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Where Should Millennials Live?

A lot of people are interested in where millennials are choosing to live. The answer has significant economic implications for businesses and cities across America. There are twenty-thousand incorporated cities in America. Many are vying for millennials. For a large percentage of millennials mobility is not really an option. Over a third still live with their parents (36%) and most live within twenty miles of their parents. The idea of picking up and moving from New York to Portland is more of a myth than a reality.

The cost of living in many urban centers is skyrocketing and the pattern of gentrification only tends to make the cost of living more prohibitive for young millennials. Many are huddled together in shared living arrangements that make a typical college dorm room look like a luxury apartment. Others are moving in with their partners and using one apartment as a source of additional income thru Airbnb. Necessity is the mother of invention.

So the notion that a typical millennial will be able to choose and afford to live where they want doesn’t really square with the economic realities of most young people. We can’t even bank hipness—number of farmer’s markets per capita, overall walkability, coffee houses, and craft beer availability. In the end, reality always presses in.

Nonetheless, it is interesting and we like lists. Growella picked 100 top cities based on the answer to this basic question: “If you lived there, could you make it?” These were the questions that they deemed important:

  • How many entry-level jobs are available?

  • How much time is spent commuting?

  • What’s the public transportation situation like?

  • How many other young people live there?

  • What’s the after-work and weekend scene like?

  • How far does a paycheck get you?

Not surprisingly, medium sized second cities seem to do the best according to these criteria. Here are Growella’s top ten ranked from top to bottom as where millennials should move:

  1. Durham, North Carolina

  2. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  3. Nashville, Tennesee

  4. Des Moines, Iowa

  5. Charlotte, North Carolina

  6. Syracuse, New York

  7. Columbus, Ohio

  8. Austin, Texas

  9. Greenville, South Carolina

  10. Houston, Texas

Where should millennials live? I can’t imagine my millennial artist son hopping a bus from Bushwick to Des Moine. Many of the choices millennials make are driven by economic necessity. They are the generation that faced the 2008 economic meltdown during their formative years. Naive economic confidence has been shattered. While some of the financial indicators have improved, the psychological ones still linger. This much is certain “should” is not in the millennial vocabulary.

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