Tucson and Phoenix among top 25 cities for recent college graduates


Obtaining a college diploma is an important step in a young person’s financial life. At this point, millions of young adults a year in the United States enter the workforce, live in their own apartments for the first time, and manage their money while trying to have fun with people their age. Of course, with student loan debt of up to $ 1.7 trillion and calls for President Joe Biden to forgive up to $ 50,000 largely unanswered, recent graduates need to make smart decisions about where. where they will live and work in order to have the capacity to repay their loans, to save money. and have fun. In this spirit, SmartAsset identified and ranked the best cities for new college graduates or the best cities for the promotion of 2021 graduates to kickstart their post-graduate lives – and Tucson and Phoenix both made it to the Top 25.

READ ALSO: Tucson and Phoenix see world’s worst property affordability change

To do this, we took into account a number of factors focused on employment, affordability and fun. For more details on how we found and analyzed our data, see the Data and Methodology section below.

This is SmartAsset’s seventh study of the Best Cities for New College Graduates. You can find the 2020 version here.

Main conclusions

• College graduates have more opportunities away from the coast. Six cities in the top 10 are located in the Midwest: Cincinnati, Ohio; Columbus, Ohio; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; St. Louis, Missouri; Madison, Wisconsin and Indianapolis, Indiana. While the Midwest has a reputation for being affordable, many of these Midwestern towns are college towns that also excel for our fun grade, with plenty of bars, restaurants, and kids.

• Your diploma will give you an advantage in the job market. The impact of a university degree on employment prospects should not be overlooked. On average, in the 106 cities we included in this study, the median income of college graduates is $ 54,751, according to 2019 census data. This is almost 31% more than the median figure of 2019 for the entire population aged 25 and over with income ($ 41,801).

1. Cincinnati, OH

Cincinnati is the best city for college graduates on our 2021 list, finishing seventh for affordability and tied for third for fun. This city has the eighth lowest median monthly rent ($ 660) and the 12th lowest cost of living ($ 19,713). Cincinnati also has the seventh highest score on the Yelp bar (3.98). And while not quite as high, Queen City still ranks 26th in work score, a top quartile ranking.

2. Columbus, OH

Columbus is home to Ohio State University, one of the nation’s largest universities. This city has the ninth highest restaurant Yelp score (4.08) and the 11th highest bar Yelp score (3.96). Columbus ranks 18th for employment score and 25th for relatively low unemployment in January 2021 (5.6%).

3. Milwaukee, WI

Milwaukee has plenty of fun options for college graduates, ranking seventh for fun. The average Yelp score for bars in this city is 3.99, the third highest in this study. People between the ages of 20 and 29 make up 18.23% of Milwaukee’s population, the 22nd largest group on the list.

4. Saint-Louis, MO

Saint-Louis is one of the more affordable cities in our study with the sixth lowest median monthly rent ($ 655 per month). The cost of living in Gateway City is $ 20,284, number 28. Saint-Louis also has one of the lowest unemployment rates of 2019 for those with a bachelor’s degree, ranking 17th at 1.6%.

5. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh has the fourth largest population of people in their twenties (22.92%) and ranks 18th for fun. This city also has an affordable cost of living, ranking 16th with $ 19,928. But the median rent is $ 863, only 33rd the lowest on our list.

6. Lexington, KY

Lexington ranks 12th for our study’s amusing score. This city has the third highest average Yelp score (4.13) and the 24th largest population aged 20-29 (18.11%). Lexington also finished 17th for our accessibility score, supported by the 9th lowest cost of living ($ 19,526).

7. Madison, WI

Madison ranks first for our fun score and seventh for jobs. This city ranks second in the study for its 2019 unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders (0.7%) and its overall unemployment rate for January 2021 (3.4%). Madison has the largest population of people aged 20 to 29 in our study (26.25%).

8. Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis ranks 20th for accessibility score. This city has the 17th-lowest median rent ($ 731) and the 23rd lowest cost of living ($ 20,165). Indianapolis also has the fourth-highest Yelp score for bars (3.99) and the fifth-highest for restaurants (4.12).

9. Nashville, TN

Nashville ranks second for entertainment score, with dining and entertainment accounting for 13.45% of all establishments (the sixth highest percentage in our study). This city also has the 25th largest population of people aged 20-29 (18.08%).

10. Louisville, KY

Louisville rounds out the top 10, ranking ninth in affordability. The median rent is $ 728 (16th in this study) and the cost of living is $ 19,646 (11th in total). Louisville also has the highest Yelp ratings in this study for bars (4.06) and restaurants (4.21).

Best Cities Methodology for University Graduates

To find the best cities for recent college graduates, we looked at data for the 106 largest U.S. cities in three categories comprising 10 individual metrics:

• Jobs. For our job score, we analyzed the overall unemployment rate, the unemployment rate for bachelor’s degree holders, the earnings of college graduates, and the number of Indeed job postings. The bachelor’s unemployment rate and college graduate earnings are from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey one-year survey. The overall unemployment rate is as of January 2021, is taken from local unemployment statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and is measured at the county level. The Indeed job posting count is taken from the Indeed.com Job Search API, for which data was retrieved in March 2021.

• Affordability. For this score, we looked at the median monthly rent in each city as well as the cost of living. Median rent figures come from the 2019 Census Bureau Survey of U.S. Communities. The cost of living figures come from MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, for which the data was pulled in March 2021.

• Fun. To create this score, we looked at the concentration of entertainment and dining establishments, the percentage of the population aged 20 to 29, and the Yelp scores of restaurants and bars. The concentration of entertainment and restaurant businesses is taken from the Census Bureau’s 2018 County Business Patterns Survey and represents bars and restaurants as a percentage of all establishments. The population figures come from the 1-year survey of the American community conducted in 2010 by the Census Bureau. Yelp scores are taken from the Yelp.com API, for which data was pulled in March 2021.

First, we ranked each city in each metric, assigning equal weight to each metric, except the Average Yelp Restaurant Rating and the Average Yelp Bar Rating, which we weighted in half. We then averaged the rankings in the three categories listed above. For each category, the city with the highest average rating received a score of 100. The city with the lowest average rating received a score of 0. We created our final rating by calculating the average score for each city. for all three categories.

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