The 20 Most Underrated Cities For 20-Somethings

Rankings of cities measuring “livability” or “quality of life” are a staple of the Internet. Livability, however, is very much in the eye of the beholder.
Areavibes.com provides a typical such livability metric. Cities are rated by a combination of factors — proximity to amenities, cost of living, crime rates, educational facilities, the local labour market, the housing market, and weather.

Click here to jump right to the underrated cities for 20-somethings >>

The AreaVibes metric seems like it would be helpful to an affluent, mid-career professional with a couple of kids in school who is looking to buy a house and put down roots.

This ranking is completely useless to me. I am a somewhat reckless, single 20-something trying to start a career. Buying a house, settling down, and worrying about what school district I live in are completely alien concepts.

I am far more interested in meeting interesting people and experiencing all that life has to offer. To help me decide where I and other similarly inclined members of my generation should live, I have put together a ranking of my own: the Shiftless Millennial City Index (SMCI). This index is based on amount of parkland, number of large music venues per capita, number of bars per capita, how many people are single, access to public transportation, and cost of living. (You can read more about the methodology here).

We can see which cities are the most underrated by AreaVibes by subtracting SMCI rankings from AreaVibes rankings for the 88 cities ranked by AreaVibes with populations of at least 200,000 — the bigger the difference, the more underrated the city. This gives us an idea of some of the places where shiftless millennials should live.

#20 San Francisco, CA

AreaVibes Ranking: 53rd

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 5th

San Francisco scored very well in most of the categories going into the SMCI. SF was below average in only two categories -- it has the worst cost of living index of any of the cities we ranked, and it has, somewhat shockingly, a slightly below average number of venues listed on TicketMaster.

San Francisco's low AreaVibes score -- and relatively low ranking on our underrated cities list -- came as a surprise.
I can understand how one could make a metric of city quality that would disfavor the big cities of the Northeast and Midwest -- it's easy to hate on Detroit and New York -- but San Francisco is just so awesome that the mind boggles that it could be below the median on any ranking system of large cities.

#19 Cleveland, OH

AreaVibes Ranking: 86th

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 37th

Even though Cleveland is only average on the SMCI, AreaVibes hates the city -- Cleveland is the third lowest ranked city in the group. Cleveland's saving graces on the SMCI are its decent public transportation, large number of single people, and low cost of living.

However, a lack of bars, parks, and concert venues limits Cleveland's potential as a destination for the young and reckless.

#17 St. Louis, MO

AreaVibes Ranking: 71st

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 19th

St. Louis features better than average public transportation, a large single population, and about 43 Yelp-reviewed bars per 10,000 residents, nearly twice the average of the cities studied.

St. Louis is a bit of an anomaly in that it's the only Southern interior city on the list -- all our other underrated cities are coastal or Northern.

#16 Santa Ana, CA

AreaVibes Ranking: 75th

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 22nd

An extremely large number of venues and bars overcome mediocre to terrible public transportation and parkland to give Santa Ana a leg up in the SMCI rankings.

I have always assumed that if I moved out west, I would go to the Bay Area, but given this entry and the next, I may have to take a second look at Southern California.

#15 Anaheim, CA

AreaVibes Ranking: 60th

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 6th

Anaheim has a heroic 104 Yelp-reviewed bars per 10,000 residents, dwarfing any other city studied. Keep drinking, Anaheim!

When I put together the SMCI, I honestly did not expect to see a city in Orange County in the top 10, but Anaheim pleasantly surprises with extremely good scores in the venues and bars indexes.

#14 Miami, FL

AreaVibes Ranking: 79th

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 23rd

Miami features better than average public transit and a pretty impressive number of bars. I was surprised to see that only 41.9% of Miami's population has never been married, which is very close to the average for our cities.

With its beautiful beaches, and even more beautiful people, Miami is a natural fit for an aimless 20-something.

#12 Washington, DC

AreaVibes Ranking: 61st

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 3rd

Washington has an amazing public transportation system, nearly twice as much parkland as the average city, an extremely large single population, and a healthy number of bars. It does lack in music venues, however.

The capital, despite having terrible drivers and rude residents, is one of the best places in the country for someone like me to live.

#8 (tie) Baltimore, MD

AreaVibes Ranking: 82nd

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 20th

Baltimore is another city that is maligned by AreaVibes, but is not so bad for an aimless 20-something, with its SMCI boosted by good public transportation and a large single population.

I occasionally dream about becoming a detective, falling into disgrace, and then turning into a high school maths teacher, in our 8th most underrated city.

#7 Boston, MA

AreaVibes Ranking: 67th

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 4th

With its excellent public transportation, plentiful parks and bars, and with nearly 57% of the population having never been married, it makes sense that Boston is an ideal habitat for America's 20-somethings.

#6 Oakland, CA

AreaVibes Ranking: 73rd

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 9th

Oakland scores well across the board in the SMCI sub-indexes, except for having a higher-than-average standard of living.

Oakland has probably always been the most underrated part of the Bay Area, and this is reflected in its place on our list.

#5 Chicago, IL

AreaVibes Ranking: 81st

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 16th

Chicago's biggest advantage in the SMCI ranking is its public transit -- over a quarter of Chicagoans use the CTA to get around.

Although suffering from fairly horrific crime and gang problems for the last few years, Chicago is still a pretty wonderful city.

#3 (tie) Jersey City

AreaVibes Ranking: 68th

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 1st

With Jersey City coming in at first overall on the SMCI list, scoring quite well across all categories, it appears that Walt Hickey might have been dead accurate when he said that everyone who lives in New York City should live in Jersey City instead.

#2 Newark, NJ

AreaVibes Ranking: 83rd

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 10th

Newark has good scores on most parts of the SMCI, but is somewhat lacking in parkland and bars.

#1 Philadelphia, PA

AreaVibes Ranking: 87th

Shiftless Millennial Ranking: 12th

Philadelphia was the second lowest city ranked by AreaVibes, but scored quite well on the SMCI based on its public transportation, large single population, and healthy amount of parkland.

'It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia' has amply illustrated the virtues of being a shiftless millennial in our most underrated city.

Now check out some great escapes

NOW WATCH: Executive Life videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.