Great small cities for millennials (or anyone seeking affordable urban spaces)

Millennials are weird. I should know; I am one. For years, our unorthodox lifestyle choices and money habits have been confusing to our elders. And perhaps the most unprecedented millennial-ish move we've been making is the avoidance of home ownership.

With home-buying at an all-time low according to the Census Bureau, the finger is easily pointed at us as a likely cause. But instead of leveling the typical charges that we're lazy and stuck in wanderlust as the root of why we still live at home, perhaps it's because we're just trying to learn from the mistakes of the past.

Consider what we've witnessed: As millennials, we lived through the late '90s and early '00s, we've seen our parents go through tech bubbles bursting and the entire housing market crashing. We saw firsthand what can happen if you buy a home when you can't afford it or if your job just suddenly vanishes.

A Different Track

Maybe it's fear that drives our lack of home ownership. But maybe some of us do want to settle down and start a family but finding a reliable and affordable hometown is part of the problem. So we looked at the issue from a different point of view.

We decided to research cities just beyond the major metro areas typically showcased to see if a smaller town would be a more realistic way to make a start. The good news is that the data suggests there are a lot of places that could offer a more secure lifestyle and still be within reach.

Our quest to find locations with job opportunities as well as reasonable home prices led us to this list of small (but still realistic) cities millennials should consider moving to.

Methodology

Get Rich Slowly analyzed several data sets to determine which cities could be deemed the best small cities for millennials:

  • Census population data to narrow down cities with a population between 50,000 – 150,000 that were at least 25 miles away from a major metro city center.
  • Census population data to find the amount of millennials living in a city as a percentage of total population.
  • Zillow data to find the median price of a single home family and the amount of change in market value from last year.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics data to measure the percent of change in median wage data in the U.S. since 2012. Cities with the most positive percentage change over the last four years was deemed the winner.
  • Unemployment rate. As of June, the national unemployment rate was 5.5.
  • We used FBI crime information to find the crime rate per capita (taking into consideration both property and violent crime).
  • We partnered with Redfin and Walk Score for a measurement of the walkability of each city on the list. Scores are ranking from 0-100 (100 being the most walkable).

#18 (Tie) Waterbury, CT (Near Hartford)

Downtown Hartford, CT

Downtown Hartford, CT

2014 median wage: $46,180

4-year average percent of wage change: .16%

Median home value: $104,300

Change in home value over last year: -2.2%

Unemployment rate: 6.8

Percentage of millennials to total population: 15.30%

Highest measured Walk Score: 89 out of 100

Crime per capita: 1334

In 2008, Waterbury was named one of the 100 best places to raise a family on the Today Show. Waterbury offers a diverse range of job opportunities — the largest employers of residents in Waterbury are government and health entities with a newspaper and AT&T sprinkled into the mix.

[Source: http://www.today.com/parents/100-best-places-raise-family-2D80554955]

#18 (Tie) Brentwood, CA (Near Oakland/San Francisco)

Mount Diablo, Brentwood, CA

Mount Diablo, Brentwood, CA

2014 median wage: $44,100

4-year average percent of wage change: .73%

Median home value: $479,600

Change in home value over last year: +8.8%

Unemployment rate: 8.6

Percentage of millennials to total population: 15.55%

Highest measured Walk Score: 32 out of 100

Crime per capita: 489

Brentwood is a quick trip away from San Francisco and Oakland — so if you're willing to commute, the job market is unbounded. Brentwood has offerings to keep restlessness at bay too. It's home to many wineries that have been highlighted in the Bay Area wine scene. Also, in 2009, the city broke ground for a new civic center, which has quickly become a large money maker for the city. Non-profit organization Kaboom, nominated Brentwood as one of the most playful cities in the U.S. in 2015.

[Source: http://kaboom.org/playability/playful_city_usa/communities]

#17 Novi, MI (Near Detroit)

Downtown Detroit, MI

Downtown Detroit, MI

2014 median wage: $47,920

4-year average percent of wage change: .60%

Median home value: $238,300

Change in home value over last year: +4.4%

Unemployment rate: 6.6

Percentage of millennials to total population: 17.21%

Highest measured Walk Score: 26 out of 100

Crime per capita: 568

Novi is located about 25 miles away from the center of Detroit, which helps to explain the relatively high unemployment rate. However, home value is increasing, which lends itself to a brighter future. There's a large number of businesses within the area and a rapidly growing population. Apart from its school district, the two largest employers of Novi residents are Magna International, and Ryder — both transportation parts manufacturers. Money magazine ranked Novi as one of the top 100 best places to live in 2008.


#16 Pittsburg, CA (Near Oakland/San Francisco)

Downtown Oakland, CA

Downtown Oakland, CA

2014 median wage: $49,410

4-year average percent of wage change: -.42%

Median home value: $316,200

Change in home value over last year: +12.8%

Unemployment rate: 5.9

Percentage of millennials to total population: 23.64%

Highest measured Walk Score: 14 out of 100

Crime per capita: 650

Pittsburg is close enough to the San Francisco and Oakland technology scene to be commutable, but far enough away to avoid the high price of living in the Silicon Valley. Public transportation connects residents of Pittsburg to San Francisco and Oakland with ease, making home ownership in Pittsburg more of an option. Recently, Pittsburg has been undergoing several redevelopment projects to promote easy access into the city of San Francisco and more pedestrian friendly neighborhoods, specifically along the waterfront.


#15 Casa Grande, AZ (Near Phoenix)

Downtown scene, Phoenix, AZ

Downtown scene, Phoenix, AZ

2014 median wage: $42,540

4-year average percent of wage change: .23%

Median home value: $133,600

Change in home value over last year: -2.2%

Unemployment rate: 5.9

Percentage of millennials to total population: 18.63%

Highest measured Walk Score: 26 out of 100

Crime per capita: 612

Arizona may be generalized as a nice place to retire, but don't dismiss it as a nice place to start out. The median home value in Casa Grande, AZ, is incredibly affordable; and with a positive wage change year over year and a low crime rate, Casa Grande looks very comfortable.


#14 Surprise, AZ (Near Phoenix)

Phoenix, AZ, at dusk

Phoenix, AZ, at dusk

2014 median wage: $45,840

4-year average percent of wage change: 1.36%

Median home value: $194,000

Change in home value over last year: +4.0%

Unemployment rate: 5.4

Percentage of millennials to total population: 18.33%

Highest measured Walk Score: 22 out of 100

Crime per capita: 787

Census data shows that Surprise grew 281 percent between the 2000 and 2010 census population survey. This growth is great for residents because it generally means more job creation and a strong economy. This idea is supported by the year-over-year growth in median wages and the improvement to the housing market. The 22 out of 100 Walk Score is a slight disappointment, though. Being able to run errands by foot is always an added bonus.


#13 Lake Elsinore, CA (Near Orange County and San Diego)

Lake Elsinore, CA

Lake Elsinore, CA

2014 median wage: $44,190

4-year average percent of wage change: .74%

Median home value: $260,400

Change in home value over last year: +5.8%

Unemployment rate: 6.5

Percentage of millennials to total population: 22.62%

Highest measured Walk Score: 24 out of 100

Crime per capita: 545

Once considered primarily a resort town, Lake Elsinore has grown into a medium-sized city with all the bells and whistles you'd want to settle down for good. The lake itself is one of the largest natural freshwater lakes in Southern California, which lends itself to cheap entertainment during peak seasons. The median home value is incredibly low for a Californian town, and the change in home value is enough to make a new property purchase enticing. The only negative is the relatively low median wage. Even with year-over-year wage growth, Lake Elsinore is one of the lowest-paying cities to make this list.


#12 Flower Mound, TX (Near Dallas)

Cowboy boots

Cowboy boots – Texas style

2014 median wage: $49,060

4-year average percent of wage change: 1.16%

Median home value: $380,400

Change in home value over last year: +10.8%

Unemployment rate: 4

Percentage of millennials to total population: 10.78%

Highest measured Walk Score: 16 out of 100

Crime per capita: 609

Flower Mound's close proximity to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport has attracted new businesses to open up shop in and around Flower Mound. Although the percentage of millennials to total population is relatively low compared to other cities on the list, Flower Mound has received high rankings in each of the other categories.

The most notable win for Flower Mound is the unemployment rate. Flower Mound and the number one city on our list (read on to find out who that is) are both tied at four for the lowest unemployment rates on this list.


#11 Homestead, FL (Near Miami)

Speed boat near Miami

Speed boat near Miami

2014 median wage: $44,140

4-year average percent of wage change: 1.23%

Median home value: $107,200

Change in home value over last year: +7.8%

Unemployment rate: 5.3

Percentage of millennials to total population: 27.80%

Highest measured Walk Score: 35 out of 100

Crime per capita: 1,070

Homestead has notoriously been pegged as a rural town — but this farming area has seen some major changes over the last few years. Miami is about an hour away, and according to the Redfin agent, Jessica Johnson, construction has been on the rise in recent years.

The rural stereotype has not been entirely dissipated, though; but Johnson reiterates that affordability is a huge draw for buyers. You can get a brand new, large home for significantly less than [the homes] in Miami or the closer suburbs. For a farming town, the percentage of millennials to total population is shockingly high.


#9 (Tie) Castle Rock, CO (Near Denver)

Learning to snowboard

Learning to snowboard

2014 median wage: $38,640

4-year average percent of wage change: .98%

Median home value: $302,200

Change in home value over last year: +16.6%

Unemployment rate: 4.3

Percentage of millennials to total population: 18.05%

Highest measured Walk Score: 10 out of 100

Crime per capita: 464

Gentrification typically makes housing prices increase, and it appears that Castle Rock is starting to see this scenario unfold. As the 17th most populous municipality in Colorado, Castle Rock has been reported as the center of burgeoning urbanization of the county. Although the housing market is still relatively affordable, it will be interesting to see if the 16.6% increase from last year becomes a pattern.


#9 (Tie) Waukegan, IL (Near Chicago)

Chicago skyline with Navy Pier

Chicago skyline with Navy Pier

2014 median wage: $51,250

4-year average percent of wage change: 1.42%

Median home value: $89,400

Change in home value over last year: +3.6%

Unemployment rate: 6

Percentage of millennials to total population: 24.35%

Highest measured Walk Score: 45 out of 100

Crime per capita: 792

In 2003, Waukegan touted plans to redevelop their lakefront and downtown which will be a huge win for the community. Arts and culture are the up-and-coming scene for this area, which speaks to the high percentage of millennials to total population rate.

The median home value in Waukegan is notably low. In fact, it's the only town on the list to have a median home value under $100,000, yet their median wage is higher than many cities on this list. More money, less toward a mortgage is always a good recipe.


#8 Lowell, MA (Near Boston)

Sailboats in Boston Harbor

Sailboats in Boston Harbor

2014 median wage: $56,090

4-year average percent of wage change: .30%

Median home value: $189,700

Change in home value over last year: +3.5%

Unemployment rate: 4.5

Percentage of millennials to total population: 26.61%

Highest measured Walk Score: 70 out of 100

Crime per capita: 1,053

Home to a relatively large campus (UMass Lowell), the percentage of millennials to total population automatically sees a spike. Lowell hosts several festivals throughout the year celebrating diversity, art, and culture. With a relatively high median wage and a low unemployment rate, Lowell may be one of the most stable communities to make the list.


#7 Marysville, WA (Near Seattle)

Rowing near Marysville, WA

Rowing near Marysville, WA

2014 median wage: $59,130

4-year average percent of wage change: 2.02%

Median home value: $271,100

Change in home value over last year: +8%

Unemployment rate: 4.5

Percentage of millennials to total population: 21.57%

Highest measured Walk Score: 23 out of 100

Crime per capita: 753

In 2004, Marysville voted to enhance the city. Everything from land use and community design to economic development was placed into the master plan. One of the most important aspects of the city's makeover was to make its downtown more attractive for businesses and pedestrians. It looks like something is working. Marysville experienced the most wage growth over the last four years and currently the highest median wage to make the list.

In addition, Redfin agent Trina Torkelson states, “When it comes to affordability, Marysville cannot be beat. The further north you travel from Seattle, the more home you can get for your money. There is a lot of new construction in Marysville to keep up with demand and many of the original homes here have incredible views of the Valley. You can still buy a spacious home here for under $300,000.”


#6 St. Peters, MO (Near St. Louis)

St. Louis skyline at dusk

St. Louis skyline at dusk

2014 median wage: $46,290

4-year average percent of wage change : 1.58%

Median home value: $153,900

Change in home value over last year: +7.8%

Unemployment rate: 5.6

Percentage of millennials to total population: 20.10%

Highest measured Walk Score: 29

Crime per capita: 477

As with many of the cities to make our list, St. Peters recently underwent community development to make the town more beneficial for its residents. The “rec-plex” was expanded in 2007 at a price tag of $18.5 million which was an incredible makeover for the town. Money magazine voted St. Peters as one of the best places to live in the U.S. back in 2008; and with the positive year-over-year change in wages and home value, it looks like St. Peters has only become more desirable since then.


#5 Haverhill, MA (Near Boston)

Statue of George Washington in Boston

Statue of George Washington in Boston

2014 median wage: $46,820

4-year average percent of wage change: .94%

Median home value: $248,300

Change in home value over last year: +4.2%

Unemployment rate: 4.5

Percentage of millennials to total population: 20.46%

Highest measured Walk Score: 42

Crime per capita: 555

Apparently George Washington visited Haverhill in the 1790's and announced it to be one of the most beautiful villages — so if that's not an inclination into how fantastic Haverhill is, I'm not sure what is.

Haverhill is 1 percent below the national average for unemployment, and the crime rate per capita is low. Redfin agent David Pollack told us, “Haverhill, which sits on the Merrimack River right by New Hampshire, is a very affordable community in the greater Boston area. The city has converted its old downtown factories into lofts and condos and put up a new boardwalk. Residents can also find nice restaurants and local breweries while still enjoying easy access to area beaches, hiking and biking trails. With a commuter train downtown and the interstate nearby, residents can get into Boston with ease.


#4 New Brunswick, NJ (Near New York City)

Brooklyn skyline

Brooklyn skyline

2014 median wage: $54,210

4-year average percent of wage change: 1.50%

Median home value: $249,100

Change in home value over last year: -.6%

Unemployment rate: 5.3

Percentage of millennials to total population: 46.13%

Highest measured Walk Score: 73

Crime per capita: 547

Home to Rutgers University, and a medical mecca, New Brunswick has the ideal balance between young and professional scenes. Beyond the college town vibe, New Brunswick also has a highly concentrated medical area: Saint Peter's University Hospital, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital all have campuses in New Brunswick. The size of each of these institutes provides a plethora of jobs for qualified candidates. Conglomerate Johnson and Johnson is also headquartered in New Brunswick which additionally adds to the local economy.

Redfin agent Jackie Wilfinger told us, “Rental housing abounds, given the large student population [from Rutgers], however, prospective homeowners are drawn to New Brunswick's relative affordability, walkability and access to transit. It is a 45-minute train ride into New York City, making it a great option for commuters.”


#2 (Tie) Hempstead, NY (Near New York City)

Statue of Liberty, New York skyline

Statue of Liberty, New York skyline

2014 median wage: $39,940

4-year average percent of wage change: 1.64%

Median home value: $279,300

Change in home value over last year: +1.6%

Unemployment rate: 5.3

Percentage of millennials to total population: 26.27%

Highest measured Walk Score: 71

Crime per capita: 394

Although the housing market hasn't been booming in Hempstead lately, the stability and affordability of the city makes it highly desirable for millennials just starting out. Major airlines Lufthansa, and Swiss International Airlines have headquarters based near Hempstead, which have become major employers (behind the town of Hempstead) to its residents. The crime rate per capita is lower in Hempstead than in any other city to make our list. Its close proximity to Brooklyn and New York also open up additional opportunities to Hempstead's residents.


#2 (Tie) Everett, WA (Near Seattle)

Boeing 747 under construction

Boeing 747 under construction

2014 median wage: $59,130

4-year average percent of wage change: 2.01%

Median home value: $237,000

Change in home value over last year: +10.4%

Unemployment rate: 4.5

Percentage of millennials to total population: 26.15%

Highest measured Walk Score: 65

Crime per capita: 1,890

In 2002, Everett won the “All-American City Award” — an honor given by the National Civic League annually to ten communities. Everett has the second-highest median wage in 2014 behind Marysville, the other Washington city to make this list.

Redfin agent Julia Buckley gave us insight into Everett, “One big draw to Everett, aside from its affordability, is the revitalization of downtown. Everett's comprehensive plan has included rezoning, streetscape improvements, and revamping historic overlay standards which have contributed to a more urban feel. Millennials crave walkability and convenience, and Everett has no shortage of coffee shops, farmers markets, bars, and great jobs.”


#1 Denton, TX (Near Dallas)

Dallas, TX, skyline

Dallas, TX, skyline

2014 median wage: $49,060

4-year average percent of wage change: 1.16%

Median home value: $127,300

Change in home value over last year: +11.3%

Unemployment rate: 4

Percentage of millennials to total population: 37.26%

Highest measured Walk Score: 57

Crime per capita: 881

The downtown square in Denton is noted as the cultural and political hub of the city. In fact, Redfin agent Connie Durnal states that “Denton is a quintessential college town that is known for its local music scene. The historic Town Square has a variety of shops and restaurants and high Walk Scores. Homes in Denton are more affordable than many of the suburbs that are closer in to Dallas.”

The positive change in home value, positive change in four-year wage growth, and low overall median home values makes Denton an ideal place for millennials. Tied with nearby town, Flower Mound, these two Texas cities clench the lowest unemployment spot on our list of best cities for millennials. Denton also claims one of the top spots for the percentage of millennials to total populations.

Have you been searching for an affordable place to settle down? Did you know about these cities? How do they compare to where you live now, and would you consider moving to one of them?

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Tara
Tara

great list! one thing you don’t mention about Denton is a) it’s a college town so that’s why they have plenty of young people and b) there’s a lot of fracking nearby, which provides a lot of the jobs (it’s over an hour drive from Dallas so not many people make that job commute). I’m also surprised Waterbury, CT makes this list considering the high crime rate per capita. I think the one limitation to doing towns vs. counties is like where I live now outside Philly, there are a lot of small towns that would never have the population… Read more »

Beth
Beth

Big yes to researching job industry! I know there are plenty of places I’d love to live but no jobs in my area of expertise. Depending on your field/industry, it might be a waste of time creating a list of places like this and then finding out there are no jobs.

Dentonite
Dentonite

“it’s over an hour drive from Dallas so not many people make that job commute” – this is not true. The commute is 45-60 minutes (to Dallas *or* Fort Worth) and, even though it sucks, there are plenty of people who commute from Denton.

Also Dentonite
Also Dentonite

“The commute is 45-60 minutes (to Dallas *or* Fort Worth)” THIS is not true. I commute to Dallas five days a week, and God forbid you start work between 8-10 and leave between 4-7 because your commute is going to be an hour and half both ways at the earliest. Left this morning at 6:30 to get to work by 8, didn’t walk in the door until 9 because of traffic.

Beth
Beth

Good list, but few of these places seem all that spectacular to me if I’d have to commute into a larger city for work. I am impressed by some of the housing prices… less than $200K? Wow. I think some context might have helped put the stats in perspective. For example, what is the national median wage? Is a higher rise in home value a good thing or a bad thing (if you’re a buyer did you already miss out on a good deal?) Also, what about public transportation and the rental market? Some of these smaller cities look pretty… Read more »

Linda Vergon

Hi Beth,

According to Census.gov, the US median household income was $53,046 in 2013 (which is the most recent data collected).

Good question, thanks!

Linda Vergon
Editor of GetRichSlowly.org

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger

I agree with you Beth. I can speak to both Brentwood and Pittsburg, CA. These are basically far flung San Francisco Bay Area suburbs that aren’t all that walkable. Their housing is still expensive, and most people who live in these places spend a lot of time commuting. The schools are also not considered very good. I suspect some of the other places on the list are the same.

That is the problem with America. We have very few small cities that offer decent urban lifestyle options. Most of the ones that do are college towns.

My Factoring Network
My Factoring Network

These smaller cities are really good to go. There are plenty of opportunities either it is a job or higher education. They are good looking and spectacular with full facilities. Every families can sustain there with small business. Excellent post!! Thanks for sharing

Ali @ Anything You Want
Ali @ Anything You Want

I love the idea of moving to a smaller city, but I have to say that living in MA and knowing both Lowell and Haverhill pretty well, calling them cities is a bit of a stretch. They are both fine places to live, but are much more suburban than urban.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston

And a bit of commute into Boston. You’d have to either drive (yuck!) or take the commuter rail (kind of a pain and expensive). Living there is doable, but I don’t know if I’d want deal with the commuter rail.

Then again, I’m spoiled by living on the T.

Julie
Julie

I have lived in Boston for nearly 20 years and I had to look up where Haverhill was. I am scratching my head how it could be considered easy to get into Boston with ease, given the geography.

JoeM
JoeM

Interesting list, but I’d prefer photos of the actual cities and not the large 25 mile away cities they’re nearby.

I know Novi, MI is quintessential suburban sprawl – lot of McMansons, Range Rovers, and no city downtown at all. That doesn’t really seem appealing to me, a 26 year old accountant.

Allyson
Allyson

Completely agree with your points. And proximity to Detroit is supposed to be a draw? More like a drawback, in my opinion, especially since crime rates were considered by the study.

Anne
Anne

I live in the metro Detroit area which is an excellent place to live. But you couldn’t pay me to live in Novi. The roads were never expanded to keep up with all the building so you have bumper to bumper traffic at all times of day. Not to mention that traveling on I 96 west at the end of the day to get to your house is a lesson in frustration and patience. As a data scientist, I love to see analysis of this kind of data, but based on what I know of Novi, this analysis seems to… Read more »

Wayne
Wayne

Of all of these, the photo attributed to Everett, WA was actually in Everett, albeit inside the Boeing plant. Everett is also an actual city, with a deepwater port, the aforementioned major employer, a yacht harbor and a thriving downtown.

Carla
Carla

Being from the Bay Area, I’m surprised to see Brentwood and Pittsburgh on the list. Also, #16 Pittsburg, CA, the photo is of Lake Merritt in Oakland. Pittsburgh, CA looks nothing like that. I know its listed in the caption but its a little deceptive.

Tina
Tina

I can’t believe that Brentwood and Pittsburg CA are on this list. I live in the East Bay and the commute is horrible on Highway 4, need to leave at 5 am just to get anywhere. Also police officers are leaving Brentwood for other cities that are less stressful and they make more money. That picture is not of Pittsburg but of Oakland Lake Merritt. Growing up in this area I can’t wait to get away and would not recommend anyone to move to either of those cites.

no
no

Oakland? Detroit? Lowell?

Great places for millenials with a death wish, I guess.

JoDi
JoDi

Did Brentwood pay to be on this list? It has one of the lowest wages on the list along with the highest median housing price and unemployment rate. Seems like a very odd pick for someone just starting out and looking for an affordable place to live.

Linda Vergon

Hi Jodi,

Haha! No, we’re not paid to put anybody on the list. We just take the data as is and it shows what it shows. We’d prefer not to have a tie even, but sometimes that is unavoidable too.

Thanks for asking!

Linda Vergon
Editor of GetRichSlowly

Carla
Carla

@JoDi – I agree.

PB
PB

Missing the entire upper midwest, pretty much. Growing fast and a great place to live!

Carla
Carla

@PB – Please list some cities you recommend.

Jess
Jess

As someone who lives “near Boston” at just 13 miles outside the city, let me tell you about the commute from Lowell to Boston. (Disclaimer: I don’t make it myself, but the major highways you’ll take if you work downtown are on the traffic reports every day.) It’s a 30-mile drive, using the shortest route provided by Google Maps, that will take 40 minutes as of now (11:45am EST). Rewind or fast forward a few hours to the morning/evening rush hour and you are looking at upwards of an hour, possibly nearing an hour and a half, for the same… Read more »

Danielle
Danielle

I came here to say exactly this. I live in the town next to Lowell, and recently stopped working in downtown Boston because of the commute (about 2 hours each day, every day). However, I do have to say that there are a lot of job opportunities north of Boston and even in southern New Hampshire.

Susan
Susan

I lived in Lowell and I wouldn’t say that it is a good town to raise a family. When we moved closer to Boston, our car insurance rate was cut in half due to the drop in crime rate. The median wage is higher because many people make the 1.5 hour commute into Boston for work.

Emily
Emily

Waukegan can be a great place to settle down. I lived there for 8 years. It’s very convienent to get in to the city via the train (there’s a Metra stop right on the lake shore), and if you don’t mind traffic, 41 and 94 are right there as well. I definitely agree that Waukegan has a way to go (they may have announced plans to redevelop the lake front, but not much has been done towards that goal in the past 12 years). There are many places you DON’T want to live in Waukegan. If you’re thinking about buying… Read more »

Lou
Lou

You couldn’t pay me enough to live in Waukegan (grew up there) or Zion. And Lake County property taxes are RIDICULOUS.

kirsten
kirsten

I enjoyed this article/list but have one question. For Brentwood, how would someone making ~44k per year afford a house that is 479k?

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger

You nailed it Kristen. Places like Brentwood are basically lower middle class suburbs and still very expensive. They also have a reputation for attracting a lot of Section 8 tenants, who, unfortunately, contribute to higher than average crime rates and bad schools. I would just move away from the Bay Area completely rather than live in Brentwood. It’s not worth it.

Rachel
Rachel

MY mom lives in Brentwood and it is a great city. However I just want to mention that a person would be crazy to commute from Brentwood to San Francisco. The traffic is horrific, and the BART ride is two hours one way.

Eric
Eric

Good luck commuting from Marysville to Seattle.

Mal
Mal

Or even Everett! It is fine if you work in Everett, but the commute to Seattle is soul crushing, even on the bus. And the crime rate doesn’t help. They are making attempts to revitalize downtown and there is decent access to the outdoors…but if Everett is number 2 on the list, it is pretty depressing.

Eric
Eric

Yes, Everett is a dump.

Parsley
Parsley

Everett is a great city with normal city problems. All the same problems in Seattle. Just stay away from the obvious areas such as Casino. Hell, the only real crime in Everett is property crime. It is a safe place to live and has BEAUTIFUL areas such as Silver Lake, the Port of Everett, etc.

By the numbers Seattle has higher overall crime than Everett PER CAPITA.

Tonya
Tonya

I love Everett. It is changing so much and quickly. It is one of the few places left where you can get a reasonably priced home. The smart people will jump on it now as we are in the midst of a boom.

Cash
Cash

What would you say if your employer paid for the very nice/clean/quite sounder train.From Everett 55 minutes of beautiful water/islands/marine life.

Denise
Denise

The Sounder is great as long as there aren’t any mud slides. The route along the coastline is renowned for slides.Better to find work in Everett, which is not that difficult, than to do the commute to Seattle everyday. Light rail is coming in the distant future though so that will help.

Paul
Paul

If only we could live in America, it has been our dream to migrate in America 🙂

IamNoSpecial
IamNoSpecial

I liked the parameters you chose to compare. Percent change in wage and crime rate are very thoughtful.

Zega
Zega

How about Saint Petersburg, FL? It is a great small city all on its own (you can say it is near Tampa, but Saint Pete > Tampa 🙂

Kate @ Cashville Skyline
Kate @ Cashville Skyline

So pumped to see Lowell on this list! That’s where I went to college and it will always hold a special place in my heart. And it’s gotten a lot nicer since I went to school there! The downtown area is booming with art galleries, new bars & restaurants, and live entertainment. Plus, you can easily take the commuter rail into Boston 🙂

Steve
Steve

Not sure if you’ve every been to Casa Grande or Surprise but they are boring and lousy with retirees. Nothing against retirees, but a millenial would go stir crazy in those cities! And if they’re single, FORGET dating. Surprise was voted the worst city for singles in the country. THE COUNTRY.

Grace @ Return on Investment
Grace @ Return on Investment

I really love this post. I choose “miami”, I love boats, beaches. I think Miami is also a great place to retire. Nice post Megan Wells. Two thumbs up. ^_^

Jeff
Jeff

“And perhaps the most unprecedented millennial-ish move we’ve been making is the avoidance of home ownership.”

If you just go by statistics. When someone finally got around to actually surveying the Millenials they found that more than half do want to be homeowners but simply can’t afford it yet.

Cautious
Cautious

When I look at this list it is easy to see why millenials don’t own homes. Who can afford to? Some of the cities are affordable compared to the average median income, however many are not. I live in Colorado, and I can tell you Castle Rock is not really a small town. It is just a really far drive to your job in Denver or Centennial, and in the winter what a pain. Also, I don’t think you will ever be able to buy a home in Castle Rock on $38,000 a year. When the town started growing like… Read more »

Mysticaltyger
Mysticaltyger

Bottom line: There are very, if any, smaller cities in America that offer a decent urban lifestyle at affordable prices. What passes for “cities” on this list just proves the point.

Midwest Jane
Midwest Jane

St. Peters. As a St. Louis resident, it totally cracks me up that somehow that would be a place that millenials should consider. There are so many other suburbs closer to downtown that would be much, much better. Maplewood and University City come to mind. Plus there’s the whole city of St. Louis itself in which you can buy an awesome house for 200K or less. What a strange addition to include – I’m still stumped by it, honestly. It goes to show that creating this arbitrary national list probably garnered from google searches exclusively and no personal experience at… Read more »

Priswell
Priswell

It looks like Zillow is a major contributor of information. Some things look really great on paper, but in reality, not so much.

Sarah
Sarah

What a strange list. I’ve been to a lot of these places, they’re boring suburbs. Is that what millenials want?

Jay
Jay

To say that Lowell and Haverhill are “close” to Boston is really stretching it. The train is going to be a solid hour for just the train ride portion, not counting getting to and from the train station, plus getting to a job. That could be an hour and a half each way, for a total of three hours commuting a day. Commuter rail isn’t necessarily cheap, either. Driving would be a similar nightmare on roads that are consistently bumper to bumper traffic all the way in, then you have to pay hundreds of dollars a month to park your… Read more »

Rich
Rich

What’s interesting to me are the huge amounts being charged for homes and the high crime rates in these cities. You can live in many countries around the world for much less and not worry about any crime. Plus if your retiring why buy a home when you can rent.

Michelle
Michelle

Born and bred Dentonite here. I couldn’t agree more with Denton being a great place to live, raise a family and just enjoy life. Yes, there are 2 colleges here but not as much fracking as the other guy suggested. It is mostly in the surrounding areas. You can always find something fun to do here.

Matt
Matt

So, Oakland-San Francisco gets recognized as a metro area but Dallas-Fort Worth gets cut in half to just “Dallas”? That’s pretty insulting to Denton and the millions of people in the Fort Worth area, and it shows a general lack of geography knowledge. A quick look at any map shows that, if anything, Denton is a smidge closer to Fort Worth. Flower Mound also is mostly on the Fort Worth side of the centrally located Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, and Flower Mound’s city limits reach the interstate between Denton and Fort Worth but not the interstate between Denton and Dallas.… Read more »

Greg
Greg

Waterbury??!??!?

Grew up there and left as soon as i could. If you looked further you’d find a city continuing a 40 year decline as anyone with means has already left with declining property values and extremely high property taxes for those who remain…mostly unable to sell their house for what they paid for it in the 90’s.

It’s a hellhole. You’re better off moving to Hartford itself which can at least boast a number of extremely large, well paying employers with some very nice suburbs. Waterbury, no.

Jay A.
Jay A.

I didn’t read through all of the earlier comments and replies, so maybe I’m echoing others, but I question the foundation used to determine this list. If millenials (and myself, in gen x) are not making home ownership a priority, then why is median home value be a factor in determining this list? Also, why is relative proximity to a much larger metropolitan area a factor? Do most millenials prefer this? Finally, were weightings assigned to each factor? If so, how? Did walkability carry a higher weighting than another criteria? If unemployment ranges only between 4-7%, why is it a… Read more »

Jeff
Jeff

Speaking as a Millenial I never liked the city, when I commuted into Chicago to attend UIC I couldn’t wait to hop on the train and go back to the suburbs after classes were over for the day. A lot of my fellow classmates were like this too, only maybe half of our class actually lived on campus or in apartments within the city limits. Today the same pretty much applies, most of my friends my age live out here in the suburbs and have no desire to move into the city. Those who have I don’t see that often… Read more »

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