The Top Ten Cities for Young Professionals

Kiplinger recently rated its picks for the top 10 Best Cities for Young Adults. The factors that they took into consideration when compiling this ‘best’ list were:

1. healthy economies fueling new job growth
2. large percentages of people under 35
3. cost of living and rental costs
4. culture
5. nightlife
6. time you’re likely to spend in traffic

That’s not a bad list of selection criteria. However, two of the bigger factors that young professionals probably over-weigh in their selection criteria of where to move are the ‘culture’ and ‘nightlife’. And, for the most part, those are two completely subjective variables. The other four factors have a more objective number you can put on them. But who cares, it’s all about the fun factor, right?


A scene from one of the top 10 – my hometown.

What cities did they pick? Here’s a review and my take on each:

  • Austin, TX: Austin is seemingly popping up on everyone’s top 10 lists these days – top 10 most livable cities, top 10 college towns, top 10 live music venue cities, top 10 places to bake a pizza. With an unemployment rate of under 7% (4th lowest of cities with populations exceeding 1 million), how can you keep them off the list?
  • Charlotte, NC: Charlotte has the second largest banking center in the country behind New York. That was the surprising fun fact of the day for me. It’s one of the few on this list that probably wouldn’t have made my own list. But then again, I’ve only driven through.
  • Chicago, IL: No big surprise here. Chicago ranks high for nightlife and culture, yet provides a much lower cost of living than other major metro cities in the country. I have seen countless young professional friends and co-workers leave Michigan behind for Chicago.
  • Houston, TX: Heavy pollution and crime rates, but a median rent cost of $775 in America’s 4th largest city make it a great value, with a strong economy to boot.
  • Kansas City, MO: Kansas City is in the midst of a $9 billion downtown development project to revitalize the nightlife in the town. Would have expected St. Louis before Kansas City though.
  • Lansing, MI: My home town! I was a bit surprised to see Lansing make this list, honestly. I can see why it did – it’s the capital of Michigan (gov. jobs), has one of the largest (and best, might I add) universities in the country in Michigan State University, and the cost of living is low. But unless you like the college night life or Michigan State athletics (go green!), the nightlife in the town is lacking a bit. Awesome to see my hometown make this list, but I think that another city in Michigan I have lived in – Grand Rapids, probably deserves it more. It has a more vibrant nightlife, better entertainment, a more diverse economy, the downtown area is 100% revitalized, and the cost of living is lower (I paid $430/mo. for a nice loft apartment). Grand Valley State University is too far outside of town though, to be a huge contributor to the culture and nightlife. If you could transplant Michigan State University in Grand Rapids, it would be mentioned in the same breath as Austin.
  • New York, NY: No surprise here. The nightlife and job prospects are limitless. But I could never get over the commuting challenges and cost of living being so ridiculously high. I’d never choose to live in NYC.
  • Portland, OR: Great choice. Portland is the next Seattle. Microbreweries, great food, and serial killers are abundant.
  • Salt Lake City, UT: Kiplinger refers to Salt Lake City as a cheaper version of Denver. Cost of living is low and the unemployment rate is 7%.
  • Washington, DC: Incredible job prospects and a very low unemployment rate of 6% (who says government jobs don’t help the economy?). But I’d never choose to live there for the same reasons I wouldn’t choose to live in NYC – traffic, crime, and high cost of living.

Top 10 City Discussion:

  • What cities would you have added to this list, and why?
  • What cities would you have subtracted, and why?
  • Did your hometown make the list?

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