Livability Final Poster Horizontal

The Livability Index: The 35 Best U.S. Cities For People 35 and Under

Our semi-exhaustive, mostly scientific guide to America’s most livable cities

If you’re 24, buried in college loans and looking for a job in a city that’s affordable but not completely depressing, you’re probably wondering where to start (while spoon-feeding yourself ice cream in your high-school bedroom). On the other hand, if you’re in your early 30s and New York or Los Angeles is grinding you down into a quivering husk of financial and emotional instability, it might be time to get out. Either way, with new data showing that 36 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 31 are currently living at home with mom and dad (the highest number in 40 years, according to Pew Research Center), we thought it was high time to crunch the numbers and figure out where the hell you can actually live these days and still retain some self-respect. We started with the 50 most populous cities in the country, according to the 2010 census, and pared down results from there using Open Internet sources. Our Livability Index takes into account essential indicators for those between 18 and 35, like average salary, employment rates, and the cost of rent and utilities measured against everyday factors like bike lanes for commuting, low-cost broadband and the availability of good, cheap takeout. We also considered all-important lifestyle metrics like the price of a pint of beer and an ounce of high-quality weed, and the level of access to live music and coffee shops.

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The following 35 cities represent your best chance of not dying jobless and alone in your parent’s basement. You can slice and dice the data by city or across categories, depending what you care about most. In the end, some bigger cities like Los Angeles and Chicago didn’t make the top 35 (though they may have ranked in individual categories).  Grab your patchouli; it’s time to move to Portland!

35 Cities For People Under 35

Select a
or

Categories Ranked in the Top 5Top 35 Cities


The Breakdown

Data collected from the third and fourth quarter of 2013.

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  • By top 101. Minneapolis2. San Francisco3. Portland4. Boston5. Seattle6. Austin7. San Diego8. Chicago9. Milwaukee10. Reno

  • Ha ha, I’ve sorted cities after lowest price of manicure an cheapest pack of cigarettes These criteria I think reflects the values of youth and it is a sad picture :(I think criteria should begin with best, not cheapest.Nevertheless, I find useful knowing the lowest rent rate. I saw data is from Zillow, i just compared it to another resource (http://homes.mitula.com/) and it is pretty accurate.

  • Weather should be added somehow!

  • “Top 10 Cities for Stoners.” Seriously? That’s hilarioius!

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    • we stoners are people too.

  • Portland Oregon is an awesome city.

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  • I’m very proud that ALBUQUERQUE is on the list. Well deserved! 

  • Very interesting…

  • Hey, everybody would rather live in Fresno than in Oakland, right? Sure you would. This is a great demonstration that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.We don’t know what factor weights the listmakers have used, for all we know laundromats are weighted as important as rent levels. The list is entertaining, but any real information is contained in the specific items.

  • How in the heck is New Orleans not on this list AT ALL?  Economical, most music venues, hang outs, and best quality cheap food.  Culture is through the roof. Diversity is high.  Great weather year-round. 

  • Surely Charlotte has a higher than 11 percent public transport ridership. Every time I’m on the bus or light rail it’s packed, even later at night. As for Raleigh, how did they score a 0 on public transport? They don’t have light rail but they do have a very well used bus system. Definitely not on par with Charlotte, but still, not a 0!

  • Considering Portland’s bike culture and infrastructure to support it (it’s been named most bike friendly city several years running) and the fact that it has more Breweries per capita that any other city in the USA (and plenty of cheap QUALITY beer to go around) the fact that your category ratings don’t show PDX in the Top 10 in either category make your ranking methodology somewhat suspect…..

  • In Austin, if you’re lower income; chances are, you are renting.  Austin renting market is over 98% full; which means prices are extra inflated and they force you to provide 2 months notice to vacate.  This way, if you have to break your lease because you lose your job; then you’re on the hook for 2 months rent (plus relet fee of 3/4 of another months rent).  Rent $1400 x 2.75; so about $3800.  And if you don’t pay it; you’ll never rent in Austin again.  All properties call former land lords for renting/debt history.  And we’re not as liberal as the author would like you to think.  We all have guns.  All of us.  :o)

  • Hi Eemaanee. Thanks for your comment. Actually, we used Indeed.com because we were ranking salaries in professional sectors, and not taking into account service jobs or the like, as included in statistics compiled by BLS. 

  • The average salary information for Atlanta is not correct. Trust me. When I saw it I laughed heartily and then went to do research. More like $45K according to most sources. Please fix it so people won’t get their hopes up.

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  • Um i want to know where in PDX people are renting 2 bedroom apts for $1300/month.  I’ve been here since may and you are lucky if you can find a 550 soft studio for $1500 a month.  Plus, my partner and I spend more on living costs in Portland than we did in Baltimore, MD and traffic is about the same, if not worse.

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    • Oh and btw – unless you are IT or in the medical field, the job market here is non-existent.

  • Portland also has a cool film and video transfer company called:www.savemyfilms.comThey transfer old films and videos to DVD.  It’s cool that the city has all these hand crafted artisan businesses.

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  • This list is such a sham.  It’s laughable to consider SF “livable” for a twenty-something new college graduate.  You have to make $95,000 to be able to afford the average studio apartment rent. 

  • “Either way, with new data showing that 36 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 31 are currently living at home with mom and dad (the highest number in 40 years, according to Pew Research Center), we thought it was high time to crunch the numbers and figure out where the hell you can actually live these days and still retain some self-respect.”Does anyone else find it appalling that our society views living at home with the family unit as something shameful?  I certainly understand the need for independence (I left home from Texas to live on my own in California), but there seems to be a fundamental problem with how separate and distant families are in the US.  Honestly, there are many times when I long for the days of living at home with family, and being surrounded by those who love and support me the most.*  *Yes, I understand that not everyone gets along with their families or has the same values. However, I don’t believe that our society and media should be propagating such behavior.

  • While it’s flattering for Austin to come up as #2 in the Top 10 Cities for Biking and Walking, I don’t know how that could be accurate.  You say it is based on “Ranking based on the percentage of commuters who commute by bicycle or foot, with 1 having the highest share of “green” communters. Source: Alliance for Biking & Walking”.  I double-checked with the Alliance for Biking & Walking, and they don’t have figures like that for Austin.  Where exactly did you get that ranking from?Tom WaldExecutive DirectorBike Austin(who also pays attention to walking rates)

  • I’m never leaving New york City!

  • So intriguing….

  • Decent list but the green commute index is SO far off. Portland, Minneapolis, and Seattle are obsessed with cycling yet they don’t even make the top 10? Dallas number 7 for green commute?? That’s a joke, right?

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    • Matt Fisher, I had the same reaction.

  • Yay! We made the list. 

  • I have looked over some of your stats and they are so far off it is not even funny, where did you get this numbers????

  • It would be more informative if they rated apartment price by square foot rather than “2 bedroom apt”

  • This article is obviously great for the clicks but not so good on the facts. Also, doesn’t anyone find it weird that the “beer” they’re using to measure is Guinness? Like how about factoring in local beers?

  • This is a joke article, right?

  • @Terry: Lol, Tulsa. Get outta here with that trash! Austin has a big music scene too but it was beat out by San Francisco. Those are music city giants, I am sure Tulsa can’t keep up with the big boys. Most people don’t even know Tulsa exists. Sorry, I’m brash on purpose, because these lists are the cream of the crop, and every time a list like this comes out people try to rationalize their decision to live in a lesser-quality city. If you moved to one of the best you would understand that you were fooling yourself. Your mind will be opened by seeing the awesomeness of those cities.

  • And no mention of crime rates?

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    • I guess the majority young adults don’t care about crime rates

  • I lived and worked in Long Beach for 6 years. The rent price at $1350 for a 2 bedroom isn’t even close to average, especially for the “nice” area. If you’re lucky, and I mean lightning strikes you and you survive, you can find a 950 sq/ft 2 bedroom at $1575 w/ a $1000 deposit & one parking space. Also, no wifi exist at $15; try $30 +tax/contract. Lastly, cost for electricity isn’t $13 for even a bachelor in his 20′s; try $30. Oh, that $63000 avg/salary is for the north side of LB (Bixby Knolls – where they filmed Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) and east side LB hugging Belmont Shore and Naples (where most of the Dr.’s at my wife’s job live.) OMFG believe me on this when I say it, you will get 3 parking tickets at $35/piece a year. There is no parking in LB and these parking officers are a plague worse than the geeks in the Walking Dead. Lastly, I don’t know anybody making it on their own, in their 20′s out there. Unless your family got you a job for as a shore man, got you into Boeing (which you’ll be laid off in 3 years), or work at a refinery (mandatory 50-60 hr/ weeks where the shifts change every 2 weeks. Calling a Southern California Los Angeles beach city affordable is laughable. Who wrote this?

  • interesting…

  • There are so many errors in data and analysis here it isn’t even worth reading

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    • I totally agree!  What a crock.

  • “Public transportation in Philly is excellent”- I’m sorry, but having lived here over 5 years I have no idea where you got this from. It’s ok at BEST. There’s a reason such a large number of Philadelphians not only own a vehicle but feel like they must living here. 

  • Both the city I live in AND the city I’m moving to are on this list =)

  • I think there is one critical criteria on the financial side that isn’t on this list: Taxation level.

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    • How do you calculate this? Income tax, Sales tax, Home owners tax (not as useful here because most of the demo here are renting), toll roads (usually Public/Private partnership, so another form of taxation), Tax breaks that benefit this demo. I’d be interested in how different any of these will be. Texas doesn’t have income tax, but has a high sales tax (with even higher ones in houston and austin), and it is riddled with intra-city toll roads.

  • Please, PLEASE do the same thing for Europe! I’m stuck in one of the most expensive cities of Germany and simply have no idea where else to go without dying of boredom or poverty!

  • I am really surprised New Orleans wasn’t on this list.

  • You can pick up an oz of “high quality” weed for about $130 here in SF.

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    • You can pick up genital herpes for free here!

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      • Well, I mean, you can put that up just about anywhere.

  • Sorry but having Fresno on this list ruined this articles credibility. 

  • I’m really surprised that Virginia Beach, VA made the cut and Richmond, VA didn’t…

  • Where’s Chicago?

  • How does Portland, with the highest number of bike commuters at 6%, not hit the top 10 for green commutes? 

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    • I had the same question. Yet Dallas is #7?? Pdx has more bike lanes in any neighborhood than all of Dallas and Houston combined.

  • Considering how many “Best-City” lists Salt Lake City (and Ogden) get on, it’s sad to see you excluded the entire state of Utah.

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    • Why would young people want to live in Utah though, seriously? Best city for boring people….

  • GO PHILLY!  

  • These city recommendations haven’t changed since I was in my 20s. And I
    moved from my small town to CA, and the job market was so great I got
    TWO jobs my second day there. But almost ANYWHERE in CA is B-AA-AD
    for children: having them, raising them/ keeping them safe, feeding them
    (pesticides), and, especially educating them. CA-li likes numbers too. 
    And those in charge of the education system (for example) do everything
    they can to depress education because they’ve done their . . .
    computations and calculated how much money and how many workers that the
    jail, agriculture and hotel/tourist / service industries need and they
    go from there. Talk to anyone involved in schools and education and they
    already “know”, they’ve already “decided”, which students are going to
    do what. Parents entangled in the system think it’s just THEM and their
    awful BAD LUCK.But I do think they recycle these articles almost word for word.

  • These city recommendations haven’t changed since I was in my 20s. And I moved from my small town to CA, and the job market was so great I got TWO jobs my second day there. But almost ANYWHERE in CA is B-AA-AD for children: having them, raising them/ keeping them safe, feeding them (pesticides), and, especially educating them. CA-li likes numbers too.  And those in charge of the education system (for example) do everything they can to depress education because they’ve done their . . . computations and calculated how much money and how many workers that the jail, agriculture and hotel/tourist / service industries need and they go from there. Talk to anyone involved in schools and education and they already “know”, they’ve already “decided”, which students are going to do what. Parents entangled in the system think it’s just THEM and their awful BAD LUCK.But I do think they recycle these articles almost word for word.

  • $48,631 – Wikipedia’s average household income for New York City. Most sources give a number in this ballpark as well. Seriously doubt the average individual income is almost double the average household income. These numbers are questionable.

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    • NYC is a shithole.

  • New Orleans #1 in my book

  • Hahahaha Fresno?? Omg no. Now I know a robot picked these places just on the numbers. Nobody wants to live there do they? 

  • The electric bill one did kind of throw me off. Didn’t seem right. And not that it matters that much but the circle for Sacramento is a little too far north. If you draw a straight line from Tahoe to SF we’re right in the middle. Can’t argue the green commuter index or weed stat for Sacramento though. Tons of people bike here and there’s weed everywhere.

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    • Also, despite being on this list for certain stats, please do not move to Fresno. It is a hellhole and you’ll probably get shot.

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      • Hahahaha well crap I better stop packing now. There goes my Fresno dream down the drain like a bad batch of speed.

  • I have to say, I find this suspect. I live in both Los Angeles and Washington D.C. and I can promise you the salaries in D.C. are MUCH higher than L.A. and the cost of food in D.C. is the highest I have ever experienced in my entire life. And before I get called out for living in two places, I am a completely self supported law student in massive debt, my fiancee just lives in LA in order to keep a good job so I only get to see her every now and then. Thus, I basically live in two places.

  • Your “Cheapest Electricity” category is off by a factor of 100.  No way a kWh is going for $6+, more like $0.06/kWh.  Either change it from dollars to cents, or shift the decimal over 2.Source: I’m an engineer who works heavily with utility bill analysis.

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    • I was about to post that, and I’m just a guy with an electric bill.

    • Thanks for the comment. Mixed up the symbols. It’s been fixed now.

  • Interesting. All I’ve heard about Arizona or NMex is how they are holes to live in. And Miami is no fun at all unless you are a tourist. What a strange list.

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    • Love Phoenix – as a young professional that travels for work often, its my favorite city. Tons to do as far as culture, outdoors, 3 nightlife districts, and way under recognized culinary scene. 

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      • Phoenix is below average as far as culture is concerned (the music scene sucks, and the MIM is really the only worthwhile museum), but the outdoor activities are really only behind places like Denver and Portland, and you’re right, the culinary scene in Phoenix is very underrated, especially when it comes to pizza and hole-in-the-wall ethnic restaurants.  You really have to live in the area roughly bounded by Downtown Phoenix, North Central Phoenix, Old Town Scottsdale, and Downtown Tempe, though… Everywhere else is an ugly, sprawling, soulless bedroom community.

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      • Not to mention the “haters” and what happens when you get caught with pot…..

    • I second that. Might as well throw Hollywood Hills on the list ;-)

  • your circle for Columbus is in the wrong spot

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    • We’re adjusting, ty.

      1 Reply - Reply Now
      • While you’re at it – Albuquerque isn’t in western New Mexico.

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