for Millennials - 10. Texas

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Texas scores well for young adult employment, youthfulness of population, rental availability, connectivity and nightlife. It just might not be the best choice if you are a fitness buff, as it is in the bottom 10 for health clubs.

Some names on the above list may surprise you and for good reason. The idea of using a data-driven approach is to overcome prejudices and stereotypes about certain states, and see where the facts indicate conditions are welcoming to young people. If you are a millennial having a hard time getting by where you are now, you might consider checking out what prospects await you in one of the above states.

Top 10 Worst States for Millennials

What can make it especially tough for millennials to get their lives and careers underway?

Not being able to find a job, of course. Also high-cost college tuition or apartment rents can make things difficult. Then there are social issues, such as how many of your peers live nearby, and whether there is anywhere to go out at night or to work out.

Here is a list of the 10 worst:

1. Washington (worst state)

The state of Washington ranked below average on seven of eight criteria studied, with the lone exception being a relatively decent concentration of fitness facilities relative to the young adult population. The state's worst attribute for millennials looking to get established? Unemployment. At 14.2 percent, Washington had the nation's fourth worst rate of unemployment among people aged 20 to 24.

2. Virginia (tied for second worst)

Virginia may be great if you are wealthy, but if you are young and just starting out, you might find that the high cost of college and apartment rents (both among the 10 most expensive in the nation) will be an obstacle. You also might not like that Virginia has one of the lowest concentration of bars, pubs and nightclubs relative to its young adult population. Virginia may be for lovers, but apparently not for lovers of nightlife.

2. Arizona (tied for second worst) 

While a popular destination for retirees, Arizona may not seem so welcoming for those at the opposite extreme of their adult lives. Arizona is tied with Washington for the fourth highest rate of young adult unemployment, and ranks second worst for the availability of nightlife.

4. California

Sunshine and star power make this a popular destination for young people, but there are some harsher realities once you get there. Try finding a place to live, for one thing. California has the third lowest rate of rental availability in the nation, and not surprisingly, the third highest average rents.

5. Vermont

This is an expensive place to pursue your education. In-state tuition at four-year public colleges ranks second highest in the nation. That may be one reason Vermont attracts relatively few young adults, with the second lowest proportion of its population in the 20 - 24 age bracket.

6. New Hampshire

Vermont's neighbor ranks only slightly better, and is an even more expensive place to attend college. Annual in-state public tuition costs in New Hampshire are highest in the nation at $15,160, compared to the national average of $9,318.

7. Oregon

This state is less youthful than you might think, with the third-lowest proportion of its population aged 20 - 24. Perhaps that's because they can't find anywhere to live - rental availability is second worst in the nation.

8. Maine

Joining its neighbors to the south, Maine ranked in the bottom 10 for youthfulness, rental availability and access to high-speed broadband.

9. Delaware

The big downfall here was availability of nightlife - relative to its young adult population, bars, pubs and nightclubs were fourth scarcest in the nation. Delaware is also among the 10 most expensive states for college tuition. Still, you can readily use the Internet there to look for a better place to live, as Delaware scores well for access to high-speed broadband.

10. Kentucky

Not a state for health buffs. Kentucky has the lowest proportion of fitness facilities relative to its young adult population. It also scored fairly poorly on nightlife and access to high-speed broadband. Still, at least it's a cheap place to live - rents are third-lowest in the nation.

If you are a young adult who has been finding it hard to live in these states, take heart - there may be better prospects for you in other parts of the country. If you currently live elsewhere and are contemplating a move to one of these states, then look before you leap.

Full Ranking for Best States for Millennials 

Didn't see your state in the best or worst states for millennials? Here is the full ranking of all 50 states and the District of Columbia:

Ranking State
1 North Dakota
2 South Dakota
3 Nebraska
4 Iowa
5 Montana
6 Louisiana
7 Indiana
8 Kansas
9 Wyoming
10 Texas
11 Minnesota
12 Oklahoma
13 Missouri
14 Florida
15 Arkansas
15 Mississippi
17 Utah
18 Illinois
18 Ohio
20 Alabama
21 Maryland
22 Georgia
23 Nevada
24 Rhode Island
24 Wisconsin
26 Massachusetts
27 Idaho
28 New York
29 Colorado
30 Pennsylvania
31 South Carolina
32 West Virginia
33 Alaska
33 New Mexico
35 District of Columbia
36 Michigan
37 Connecticut
38 Hawaii
39 North Carolina
40 New Jersey
41 Tennessee
42 Kentucky
43 Delaware
44 Maine
45 Oregon
46 New Hampshire
47 Vermont
48 California
49 Arizona
50 Virginia
51 Washington

Methodology

To determine where millennials might find it easier to get by - and maybe even have a little fun - MoneyRates.com compiled a ranking based on eight different criteria:

  1. Unemployment among young adults
  2. Percent of state population composed of young adults
  3. In-state cost of 4-year public colleges
  4. Availability of residential rentals
  5. Average cost of residential rentals
  6. Percentage of population with access to high-speed broadband
  7. The number of bars, pubs, and nightclubs per 1,000 young adults
  8. The number of fitness clubs per 1,000 young adults

Comment: Where does your state rank in Best States for Millennials?

Ranking State
1 North Dakota
2 South Dakota
3 Nebraska
4 Iowa
5 Montana
6 Louisiana
7 Indiana
8 Kansas
9 Wyoming
10 Texas
11 Minnesota
12 Oklahoma
13 Missouri
14 Florida
15 Arkansas
15 Mississippi
17 Utah
18 Illinois
18 Ohio
20 Alabama
21 Maryland
22 Georgia
23 Nevada
24 Rhode Island
24 Wisconsin
26 Massachusetts
27 Idaho
28 New York
29 Colorado
30 Pennsylvania
31 South Carolina
32 West Virginia
33 Alaska
33 New Mexico
35 District of Columbia
36 Michigan
37 Connecticut
38 Hawaii
39 North Carolina
40 New Jersey
41 Tennessee
42 Kentucky
43 Delaware
44 Maine
45 Oregon
46 New Hampshire
47 Vermont
48 California
49 Arizona
50 Virginia
51 Washington
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Your responses to ‘Best States for Millennials 2016’

Showing 1 comment | Add your comment
Ryan

9 July 2016 at 9:42 am

I just moved out of Indiana. It doesn't have much that is worth living there for. There's bad roads, no public transportation, almost nothing to do, and most of the jobs there are dead end and on the lower end of the wage scale (the state's minimum wage being only $7.25 an hour). The city of Indianapolis has a horrendous traffic problem with frequent traffic jams and accidents, a huge traffic jam twice a day, and smog. The state's right-wing Republican government spends most of its time passing laws to destroy the environment and oppress and repress the LGBT community. The state claims it has $2 billion in surplus, but it has committed to spending over half of that on the roads, some of which haven't been properly maintained since the 1980s. It has $50 billion in debt, and continues to take on more. In what world is $1 billion on hand and $50 billion in debt a surplus? Part of the debt is to build a new chunk of the NAFTA superhighway project, which makes it easier for megacorporations to export American jobs. Another part of the debt is because Governor Mike Pence took money from the Geo Group, a private prison company, and in return promised to keep the prisons overflowing, so now the state has to build more prisons. Millennials like things like legal marijuana, but Indiana's social conservative government is still stuck in 1980 on that. Indiana has tough marijuana laws and it enforces them, which means you could wind up in prison just for having some, even though the state's propaganda machine can't name one person who ever died from it. Internet service sucks because the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission limits competition and has been keeping out competitors like Google Fiber. Most of the state is cornfields. There's a meth and heroin epidemic. Indiana just had the nation's worst HIV crisis and Governor Pence didn't want to respond to it at all. There's other reasons to stay away from Indiana. I'm wondering about the other states on your list though.

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