Each generation is different, and is shaped to a large extent by its circumstances. For members of the millennial generation, those circumstances are a mixed bag of persistent economic problems and unprecedented access to information technology.
The way these differences may be shaping the millennial generation's priorities can be seen in some demographic information. For example, North Dakota these days has a proportionately larger young adult population than New York or California. Trends like that may seem surprising, but only if you are judging millennials by traditional standards. A generation raised to be fluent in accessing and using information may well make decisions that reject conventional cliches about where young people want to live.
To get a handle on some of the factors that may be driving decisions about where millennials choose to live, MoneyRates.com looked at the following eight factors:
- Job market for young adults (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
- Young adult proportion of population (U.S. Census Bureau data)
- College tuition affordability (Four-year in-state cost data from the College Board)
- Residential rental availability (U.S. Census Bureau data)
- Residential rental affordability (U.S. Census Bureau data)
- Access to high-speed broadband internet (Federal government's National Broadband Map)
- Concentration of bars relative to the young adult population (U.S. Census Bureau data)
- Concentration of fitness facilities relative to the young adult population (International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association)
All 50 states plus the District of Columbia were ranked on each of the above criteria, and then average rankings across all eight categories were calculated.
Based on the results, the following are the 10 Best and Worst States for Millennials in 2017:
Best States for Millennials 2017
The following 10 states had the highest average rankings across the eight criteria listed above:
1. North Dakota
This may seem like an out-of the way choice, but it clearly has no problems attracting young adults. North Dakota has the second-highest population of people aged 20 to 24, trailing only Utah. One reason why young people are drawn to the state? The job market. Across most of the nation, unemployment for young adults has remained persistently troublesome, but North Dakota's unemployment rate for people aged 20 to 24 is just 5.3 percent, compared with 8.1 percent for the typical state. One major knock on North Dakota is if you are a health nut: It has the third-worst concentration of health facilities relative to its young adult population.
2. South Dakota
It probably comes as no surprise that South Dakota would share some characteristics with its neighbor to the north. Of particular interest to millennials looking for work, these similarities include a strong job market for young adults. South Dakota also ranks No. 1 nationally in the affordability of residential rentals, leaving millennials more money to put into their savings accounts.
This is another state that might not automatically be thought of as a mecca for young adults, but proportionately its population of 20- to 24 year-olds is in the top 10 nationally. Nebraska also scored top-10 rankings for young adult employment, residential rental affordability and the proportion of bars relative to the size of the young adult population.
Being home to New Orleans makes it easy to think of Louisiana as a party state, but actually it scored only a little better than average in terms of the availability of night life. However, it scored very well for broadband access, rental availability and proportion of young adults in its population. If you move to Louisiana, just make sure you have competitive job skills, because the job market for 20- to-24-year-olds is quite weak.
With student loan debt an increasingly troubling issue for millennials, Wyoming offers a very strong attraction: At an average of $5,055 per year, the cost of a four-year public college degree for in-state residents is the lowest in the nation. Wyoming also was among the best five states for rental availability and concentration of bars relative to the size of its young adult population.
The two greatest strengths for Iowa in this study were that it ranked among the 10 best states in both rental affordability and concentration of bars.
7. Kansas (tie)
Scores for Kansas were more consistently decent than featuring spectacular ups and downs, though the state did rank particularly well for the availability of high-speed broadband and access to residential rentals.
7. Wisconsin (tie)
Though it earned a tie with Kansas, Wisconsin reached that position with a very different set of characteristics. For example, unlike Kansas, Wisconsin offers relatively low residential rental availability. However, Wisconsin stands out as a particularly good place to work and play. In terms of work, Wisconsin has the fourth-lowest rate of young adult unemployment in the nation. In terms of play, it has the second-highest concentration of bars relative to the size of the young adult population.
While Montana is a wide-open state with a relatively sparse population, apparently the people who live there like to have a good time because state ranks No. 1 in its concentration of bars relative to the size of its young adult population. For more serious-minded millennials, another attraction of Montana is that it has the third-lowest in-state tuition for four-year public college degrees. In addition, the state was in the top 10 for concentration of fitness facilities.
The top ranks for Indiana would fall into the general category of ease-of-living for young adults. Indiana was in the top 10 for both affordability and availability of residential rental properties, and it also scored well for access to high-speed broadband.
Worst States for Millennials 2017
While just about every state has both strengths and weaknesses, the following states seemed to have the most negatives as places for young adults to live:
This state is known more as a retirement destination than as a hot spot for young people, and a look at where Arizona ranked in some categories of interest to millennials helps explain why. Arizona was among the 10 worst states for access to high-speed broadband and for the concentration of fitness facilities relative to the young adult population. In fact, Arizona ranked below-median in seven of the eight categories used in this study.
2. New Hampshire (tie)
This is an especially bad choice if you are looking to attend college and money is an issue: at $15,650, the annual cost of in-state tuition at a four-year public school is the highest in the nation, more than 60 percent higher than in the typical state. New Hampshire is also not a great place to go for night life, with the second-lowest concentration of bars relative to the size of its young adult population. New Hampshire also ranked in the bottom 10 for both access to high-speed broadband and rental availability.
However, New Hampshire does have one very important redeeming feature for young adults looking for work: The unemployment rate for people aged 20 to 24 is just 4.2 percent, the lowest in the nation.
2. Virginia (tie)
Surprisingly, given its proximity to Washington D.C., Virginia is not a great place for night life, with the nation's lowest concentration of bars relative to its number of young people. To put this in perspective, according to Census figures, Virginia has fewer bars than tiny Rhode Island, despite having about eight times as many young adults. Another key drawback for people just starting out is that it is a fairly expensive place to live. Both tuition and rents are among the 10 most expensive in the nation.
Since young people tend to rent rather than own their homes, a crucial knock on Washington is that it can be a tough place to find a place to rent. The rental vacancy rate is the third-lowest in the nation. Besides that, Washington ranked better than average in only one category, which was the concentration of fitness facilities relative to the size of the young adult population.
Whether you fall on the party-animal or the health-nut end of the personal life style spectrum, Tennessee is not a particularly welcoming state. Relative to the size of its young adult population, Tennessee ranked 44th for concentration of bars, and 41st for concentration of fitness facilities. It is a relatively easy place for renters to find a place to live, as it ranked better than average for both availability and affordability of rental properties.
Like neighboring Washington, Oregon suffers from a relative scarcity of rental properties, ranking 45th in that category. It was generally ranked below average across the board, except that it does cater to young people with relatively high concentrations of bars and fitness facilities.
7. South Carolina
Clearly, young people are not especially attracted to this state because its percentage of 20- to-24-year-olds ranks in the bottom five nationally. One turn-off may be the expense of college in South Carolina, with an average in-state tuition cost for a four-year public school that is among the 10 most expensive in the country.
8. New Jersey
Expense is a big drawback to New Jersey for young adults on a tight budget. Tuition and rental costs are both among the five most expensive in the U.S. Those high costs are even tougher to afford in a weak job market, and New Jersey suffers from one of the 10 highest rates of young adult unemployment.
This state ranked below average on five of eight criteria, with the most prominent example being a bottom-five ranking for concentration of fitness facilities. On the plus side, rents are fourth cheapest of all the states.
Of course, California attracts a lot of young people, but this study is a reminder that you should kick the tires before you choose a place to live. Specifically, make sure you can line up a place to live before you commit because California has the lowest availability of rental property, and the third highest rental costs.
Of course, not all millennials think and act the same way. The above descriptions of strengths of weaknesses of different states offer some suggestions for what young people might want to look at when choosing where to move, but each person will prioritize and judge those factors differently.
Full Ranking of Best States for Millennials 2017
Didn't see your home state in the best or worst lists? Look below for the full ranking of all 50 states and Washington D.C. and see where you stand:
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