Market Trends & ResearchThe Best Metro Areas for Millennials in 2018

The Best Metro Areas for Millennials in 2018


When it comes time to pick a place to live, there’s an astounding amount of both cultural and social pressure to simply move to where everyone else is – as a result of this, many people move to coastal cities like New York or Los Angeles because it’s “the thing to do.” At RealtyHop, however, we would challenge those feeling the pressures of that social and cultural inertia to be a bit more analytical in one’s approach to where to move. As a millennial, how can one be thoughtful in their approach to where they should live or move to?

To help answer this question, the Data Science team at RealtyHop took a look at various data from the US Census American Community Survey, focusing on aspects of metropolitan areas that would make them appealing to millennials. We have compiled a list focusing on things like the job market, median incomes, housing affordability, mobility / geographic diversity and education levels.

Key Findings

The Best 3 Metropolitan Areas for Millennials are:

  • Omaha / Council Bluffs, NE / IA: Boasting A’s across the board, the Omaha / Council Bluffs metro area takes the first place spot, boasting impressive numbers. With high median incomes relative to home values, and strong numbers in every other category, this is the best metropolitan area for millennials.
  • Des Moines, IA: While Des Moines lags slightly behind Omaha when it comes to its mobility / geographic diversity score, it remains an excellent area for millenials.
  • Pittsburgh, PA: Closely tied for second place, Pittsburgh also has impressive numbers across the board, albeit with slightly lower scores in the mobility / geographic diversity department.

  • The Worst 3 Metropolitan Areas for Millennials are:

  • Madera, CA: With nearly a 5.243 home value to income ratio along with a job market lagging behind other areas, Madera is the worst metropolitan area for millennials.
  • Stockton-Lodi, CA Similarly, Stockton-Lodi boasts similar numbers as Madera, with a similar home value to income ratio, along with the rest of the metrics we tracked.
  • Yakima, WA: Yakima has nearly a 4x home value to income ratio along with similarly weak metrics across the board, and as such Yakima also leaves much to be desired when looking for places to live as a millennial, although is slightly better than the above two metro areas.

  • We also took a look at the top 10 metropolitan areas by geographic region of the US:

    In the Midwest we see all top 10 metropolitan areas scoring a B+ or above. The Northeast comes in a close second place, with the top 10 all scoring a B or above. For more insight into how these scores were calculated, see below for the index and methodology used, along with the extensive table in the appendix with the various metrics and their values.

    We also explored the top 10 metropolitan areas by metric tracked:

    Many of the above figures can be reasonably expected – for example the majority of the metropolitan areas where there are high education levels are clustered around college towns (or a number of different universities). More interesting, however, is the home value to income ratios. While we acknowledge that the metric is far from comprehensive when evaluating metropolitan areas to live, the relatively low price of real estate relative to the high income levels suggests that these locations are incredibly attainable from a real-estate perspective given the areas’ financial atmosphere. That said, however, being able to afford a house in a given area is far different from whether or not one may want to live in said area.

    Index and Methodology

    We took a look at the following metrics from the US Census ACS Survey (specific tables are referenced in parenthesis):

  • Median Home Value (Table B25077) – Essential in any metric ranking cities or metropolitan areas is the median price of a home in said area.
  • Median Household Income for persons aged 25-44 (Table S1903) – To add further nuance to home prices, median income is also an important factor when deciding where to live.
  • Home Value to Income Ratio (derived from Median Home Value and Median Income above) – The combination of income and home values gives insight into how many years one would have to save to afford the median home in a given area (and then subsequently adjusted based on savings rates and personal financial circumstances).
  • International / Out of State Resident % for persons aged 25-34 (Table S0701) – Part of the appeal of any area is how vibrant and how diverse it is – by using this metric, we’re able to account for what portion of the millennial population in a given metropolitan area is from the area vs. how many have moved to said area from out-of-state (or internationally!) We use this to create our “mobility grade” which we consider to be a proxy for how mobile the given population is.
  • Labor Force Participation Rate for persons aged 25-29 (Table S301) – We use this to get a sense for how healthy the job market is for millennials in the region.
  • Employment to Population Ratio for persons aged 25-29 (Table S301) – This and the previous metric we use to get a sense for how healthy the job market is for the region.
  • Percentage of Residents with a Bachelor’s Degree or Higher (Table S2901) – With millennials graduating from college in record numbers (as compared to previous generations), we found it important to add an element of education when ranking metropolitan areas.

  • With all of the above in mind, we then graded each metropolitan area by its position relative to other metropolitan areas, cutting the distribution of each score into quartiles, which we then assigned letter-grade weights. With those weights, however, some things are more important than others. For example, while we believe millennials do care about mobility and geographic diversity among residents, we also willingly admit that for most people that takes a back seat to things like affordability and economic incentives. Acknowledging that, we then further weighted each metric according to its relative level of importance, with the weights being applied as follows:

    Affordability: 40%
    Mobility / Geographic Diversity: 10%
    Labor Force Participation / Employment (combined weight): 25%
    Education weight: 25%

    As such, even if a metropolitan area has a very high rating for mobility or geographic diversity, said score will be of less importance than the relative affordability of the median home in a region.

    What Does This Mean for You?

    While we’ve suggested weights for how one may want to rank different metrics, we also acknowledge that everyone has their own set of preferences – an independent contractor who works remotely, for example, will probably put less weight on the local job market, since said hypothetical person can work remotely and is not locked to a specific regional job market. Furthermore, for those millennials looking to start families in the near future, they may be more interested in things like the quality of public schools in the region (a metric we didn’t capture in our index).

    When it comes to deciding where to move to, millennials should be sure to expand their horizons beyond the ever-popular coasts – there is a lot of value to be had by digging in one’s roots in other cities. At the end of the day, however, there’s no comprehensive index that can determine the best metropolitan area for any given individual. What RealtyHop can do, however, is give you the information you need to make those decisions on your own, and one can use our index as a way to inform those decisions in an analytical, data-driven fashion.

    Interested in exploring homes in the top 3 metropolitan areas for millennials? Check out homes in Omaha, Des Moines, and Pittsburgh on RealtyHop!

    The Table Below Shows the Complete List of Metropolitan Areas Evaluated:

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