The 10 Most Affordable Cities [Where Millennials are Moving]

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. As millennials take on a larger role in the workforce and society, they are forging new trends in job mobility, homeownership, and family life.

With regards to work experience, millenials 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.

DJN886 The Austin Skyline in Austin, Texas, shines on a late afternoon. The iconic Austin highrises are reflected in Lady Bird Lake.

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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. 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. 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.


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To find the most affordable metropolitan areas with the largest increases in millennials, researchers from CarInsuranceComparison.com 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 2 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, 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

Pineview Reservoir, artificial lake in Ogden Valley, Wasatch Mountains, Utah, USA

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#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.

Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline on St. Johns River.

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#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 make 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.

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 Jackonville an ideal place for young professionals in the healthcare and financial industries.


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city and skyline in Des Moines, Iowa

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#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 11 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, agbioscience, insurance, financial services, and logistics. Both the prices of home purchases and rentals in Des Moines are significantly lower than the national medians.

Nashville, Tennessee, USA downtown city skyline

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#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.

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.

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA skyline.

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#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.

Aerial view of Las Vegas strip at sunny day

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#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.


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Autumn colors over the city of Boise Idaho

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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. Good schools, plentiful outdoor recreation 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.

Downtown Portland, Oregon cityscape at the sunset time

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#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.

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.

Raleigh, North Carolina, USA downtown city skyline

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#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.

Austin, Texas, USA downtown skyline

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#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 prices in Austin are higher than the national median, the surrounding suburbs offer millennial families more affordable options.

Methodology

  • 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 millenial population from 2013 to 2017. Only metro areas that have slightly higher than average, average, or below average cost of living as measured by 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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