The 10 Most Affordable Cities for Millennials

The median one-bedroom apartment monthly rent is $1,121 for all the cities in our ranking of Millennials' most affordable cities. Geographically, our 10 most affordable cities for Millennials stretch across most of the United States but are absent in the Northeast and concentrated in the South. The growth in the Millennial population in these cities for our 5-year sample size was between 10% and 14%.

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Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2021

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Wondering what are the most affordable cities for millennials? It’s an important question to ask, as millennials are taking on a larger role in the workforce and society, forging new trends in job mobility, homeownership, and family life. The millennial generation, defined by the Pew Research Center as people born between 1981 and 1996, is expected to surpass the Baby Boomers as the largest generation sometime in 2019.

The current size of the generation is estimated to be 73 million and continues to increase as more young adults immigrate to the U.S. With regards to work experience and income, millennials are a diverse generation. The youngest members have just graduated from college while many older millennials are well-established in their careers. Unlike prior generations, most millennials do not expect to work for the same employer for their entire professional life.

According to a recent Gallup report, millennials are more likely to job hop than other generations, and 60 percent of millennials report being open to new job opportunities. This willingness to swap jobs also makes millennials more geographically mobile.

Millennials, especially those living in large metropolitan areas, have long been considered a generation of renters. Only about one-third of millennials own a home, according to Census data.

A combination of high housing prices, crushing student loan debt, and stagnant wages have kept homeownership rates among millennials lower than those of previous generations at the same age.

Another factor that contributes to low homeownership among millennials is that they have waited longer to get married and have kids. In addition, with the availability of remote jobs, they are choosing to travel and explore different places before settling down somewhere.

However, as older millennials approach their 40s, more are starting to settle down and start families. Indeed, over one million millennial women are becoming mothers each year.

As millennials age, large numbers are migrating away from expensive coastal cities in favor of more affordable locales with healthy job markets. They’re wanting to live somewhere where housing costs don’t take up the majority of their expenses, and where they can own more property than is generally included with a simple apartment.

Even though the millennial populations in high-priced Seattle, Denver, San Jose, and San Francisco have continued to grow, similar increases are taking place in locations that were previously unpopular among this demographic.

In this article, we’ll cover where millennials are moving in 2020 and the best cities for millennials in 2020. Through our ranking, you’ll be able to see which states are most popular as well, such as the best cities and property locations for millennials in North Carolina.

Even though this article is about millennials, baby boomers and Gen Z can benefit from this article as well. In the end, we highlight some of the coolest, affordable places to live and in the frequently asked questions section, the best places to live if you’re poor.

Of course, a major factor when choosing a location to live is car insurance, which varies between states and even zip codes by hundreds of dollars. Public transportation is always an option, but can be confusing if you’ve moved to a new state; most people prefer to have their own means of transportation. If you’re looking to move and want to get the best car insurance rate in your millennial city, just plug your ZIP code into our FREE online quote comparison tool.

We’ll find you the best rates for you and your area, without you having to submit quote applications for numerous companies. Another option is read our guide to the best car insurance companies. It’ll guide you to find what car insurance company works best for you.

Now, let’s get started.

DID YOU KNOW? Where you live is one of the strongest predictors of car insurance premiums. Check out our guide that lists average monthly car insurance payments by state and gender. We also have vehicle-specific data as well such as the average premiums for the Ford Mustang.

To find the most affordable metropolitan areas with the largest increases in millennials, our researchers analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

They calculated the percent change in the millennial population for each metro area from 2013 to 2017, and filtered out metros with a cost of living more than two percent above average.

While cities in the Northeast are noticeably absent from the results, the rest of the locations are geographically diverse. They all tend to boast highly rated public schools, a fair housing market, diversified job opportunities, and many ways to enjoy the outdoors. Here are the most affordable and popular metros among millennials.

The Most Popular & Affordable Metros for Millennials

#10 – Ogden-Clearfield, UT

  • Percent change in millennial population (2013-2017): 10.4%
  • Total change in millennial population (2013-2017): 13,162
  • Median home list price (2018): $311,654
  • Median 1-bedroom rent (2018): $877
  • Cost of living: 5% below average

The northern Utah metro area of Ogden-Clearfield is an attractive place for older millennials to settle down and raise their families. Its low cost of living, gorgeous mountain views, and ample outdoor activities helped attract an additional 13,000 millennial residents to the area between 2013 and 2017.

The city of Ogden is a lively urban center with a walkable downtown and is within a half-hour drive of Salt Lake City, further expanding access to career opportunities and recreational activities.

#9 – Jacksonville, FL

  • Percent change in millennial population (2013-2017): 10.5%
  • Total change in millennial population (2013-2017): 31,258
  • Median home list price (2018): $268,205
  • Median 1-bedroom rent (2018): $1,155
  • Cost of living: 5% below average

Sunshine, warm weather, no state income tax, and a healthy job market makes the Jacksonville metro area popular among millennials. The area’s low cost of living is also a big draw for millennial families looking to leave more expensive cities, with living expenses being much less than other states.

Jacksonville’s downtown is undergoing a revival, and the city boasts more than 400 parks. Top employers such as Baptist Health, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, and Mayo Clinic also make Jacksonville an ideal place for young professionals in the healthcare and financial industries.

One thing to watch out for in Florida: The state’s DMV has recently been found to be selling private consumer data to third parties in our study of what DMVs are selling your info. Cheap costs of living can sometimes come with a different sort of price, and in this case, it’s your personal data.

DID YOU KNOW? If you are considering a move, you might also need to switch up your car insurance. Our researchers have compiled a helpful car insurance comparison chart with reviews of the best providers.

#8 – Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA

  • Percent change in millennial population (2013-2017): 10.9%
  • Total change in millennial population (2013-2017): 15,193
  • Median home list price (2018): $237,000
  • Median 1-bedroom rent (2018): $936
  • Cost of living: 6% below average

Despite being the largest city in Iowa, Des Moines still retains a small-town feel. The affordable metro area saw nearly an eleven percent growth in its millennial population from 2013 to 2017.

Referred to as the ‘Silicon Prairie’ along with several other Midwest cities, Des Moines has a booming tech start-up scene.

Other key industries in Des Moines include advanced manufacturing, insurance, financial services, and logistics. Statistics show that both the prices of home purchases and rentals in Des Moines are significantly lower than the national medians.

#7 – Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN

  • Percent change in millennial population (2013-2017): 11.1%
  • Total change in millennial population (2013-2017): 47,506
  • Median home list price (2018): $331,092
  • Median 1-bedroom rent (2018): $1,404
  • Cost of living: 5% below average

While known as ‘Music City’, Nashville boasts much more than just a thriving music scene. A flourishing arts community and a host of new restaurants are also big draws to millennials who are seeking a place to live with many cultural offerings and low costs of living.

Mild winters enable year round outdoor recreation, helping to make the Nashville metro area an attractive place to raise a family.

While the median home list price in Nashville is greater than the national median, the cost of living is 5 percent below average. Major employers in Nashville include various medical centers, as well as Nissan North America and Vanderbilt University.

#6 – Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC

  • Percent change in millennial population (2013-2017): 11.5%
  • Total change in millennial population (2013-2017): 57,543
  • Median home list price (2018): $298,720
  • Median 1-bedroom rent (2018): $1,254
  • Cost of living: 6% below average

Charlotte has seen an explosion in its startup scene in recent years and is also attracting more major corporations like Honeywell and Lowe’s, resulting in a plethora of good job opportunities.

Warm weather, affordability, a fast-growing craft brewery scene, beaches, and mountains within driving distance contribute to the Charlotte metro area’s attractiveness to millennial families.

Sporting events like basketball and NASCAR are also a major part of Charlotte’s alluring culture. The median home list price in Charlotte is above the national median, but the overall cost of living is significantly lower.

#5 – Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV

  • Percent change in millennial population (2013-2017): 11.6%
  • Total change in millennial population (2013-2017): 52,149
  • Median home list price (2018): $301,840
  • Median 1-bedroom rent (2018): $991
  • Cost of living: 2% below average

The Las Vegas metro area saw a large jump in its millennial population from 2013 to 2017, with an 11.6 percent increase in the number of millennials calling this area home.

A lower cost of living, ample job opportunities, and little traffic congestion have all made Las Vegas an ideal destination for millennials.

For millennials with kids, downtown Las Vegas offers the Discovery Children’s Museum and Las Vegas Natural History Museum. Springs Preserve, a 180-acre attraction in Las Vegas featuring botanical gardens, trails, and museums, is another great amenity for families.

Median rent prices in Las Vegas are below the national median, but the median home list price is slightly higher. However, despite the higher average home price, Nevada offers many other enticing reasons to move, which is why it made the list.

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#4 – Boise City, ID

  • Percent change in millennial population (2013-2017): 12.4%
  • Total change in millennial population (2013-2017): 17,338
  • Median home list price (2018): $309,093
  • Median 1-bedroom rent (2018): $949
  • Cost of living: 6% below average

Affordable midsize metro areas such as Boise are seeing an influx of new residents as many millennials flee expensive cities like San Francisco and Seattle, where the average price is going to be much higher for any sort of living expense.

Good schools, plentiful outdoor space, various recreational activities, and low crime rates are attracting millennials with kids who have been priced out of bigger cities.

True to its nickname, the ‘City of Trees’, Boise also boasts many green spaces and integrates nature into city life. Major employers include St. Luke’s Health System, HP, and Micron.

#3 – Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

  • Percent change in millennial population (2013-2017): 12.9%
  • Total change in millennial population (2013-2017): 66,104
  • Median home list price (2018): $426,891
  • Median 1-bedroom rent (2018): $1,402
  • Cost of living: 2% above average

Over 66,000 additional millennials called the Portland area home in 2017 compared to 2013. While not nearly as expensive as other West Coast millennial hubs like Seattle and San Francisco, Portland is still slightly more expensive than the national average. Though with the amount of offerings the city has, the mildly higher cost of utilities could be worth it to some.

The area is typically known for its quirky reputation, craft breweries, and abundant coffee shops, but this Pacific Northwest metro boasts plentiful outdoor recreation activities as well.

Both beaches and mountains are a short drive away, and the area’s ample park space is an attractive amenity to millennials with kids. For job opportunities, the greater Portland area includes major corporations like Intel, Nike, Boeing, and Xerox.

#2 – Raleigh, NC

  • Percent change in millennial population (2013-2017): 13.3%
  • Total change in millennial population (2013-2017): 36,117
  • Median home list price (2018): $322,823
  • Median 1-bedroom rent (2018): $1,082
  • Cost of living: 4% below average

Home to Research Triangle Park, Raleigh is one of the country’s premier tech cities.

The large concentration of top-tier universities (including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State University, and Duke University) and cutting edge technology companies (such as Cisco and IBM) make the Raleigh metro area a hot location for millennials seeking good job opportunities.

Some unforgettable outdoor activities Raleigh offers are picnicking at Pullen Park or swimming at Lake Johnson Park, while rainy day options include visiting the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh or cheering on the NC State Wolfpack during college basketball season. Raleigh may not be the cheapest city, but it certainly has many pulls of its own.

#1 – Austin-Round Rock, TX

  • Percent change in millennial population (2013-2017): 14.4%
  • Total change in millennial population (2013-2017): 71,069
  • Median home list price (2018): $330,881
  • Median 1-bedroom rent (2018): $1,162
  • Cost of living: 1% above average

The millennial population in Austin increased by over 14 percent from 2013 to 2017, the largest gain on this list. The ‘Live Music Capital of the World’  is home to a thriving tech industry, sunny weather, and a thrilling nightlife and entertainment scene.

For job opportunities, major employers include Dell, Apple, IBM, and the state government. While the median home price in Austin is higher than the national median, the surrounding suburbs offer millennial families more affordable options.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Attracting Millennials to Your City

Now that we’ve covered the most affordable cities for millennials, let’s get to your frequently asked questions. They include:

  • Which city has the most affordable housing?
  • What city has the most millennials?
  • What do millennials want in a city?

Let’s get going.

#1 – Which city has the most affordable housing?

Cities like Buffalo, New York, Dayton, Ohio, and Memphis, Tennessee, frequently turn up on lists of cities with the most affordable housing or cities with the cheapest cost of living. These areas also have a number of attractions including entertainment, restaurants, and sports teams.

#2 – What cities are millennials moving to?

Millennials are moving to cities where there is culture but not an extremely high cost of living. These include Portland, Oregon, Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tennessee. Having easy access to entertainment districts or cultural attractions is also important to millennials.

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#3 – What city has the most millennials?

San Francisco has the highest concentration of millennials, in part due to the culture and liberal nature of the city but also because of the number of employers based in that area including leading tech companies.

#4 – How do you attract millennials to your city?

To attract millennials to your city, focus on marketing what value you can bring to them over other cities. Attractions, entertainment, affordable housing, a large number of employers, and advances in tech appeal to millennials who want to balance quality of life with the cost of living.

#5 – Why are millennials leaving big cities?

Due to the recent coronavirus pandemic (and even before that to some extent), millennials have been leaving cities due to the cost of living which, in some areas, is extremely high. While San Francisco, for instance, has a large concentration of millennials, the cost of living is so high that even with a large income, it can be tough to save or plan for the future.

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#6 – How are millennials attracted to small towns?

Millennials can be attracted to a small town due to the lower cost of living, amenities such as parks or outdoor areas, a slower pace compared to major metro areas, and a simpler life.

Full Results for the Most Affordable Millennial Cities

RankMetro AreaPercent Increase in Millennial PopulationTotal Increase in Millennial PopulationCost of LivingMedian Home PriceMedian One-Bedroom RentPopulation
1Austin-Round Rock, TX14.4%71,0691%$330,881$1,1622,115,827
2Raleigh, NC13.3%36,117-4%$322,823$1,0821,335,079
3Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA12.9%66,1042%$426,891$1,4022,451,560
4Boise City, ID12.4%17,338-6%$309,093$949710,323
5Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV11.6%52,149-2%$301,840$9912,204,079
6Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC11.5%57,543-6%$298,720$1,2542,525,305
7Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN11.1%47,506-5%$331,092$1,4041,904,226
8Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA10.9%15,193-6%$237,000$936645,911
9Jacksonville, FL10.5%31,258-5%$268,205$1,1551,504,980
10Ogden-Clearfield, UT10.4%13,162-5%$311,654$877666,547
11Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR-MO10.3%11,346-11%$252,074$807535,557
12Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL10.2%58,480-1%$254,310$1,2293,091,399
13Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, FL9.9%5,1422%$420,698$1,449372,880
14Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX9.7%146,669Average$325,315$1,2567,400,479
15North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL9.4%10,364Average$336,445$1,371804,690
16Columbus, OH9.1%40,042-8%$237,770$8922,078,725
17Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL9.0%48,115-2%$288,564$1,2702,509,831
18Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL8.9%9,932-3%$277,228739,224
19Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX8.8%128,0982%$294,086$1,2166,892,427
20Reno, NV8.0%7,824-1%$415,485$1,293465,208
23Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA7.8%94,150-3%$281,358$1,3235,882,450
21Salt Lake City, UT7.8%22,794-1%$364,315$1,0341,203,105
22Lakeland-Winter Haven, FL7.8%9,851-7%$215,307686,483
24Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, FL7.5%7,240-4%$249,363589,162
25San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX7.1%37,797-6%$266,239$9522,473,974
26Huntsville, AL6.9%6,514-10%$244,808455,448
27Colorado Springs, CO6.8%11,387Average$342,594$1,168723,878
28Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN6.7%17,183-9%$220,682$8891,293,722
29Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ6.4%62,514-2%$297,522$1,0364,737,270
30Kansas City, MO-KS6.2%27,681-7%$248,588$9172,126,945
31Charleston-North Charleston, SC6.1%10,730-4%$329,446$1,281775,831
32Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI6.0%46,8072%$323,106$1,3423,600,618
33Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN5.3%22,389-8%$223,731$8702,027,059
34Stockton-Lodi, CA5.0%7,867Average$377,788$1,171745,424
35Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA4.8%10,478-7%$239,600$808934,184
36Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI4.1%35,052-4%$205,300$8614,313,002
37Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA4.1%20,7512%$428,957$1,3342,324,884
38Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN3.3%14,845-10%$214,780$8192,180,746
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Methodology: Determining the Most Affordable Cities for Millennials

  • Median home prices and one-bedroom rent prices for 2018 are sourced from Zillow using monthly list price data.

Metro areas are ranked by the percentage change in the millennial population from 2013 to 2017; most of this information can be found in the cost of living index. Only metro areas that have slightly higher than average, average, or below average cost of living as measured by the cost of living index (Regional Price Parity <=102) and at least 350,000 people are included in the final rankings.

The Pew Research Center’s definition of millennials is people born from 1981 to 1996; therefore, people aged 21-36 in 2017 are used in the analysis of the ACS PUMS data.

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