The 20 best cities for college grads looking to start their lives


The Class of 2019 is getting ready to begin their post-college lives, and many new graduates are deciding where to start their careers and their lives.

We put together a list of 20 US cities with large and thriving populations of recent college grads.

We looked at five indicators in each of the 260 metropolitan areas for which data was available: size of the young-adult population, share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree, the unemployment rate among young adults, median earnings among young adults, and the cost of living relative to the national average.

Read about the details of our ranking method and list of sources here.

Many of the metro areas on the list are home to large universities, as such cities tend to have younger and more highly educated populations. Several major business and tech hubs appear on the ranking as well.

Here are the 20 best cities for recent college grads:


20. Gainesville, FL, is the home of the University of Florida, and had a much larger-than-average young-adult population.

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Young-adult population share: 29.8%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 28.3%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 5.1%

Relative cost of living: 5.8% less expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US20,000


19. Lincoln is the capital of Nebraska and the home of the University of Nebraska. Lincoln had a low unemployment rate among young adults.

Young-adult population share: 24.6%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 29.4%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 4.4%

Relative cost of living: 8.5% less expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US28,000


18. Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, is a major Midwestern business hub. The twin cities had a relatively high share of young adults with bachelor’s degrees.

Nick Lundgren/Shutterstock

Young-adult population share: 20.7%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 35.9%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 4.1%

Relative cost of living: 2.2% more expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US32,000


17. Burlington, VT, is home of the University of Vermont, and had a large population of young adults and a low unemployment rate among that community.

Young-adult population share: 24.0%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 33.4%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 4.6%

Relative cost of living: 5.0% more expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US30,000


16. Midland, TX, is at the heart of the booming oil fields of the Permian Basin. It had the highest median earnings for young adults among the metro areas studied.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Young-adult population share: 24.1%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 22.4%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 6.1%

Relative cost of living: 0.3% more expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US45,000


15. Columbia, MO, hosts the University of Missouri, and has a large young-adult population.

Nina B/Shutterstock

Young-adult population share: 29.8%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 32.1%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 7.0%

Relative cost of living: 9.7% less expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US22,100


14. Raleigh is North Carolina’s capital and home to North Carolina State University. The metro area had a high share of young adults with bachelor’s degrees.

Shutterstock.com

Young-adult population share: 20.4%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 38.1%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 4.2%

Relative cost of living: 3.8% less expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US31,000


13. Washington, DC, and its metro area are home to the federal government and several federal agencies. The nation’s capital had higher-than-average median earnings for young adults, but a very high cost of living.

Orhan Cam/Shutterstock

Young-adult population share: 21.3%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 41.4%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 6.3%

Relative cost of living: 18.4% more expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US39,000


12. Seattle, WA, and its metro area are the home of major tech companies like Amazon and Microsoft. Seattle had a large share of young adults with bachelor’s degrees.

Young-adult population share: 22.9%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 36.4%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 5.3%

Relative cost of living: 11.8% more expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US38,000


11. Des Moines, IA, had a low unemployment rate and high median earnings among young adults.

Shutterstock/Daydreambelieverme

Young-adult population share: 20.8%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 33.8%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 3.2%

Relative cost of living: 6.5% less expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US35,000


10. Austin, TX, is the home of the University of Texas’ flagship campus. The metro area had a high share of young adults with a bachelor’s degree.

Flickr Creative commons/Ian Aberle

Young-adult population share: 24.2%%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 34.5%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 4.2%

Relative cost of living: 0.5% more expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US31,800


9. Denver, CO, is an increasingly popular destination for millennials and others as housing costs skyrocket in California and on the East Coast. Denver had higher-than-average median earnings among young adults.

Young-adult population share: 22.4%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 37.1%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 4.0%

Relative cost of living: 6.3% more expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US35,000


8. Lawrence, KS, is home to the University of Kansas. The city had the highest share of young adults among the metro areas studied.

Young-adult population share: 32.2%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 28.7%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 4.7%

Relative cost of living: 8.5% less expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US22,000


7. Boston, MA, is home to several major national colleges and universities. Boston had a very high share of young adults with bachelor’s degrees.

Getty

Young-adult population share: 22.1%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 43.1%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 5.4%

Relative cost of living: 11.8% more expensive than the national average

Young adult median earnings: $US36,000


6. Ann Arbor, MI, is home to the University of Michigan. The metro area had a relatively low unemployment rate among young adults.

Shutterstock/Susan Montgomery

Young-adult population share: 27.0%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 38.0%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 4.1%

Relative cost of living: 1.7% more expensive than the national average

Young adult median earnings: $US26,000


5. San Francisco, CA, is one of the metro areas at the heart of Silicon Valley and the tech industry. San Francisco had the second-highest share of young adults with bachelor’s degrees among the metro areas studied, but also had the second-highest cost of living.

Luciano Mortula – LGM/Shutterstock

Young-adult population share: 22.0%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 44.7%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 5.2%

Relative cost of living: 28.0% more expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US40,000


4. Bismarck, ND, had a low unemployment rate and high median earnings for young adults.

Ace Diamond/Shutterstock

Young-adult population share: 21.3%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 33.6%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 2.6%

Relative cost of living: 7.0% less expensive than the national average

Young adult median earnings: $US38,000


3. Iowa City, IA, is the home of the University of Iowa. Iowa City had a relatively large young-adult population.

Young-adult population share: 29.4%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 36.1%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 4.9%

Relative cost of living: 5.7% less expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US25,000


2. Ithaca, NY, is home to Cornell University. The metro area had a large young-adult population and a high share of young adults with bachelor’s degrees.

Shutterstock/braindameIthaca Falls on the campus of Cornell University, New York State.

Young-adult population share: 30.0%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 37.9%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 3.7%

Relative cost of living: 7.0% more expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US25,000


1. San Jose, CA, is at the heart of Silicon Valley. The metro area had the highest share of young adults with bachelor’s degrees and the second-highest median earnings for young adults, but had the highest cost of living of any metro area in the US.

Getty Images

Young-adult population share: 22.2%

Share of young adults with at least a bachelor’s degree: 46.6%

Young-adult unemployment rate: 4.8%

Relative cost of living: 30.9% more expensive than the national average

Young-adult median earnings: $US43,700

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