Best U.S. Cities for Millennial Renters

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Pittsburgh Skyline

Millennials want it all and they want it now. And why not? Known for living in the moment, ravenously consuming art and culture, and earning a living doing what they love, millennials are more likely than any other recent generation to think — and live — outside the box they came in.

Millennials (ages 18 to 34) typically have higher rates of relocation compared to older people. From 2007 to 2012, for example, they made up 24 percent of the total U.S. population but accounted for 43 percent of all the movers in the United States.

Like their predecessors, millennials are instantly drawn to coastal meccas such as New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle. But when they consider what’s most important when it comes to choosing a new city — things like jobs, affordability, and livability — these desirable locales become out of reach for most.

These three cities top the list for millennial living. In any of them, you can find a decent job where you’ll be able to grow, feel safe walking down the street, immerse yourself in art and culture from around the world, live in a nice apartment, meet new friends, and party at some of the best bars and restaurants in the country.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Overwhelmed by deindustrialization and the disintegration of the steel industry in the 1980s, Pittsburgh has been going through a revitalization ever since. The city has moved away from factory jobs and today attracts young, educated workers. Tech giants including Apple, Facebook, Google, Disney, and Uber have opened thriving offices in Pittsburgh.

Youth rules in Pittsburgh. The number of residents who were 25 years of age and older with a college degree grew by 37.3 percent between 2000 and 2013, with an average age of 32.8. Hard to believe that many sources cited it as the second oldest city based on the age of its residents back in 1995!

Pittsburgh has responded kindly to the influx of millennials. The city prides itself on its low crime levels and boasts a much lower cost of living for a much higher standard. It also has tons of affordable new high-end housing, much of which is made up of refurbished historical buildings. Plus, the city offers new bike lanes in its downtown district, bike trails in its parks, ridesharing services, and the lively nightlife that all millennials want.

The energy is palpable as you stroll through the Pittsburgh streets and discover unique treasures in all the art, ethnic markets, and entertainment. It’s the ideal neighborhood for young renters who want to live an urban environment close to work and within walking distance of downtown.

Provo, Utah

All the way across the country, Provo, Utah runs a close second behind Pittsburgh in terms of jobs, affordability, and livability. This city’s metro is often overlooked because of its remote location, but when you take a closer look, you’ll see that Provo’s low rate of millennial unemployment, superior livability scores, great safety stats, and lively social scene make it a highly desirable destination for millennials on the move.

In 2016, Provo’s job market grew more quickly than that of any other city in America. Its tech scene is also exploding, thanks in part to Google Fiber opening its offices there in 2014. And since it’s home to the largest Missionary Training Center in America, service industry jobs are also plentiful.

If you have a penchant for the great outdoors, Provo is the perfect place to put down roots. Snugly located between Utah Lake and the Wasatch Front mountain peaks, you can hike, fish, and whitewater raft to your heart’s content here. The most adventurous spirits can scale Provo Canyon’s legendary icy “Stairway to Heaven.” Those who are more laid-will enjoy the city’s Food Truck Roundup, where a wide assortment of food trucks serve everything from gourmand waffles and grilled cheese sandwiches to some bodacious burritos.

Art and music are prevalent all over Provo. Get your culture on at live music clubs, ethnic restaurants, and art galleries. Check out the monthly art shows at the Downtown Provo Gallery Stroll and enjoy a wide range of live performances at the Covey Center for the Arts.

Madison, Wisconsin

Madison Skyline

Although Madison only takes the bronze behind Pittsburgh and Provo, it has the distinction of scoring highest of the three in terms of entertainment and dating opportunities. That, coupled with reasonable rental rates and low millennial unemployment rates, makes this a highly favored destination. Madison also gets top marks for median wages and wage growth, which sweeten its appeal even more.

Madison and the surrounding Dane County have the lowest unemployment rates in Wisconsin. The high level of employment is largely due to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the crown jewel of the UW System, and other state government job opportunities. In the private sector, American Family Insurance, Epic Systems Corporation, and American Girl Brands offer thousands of jobs near the suburbs.

You’ll never be lacking in entertainment in Madison. Situated between Chicago and Minneapolis, Madison is actually a common stop for a number of touring acts. The Overture Center for the Arts regularly hosts Broadway plays and musical groups of all kinds. Theaters such as the Barrymore, Majestic, and Orpheum also offer an extensive range of productions. For spur-of-the-moment musical enjoyment, check out local clubs like the High Noon Saloon, Crystal Corner, The Frequency, and the Up North Bar.

In the realm of eco-friendly cities, Madison regularly ranks high among the “Greenest Cities in the U.S.” It has impressively high marks in terms of both parks per-capita and the number of people who shun single-driver commuting in favor of walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transit to work. The city’s sense of environmental awareness is only strengthened by its 200 miles of hiking and biking trails and 15,000 acres of lakes.

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