Here's how we found the best cities for recent college grads

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We recently published a ranking of 20 US cities with large and thriving populations of young college graduates. Here’s how we assembled that ranking.

We used five indicators showing the size and economic health of the young-adult population in 260 metropolitan statistical areas for which data was available. Here they are, along with their weights:

  • Share of the population aged 20-34 (25%): We used the US Census Bureau’s 2017 American Community Survey 1-year estimates to find the size of the young-adult population.
  • Share of 18- to 34-year-olds with a bachelor’s degree or higher (35%): The percentage of the young-adult population with at least a four-year college degree also came from the 2017 American Community Survey.
  • Unemployment rate among 20- to 34-year-olds (20%): This crucial labour market indicator also came from the 2017 American Community Survey.
  • Relative cost of living (10%): We used the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ 2017 Regional Price Parity measure, which compares the average cost of housing, goods, and services in a metro area to the overall nationwide average.
  • Median annual earned income among employed 20- to 34-yea- olds (15%): Our measure of wages among young adults came from Business Insider tabulations of individual-level 2017 American Community Survey data from the Minnesota Population Center’s Integrated Public Use Microdata Series program.

To combine those measures into an overall score, we normalized each indicator by calculating z-scores, showing how many standard deviations each individual metro area was from the average for that indicator among all 260 areas studied. We then took the weighted average of those normalized scores using the weights indicated above.

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