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10 states where youth rules 2013

MoneyRates.com Senior Financial Analyst, CFA
October 14, 2013

Where should a young person go today to make his or her fortune? With student loan burdens soaring and youth unemployment rates in the double-digits, this isn't an easy question to answer.

There are plenty of obvious candidates, such as the traditional youth meccas of New York and California. But what if you ignored the clichés and considered the question with an open mind? A young adult starting out today would benefit from a place with plenty of opportunity, reasonable living costs and just enough lifestyle amenities to keep things interesting.

Where do such places exist? A MoneyRates.com study has identified 10 U.S. states that enjoy such youth-friendly conditions.

One caveat: These states may not be the ones you expect.

Conditions that matter to young people

In looking for 10 states where youth rules, MoneyRates.com looked at a mix of economic and lifestyle criteria:

  • Youth unemployment. Using figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, MoneyRates.com gave the best grades to states with the lowest unemployment rates for people age 20-24.
  • Demographics. Based on Census Bureau data, MoneyRates.com gave the best scores to states with the highest proportion of young adults.
  • College costs. MoneyRates.com gave the edge to states where the cost of a four-year college education was the most reasonable, based on figures from the College Board.
  • Rental availability. Since young adults are more likely to rent than own, MoneyRates.com ranked states according to the availability of residential rentals, according to Census Bureau information.
  • Rental costs. Since cost is also a key factor in renting, MoneyRates.com looked at average rental rates according to the Census Bureau.
  • High-speed Internet availability. The highest scores in this category went to states with the widest distribution of high-speed Web access, according to broadband Internet data from the U.S. government.
  • Nightlife. To gauge each state's social landscape, each was ranked according to its total number of pubs, nightclubs and bars per capita, according to RateClubs.com.
  • Fitness facilities. The number of health clubs per capita, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, measured the opportunities for fitness in each state.

So which states fared best when all of these factors were considered? Here are MoneyRates.com's 10 states where youth rules.

1. North Dakota

  • Unemployment rate for people age 20-24: 5.1 percent
  • Percentage of the population age 20-24: 9.1 percent
  • Average annual four-year college cost: $11,092
  • Rental vacancy rate: 6.9 percent
  • Median rental cost: $644
  • 50-state ranking for broadband Internet access: 17
  • Bars, pubs and nightclubs per million residents: 2,164
  • Fitness clubs per million residents: 124

It's not exactly a glamour spot, but North Dakota is attracting young people: It now has a higher proportion of people age 18-24 than any other state. Having the lowest youth unemployment rate helps, but what may surprise you is that North Dakota also has more bars, pubs and nightclubs per capita than any state besides Wisconsin.

2. South Dakota

  • Unemployment rate for people age 20-24: 9.4 percent
  • Percentage of the population age 20-24: 7.1 percent
  • Average annual four-year college cost: $15,541
  • Rental vacancy rate: 8.9 percent
  • Median rental cost: $651
  • 50-state ranking for broadband Internet access: 24
  • Bars, pubs and nightclubs per million residents: 1,559
  • Fitness clubs per million residents: 141

While its neighbor to the north ranked in the top four in five different categories, South Dakota didn't dominate any category, but made it to second place overall by having above-average scores in all eight categories.

3. Nebraska

  • Unemployment rate for people age 20-24: 7.0 percent
  • Percentage of the population age 20-24: 7 percent
  • Average annual four-year college cost: $13,914
  • Rental vacancy rate: 7.5 percent
  • Median rental cost: $692
  • 50-state ranking for broadband Internet access: 29
  • Bars, pubs and nightclubs per million residents: 1,689
  • Fitness clubs per million residents: 114

Continuing a strong showing for the upper Midwest, Nebraska's youth unemployment rate is lower than any state's except North Dakota, and it also ranked in the top 10 for affordability of college and of residential rentals.

4. Montana

  • Unemployment rate for people age 20-24: 11.2 percent
  • Percentage of the population age 20-24: 7.2 percent
  • Average annual four-year college cost: $12,930
  • Rental vacancy rate: 5.9 percent
  • Median rental cost: $681
  • 50-state ranking for broadband Internet access: 48
  • Bars, pubs and nightclubs per million residents: 1,877
  • Fitness clubs per million residents: 144

Perhaps surprisingly, Montana's best categories were the number of bars, pubs and nightclubs per capita (where it ranked fourth) and fitness facilities per capita (where it ranked fifth). On the negative side, Montana is one of the worst states for access to high-speed Internet, and rental availability is relatively tight.

5. Iowa

  • Unemployment rate for people age 20-24: 8.4 percent
  • Percentage of the population age 20-24: 7.1 percent
  • Average annual four-year college cost: $17,755
  • Rental vacancy rate: 6.3 percent
  • Median rental cost: $661
  • 50-state ranking for broadband Internet access: 28
  • Bars, pubs and nightclubs per million residents: 1,812
  • Fitness clubs per million residents: 123

Ranking among the 10 best states for youth employment and night spots per capita helped Iowa earn its top-five showing. Iowa was also one of the 10 best states for rental affordability, which is slightly surprising because the availability of rental properties is below average.

6. Hawaii

  • Unemployment rate for people age 20-24: 8.9 percent
  • Percentage of the population age 20-24: 7.2 percent
  • Average annual four-year college cost: $11,678
  • Rental vacancy rate: 10.2 percent
  • Median rental cost: $1,379
  • 50-state ranking for broadband Internet access: 10
  • Bars, pubs and nightclubs per million residents: 1,729
  • Fitness clubs per million residents: 77

Breaking the pattern of chilly Midwest states, Hawaii made it into the top 10 primarily on the strength of its low cost of higher education and its low rate of youth unemployment. It also scored well for nightlife and high-speed Internet access, and the state has a high proportion of young adults among its population. Be advised, though, that rental costs in Hawaii are higher than those in any other state and the District of Columbia.

7. Oklahoma

  • Unemployment rate for people age 20-24: 9.6 percent
  • Percentage of the population age 20-24: 7.2 percent
  • Average annual four-year college cost: $14,659
  • Rental vacancy rate: 9.5 percent
  • Median rental cost: $686
  • 50-state ranking for broadband Internet access: 27
  • Bars, pubs and nightclubs per million residents: 861
  • Fitness clubs per million residents: 99

Oklahoma did very well on youth employment and rental affordability, but it ranked as one of the worst states for nightlife.

8. Louisiana

  • Unemployment rate for people age 20-24: 13.4 percent
  • Percentage of the population age 20-24: 7.6 percent
  • Average annual four-year college cost: $18,475
  • Rental vacancy rate: 12.6 percent
  • Median rental cost: $644
  • 50-state ranking for broadband Internet access: 38
  • Bars, pubs and nightclubs per million residents: 1,415
  • Fitness clubs per million residents: 118

Besides Hawaii, Louisiana is the only warm-weather option on this list. Rentals are plentiful here, and the state has one of the most youthful populations in the country.

9. Massachusetts

  • Unemployment rate for people age 20-24: 9.2 percent
  • Percentage of the population age 20-24: 7.2 percent
  • Average annual four-year college cost: $24,254
  • Rental vacancy rate: 6.5 percent
  • Median rental cost: $1,036
  • 50-state ranking for broadband Internet access: 6
  • Bars, pubs and nightclubs per million residents: 1,686
  • Fitness clubs per million residents: 147

What's surprising about this state's high ranking is that four other New England states ranked among the 10 worst for young adults. Massachusetts has one of the highest concentrations of fitness clubs per capita, which is appropriate for a relatively youthful state. Despite a large population of young adults, unemployment in that demographic is low. Its college costs, however, are among the highest in the nation.

10. Utah

  • Unemployment rate for people age 20-24: 7.7 percent
  • Percentage of the population age 20-24: 8.3 percent
  • Average annual four-year college cost: $5,908
  • Rental vacancy rate: 7.7 percent
  • Median rental cost: $851
  • 50-state ranking for broadband Internet access: 12
  • Bars, pubs and nightclubs per million residents: 536
  • Fitness clubs per million residents: 92

While not a good state for nightlife or fitness facilities, Utah has the lowest higher education costs in the U.S., as well as a large young adult population with relatively low unemployment.

Everyone has their own preferences, biases and impressions, which means that the states above won't be for everyone. Still, based on an objective look at the data, young people looking to get a strong start on their adult lives may do well to give these places a look.

If you're curious how your state fared in comparison to the rest of the places in this study, please also see the full list of best and worst states for young adults.

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Your responses to ‘10 states where youth rules 2013’

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Bonzo

18 October 2013 at 12:03 pm

These lists are always a joke. I live in Iowa and there's nowhere you can rent for that low unless you live in some podunk town with nothing to do. It also doesn't factor in that 95% of the population gets married at 18 so the dating pool is atrocious.

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