10 Great Cities For Young Adults - ReferensiBisnis.com

30 Jul 2010

10 Great Cities For Young Adults

Free from ties to kids or a mortgage, young adults can settle virtually anywhere they choose. So which place is best for you when the world is your oyster?
Here are 10 cities in the U.S. that offer exceptional opportunities for those starting out in life. We began our search using the criteria we used to select our overall list of Best Cities for the Next Decade: healthy economies fueling new job growth. We fine-tuned our search using other youth-friendly factors such as large percentages of people under 35, cost of living and rental costs, culture, nightlife, and the time you're likely to spend in traffic. Take a look - and tell us what you think.

Austin, Texas

Metro population: 1,705,075
Cost-of-living index: 97 (average is 100)
Median monthly rent (includes utilities): $864, nat. average+$819)
Average annual wage: $41,380 (as of 2007)
Unemployment rate: 6.9%
Percentage of Gen Y residents: 30%
Top employers: Austin School District, Dell, city and federal government, IBM, Seton Healthcare Network, St. David's Healthcare Partnership, University of Texas at Austin

Austin has the fourth-lowest jobless rate among cities with populations of one million or more. Living costs fall below the national norm. It doesn't hurt that this is the capital of Texas and home to eight colleges and universities, including the University of Texas. Austin's cultural scene is exceptional, with two giant music festivals each year, a vibrant nightlife, and eclectic, up-and-coming neighborhoods, There's certainly more than enough here to keep a recent grad busy.
PROS: Below-average cost of city living, hundreds of bars and music venues for the twenty-something set, reasonable rent
CONS: Long, hot summers, accelerating urban sprawl, limited public transportation (though the average drive will last only 23 minutes)

Charlotte, N.C.

Metro population: 1,745,524
Cost-of-living index: 94
Median monthly rent: $803 (average is $819)
Average annual wage: $41,190
Unemployment rate: 10.9%
Percentage of Gen Y residents: 21.7%
Top employers: Carolinas Healthcare System, Wells Fargo/Wachovia Corp., Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Bank of America, Wal-Mart Stores, Presbyterian Regional Healthcare, Delhaize America
Charlotte has seen explosive growth over the last 20 years, and is now the second-largest banking center in the country (after New York). The city took it on the chin in the 2008-2009 meltdown, but it should offer lots of entry-level jobs for college graduates as the financial sector recovers. Despite the towering new skyscrapers, and a vibrant Uptown district, it's still possible to live comfortably here on a tight budget.
PROS: A cost of living that skews well below the national average, reasonable rents, a bustling downtown still being developed, high-paying advancement opportunities in the financial sector
CONS: Hot, humid summers, smog alerts, high (but falling) crime rates, you'll need a car (average commute lasts 24 minutes)

Chicago, Ill.

Metro population: 9,580,567
Cost-of-living index: 118
Median monthly rent: $861 (average is $819)
Average annual wage: $45,119
Unemployment rate: 10.3%
Percentage of Gen Y residents: 24.6%
Top employers: City, state and federal government, Chicago Public Schools, Wal-Mart Stores, Advocate Health Care, Walgreen, JP Morgan Chase, Abbott Laboratories, AT&T
Chicago is an exceptional value in big-city living, packing the cultural punch of Manhattan at nearly half the cost. Its lakefront district, with beaches, parks, a zoo and several museums, is a model for other waterfront cities. There are great sports teams, theater companies, and music festivals. And it's the home of the deep-dish pizza. The jobless rate is higher than the national average, but the Windy City's financial sector is thriving and promises more entry-level jobs in the future.
PROS: Low cost of living for a major city, cheap and widely available rentals, an efficient and user-friendly public transportation system, high-paying jobs in business and finance, great nightlife and entertainment venues
CONS: Extreme winter weather, high crime rate, and it's a long car drive to other major cities

Houston, Texas

Metro population: 5,867,489
Cost-of-living index: 91
Median monthly rent: $775 (average is $819)
Average annual wage: $41,074
Unemployment rate: 8.3%
Percentage of Gen Y residents: 23.9%
Top employers: Wal-Mart Stores, Memorial Hermann Healthcare System, Administaff, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Continental Airlines, Kroger, Exxon Mobil
Like its rival Austin, Houston offers great job prospects and exciting big-city amenities at a price so low, even struggling grads can afford it. Diversity is one of its unsung strengths. More than a million of Houston's inhabitants were born outside of the U.S. H-Town's economy is varied as well: The city has strong energy, manufacturing, aeronautics, transportation and healthcare sectors, and 25 Fortune 500 companies have headquarters here.
PROS: A small-town cost of living in the country's fourth-largest city, rents well below the national average, one of the country's best restaurant scenes, vibrant nightlife, an hour from Gulf Coast beaches
CONS: Oppressive heat and humidity, infamous bumper-to-bumper traffic (the average commute will last 26 minutes), heavy air pollution, a crime rate well above the national average

Kansas City, Mo.

Metro population: 2,067,585
Cost-of-living index: 96.4
Median monthly rent: $697 (average is $819)
Average annual wage: $40,950
Unemployment rate: 8.3%
Percentage of Gen Y residents: 22.2%
It may not have the big-city buzz of a Chicago or Houston, but KCMO is on its way up. The "Paris of the Plains" is in the midst of a $9 billion downtown development project, which will create a swath of new condos, apartments, offices, bars and restaurants- many of them targeted to young professionals. Unemployment and cost of living are low here as well, and job prospects are promising. Six Fortune 1000 companies call Kansas City home.
PROS: Below-average rents, low cost of living, money and momentum behind future development, innovative jobs in business, research and technology. The average commute is only 21 minutes.
CONS: Mediocre nightlife and limited cultural offerings (at least until the downtown development is finished), high crime rate, poor public transportation (though a light rail is under construction)

Lansing, Mich.

Metro population: 453,603
Cost-of-living index: 100
Median monthly rent: $630 (average is $819)
Average annual wage: $41,773
Unemployment rate: 10.2%
Percentage of Gen Y residents: 26.9%
Top employers: State government, Michigan State University, Sparrow Health System, General Motors, Lansing Community College, Ingham Regional Medical Center, Lansing School District, Meijer
Home to five medical schools, two law schools and Michigan State University, Michigan's capital is a little-known hotbed for young professionals. Granted, this Great Lakes community can't quite compare to the larger cities on our list in terms of job prospects or things to do. But it has a relatively low cost of living. And its youthful population, downtown renewal projects, and emerging technology sector make Lansing a stand-out in mid-sized cities.
PROS: Cheap rent well below the national average, a respectable bar and club scene, high-paying job opportunities in bio and Internet technologies. Average commute is only 20 minutes.
CONS: Public transportation is unimpressive, extreme winter weather, unemployment rate is a full point above the norm (the opportunities here skew toward the highly-skilled)

New York, N.Y.

Metro population: 19,069,796 (includes Long Island and Northern New Jersey)
Cost-of-living index: 218 (Manhattan), 179 (Brooklyn), 158 (Queens)
Median monthly rent: $1,025 (average is $819)
Average annual wage: $50,784
Unemployment rate: 9.4%
Percentage of Gen Y residents: 21.9%
Top industries (New York does not release specific employer statistics): General medical and surgical hospitals, individual and family services, restaurants, securities and commodities contracts, legal services
There's no place for recent graduates quite like the Big Apple: the job prospects are exceptional and the culture and nightlife are without parallel. Yes, it's tough to live here. The cost-of-living is the highest in the continental U.S. Conveniences most Americans take for granted don't exist here, like places to park a car. Fortunately, however, there are still areas of the city where young professionals can eke out a living: Brooklyn's Prospect Heights has recently come into vogue, Sunnyside and Long Island City in Queens are youth-friendly, and the money you save on rent in Hoboken will help ease the stigma of being a "B&Ter" (bridge-and-tunneler - someone who works and spends time in Manhattan, but actually lives elsewhere).
PROS: Incomparable job opportunities, an extensive mass transportation system that makes car-owning superfluous and allows young adults to live well outside the city.
CONS: Expensive, sometimes ridiculously so. But hey, if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere.

Portland, Ore.

Metro population: 2,241,841
Cost-of-living index: 110
Median monthly rent: $779 (average is $819)
Average annual wage: $43,346
Unemployment rate: 10.2%
Percentage of Gen Y residents: 21.9%
Top employers: Intel, Fred Meyer Stores, Oregon Health & Science University, Providence Health Systems, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the NW, city government, Legacy Health System
A haven for bohemians, punk rockers, aging hippies, techies and other creative souls, Portland is renowned for its progressive, DIY spirit. The city's creative-class profile comes at a price, however, as cost of living is now above average. Nearby Olympia, Wash., a two-hour drive from Portland, may be a reasonable alternative for grads who don't mind sacrificing some street cred - it's a much smaller city, but unemployment and cost of living are lower.
PROS: Below-average rent, a walk-able (or bike-able!) average commute, plenty of microbreweries and hip coffee shops, innovative art and music scenes, no sales tax
CONS: Above-average cost of living, surprisingly high crime rate, notoriously rainy weather, an unemployment rate that skews almost a point above the average

Salt Lake City, Utah

Metro population: 1,130,293
Cost-of-living index: 100
Median monthly rent: $698 (average is $819)
Average annual wage: $39,722
Unemployment rate: 7.0%
Percentage of Gen Y residents: 28.8%
Top employers: University of Utah, state and county government, Salt Lake City School District, Novus, Delta, LDS Hospital, Salt Lake City Corp.
Here's an affordable alternative to trendier Rocky Mountain cities like Denver and Boulder, where job growth, nightlife and climate are similar but living costs are prohibitively high. A year's rent in Boulder will buy a year and a half in SLC - though maybe not in its explosive downtown district, where dozens of luxury condominiums, high-rise office buildings and clusters of shops and restaurants have sprung up since the 2002 Olympic Games.
PROS: Low rents and cost of living, urban development, job opportunities in manufacturing, finance, and technology, nearby ski slopes and cycling trails. The setting is breathtaking.
CONS: Mediocre nightlife, occasional smog, relatively low wages, the average commute requires a car (but takes only 19 minutes)

Washington, D.C.

Metro population: 5,476,241
Cost-of-living index: 139
Median monthly rent: $979 (District of Columbia, average is $819)
Average annual wage: $54,371
Unemployment rate: 6.0%
Percentage of Gen Y residents: 27.2%
Top employers: Federal government, McDonald's, Northrop Grumman, Science Applications International, Verizon Communications, Safeway, Ahold USA, Wal-Mart Stores, Macy's, Citigroup
Like New York, D.C. is a place of great opportunity and great cost for young adults. Job creation is constant in the government and government-related sectors. But rents and living costs are quite high. Fortunately, a constant influx of college grads, as well as immigrants, has spawned several off-beat, affordable neighborhoods, such as Adams-Morgan, Chinatown, and Ballston and Shirlington in nearby Arlington, Va. Group homes abound.
PROS: Stable government jobs, extensive public transportation system, a young workforce from all over the nation and the world, up-and-coming neighborhoods, vibrant nightlife
CONS: Hot, humid summers, regular Metro breakdowns and traffic gridlock


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