Published December 15, 2022 | Reading time: 9 minutes
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New graduates may have a lot of opinions about where they want to live, but these cities have plenty to offer them in 2022.
Just a few years ago, college students were taking classes from their childhood bedrooms, and recent graduates were entering a newly remote working world. For a time, it seemed like young adults might not flock to cities — in search of employment and excitement — like they once did.
Yet with Americans’ COVID-19 anxieties shrinking with each passing month, many are deciding that now is as good a time as any to move back to the city — or move to one for the first time.
Anyone moving to a new city has unique preferences, and new college graduates have their own needs that can differ from the broader public’s. Many new grads are seeking their first full-time jobs, so they might pay extra attention to a metropolitan area’s unemployment rate. Even if new grads do have a job secured, a city’s affordability is all-important to young professionals on an entry-level salary. Plus, robust public transit and a healthy arts and entertainment scene can be especially attractive to recent grads with ample free time but potentially limited access to a motor vehicle.
Every city has a lot to offer its residents, but some will appeal more to young adults fresh out of college. With this in mind, data scientists at Insurify, a platform to compare home insurance, crunched the numbers to identify the best cities for new graduates in 2022.
National averages. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.8% in June 2022, and a one-bedroom apartment rents for an average of $1,185 per month as of July. The average American city also has 133 arts and entertainment venues per 100,000 residents and an alternative transit score — measuring ease of travel without a motor vehicle — of 36.5 out of 100. Combining these factors, the average Overall Appeal Score for new graduates is 46.1 out of 100 across all U.S. metropolitan areas.
Don’t doubt the Midwest. While the Midwest isn’t typically considered the flashiest area of the United States, it actually has a lot to offer new college graduates. For instance, 8 of the top 10 best cities for new grads are located in the Midwest, including the top five, headlined by St. Louis, MO, and Minneapolis, MN. Across the board, these cities offer entertainment and alternative transit opportunities in line with many of the nation’s coastal metropolises, yet at a discounted price that can appeal to many young grads just starting their professional careers.
Big cities win big with new grads. Insurify data scientists found a significant positive correlation (R = 0.28, p < 0.05) between a city’s population size and its Overall Appeal Score, despite not explicitly considering population size when ranking the best cities for new graduates. While big cities do tend to have higher rents and overall costs of living, they are also significantly more likely to have more arts and entertainment venues per capita and typically offer much better options for commuting without a motor vehicle. Insurify found no significant relationship between unemployment rate and a city’s population size.
The data science team at Insurify, a site for comparing low-cost home insurance policies, referred to publicly accessible data to identify the best city for new college graduates in each state. Cities were ranked based on a composite score of factors including unemployment rate, cost of living, one-bedroom apartment rental prices, ease of alternative transportation, and the number of arts and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents. A metro area received a higher Overall Appeal Score for having a lower unemployment rate, a lower cost of living, lower one-bedroom rental costs, a higher alternative transportation score, and a higher number of arts and entertainment venues per capita.
Unemployment rates come from a June 2022 report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cost of living data come from AdvisorSmith’s City Cost of Living Index, which rates U.S. metropolitan areas by how expensive they are compared to the national average (standardized to a value of 100). Six major categories of household expenses—food, housing, utilities, transportation, healthcare, and consumer discretionary spending—are weighted and aggregated to produce a single index value for each city. To incorporate housing costs that are more relevant to new graduates, the Insurify team also considered the average monthly rent of a one-bedroom apartment in each city using June 2022 data from Apartment List.
Walk Score develops yearly rankings on how easy American cities are to traverse by walking, biking, or taking public transportation. Insurify data scientists combined these three rankings for each city to create a single alternative transit metric. Data on cities’ arts and entertainment establishments per 100,000 residents were taken from the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent economic census for arts, entertainment, and recreation. Each metropolitan area’s total number of venues was compared against the U.S. Census Bureau’s most recent estimate of that area’s population.
This study considered all U.S. Census Bureau–designated metropolitan statistical areas in the United States in 2022. Delaware, Hawaii, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming were excluded from this analysis due to insufficient municipal data.
The findings in this article represent statistical trends found in Insurify’s analysis of publicly available data. The findings of this study are not meant to imply the direction nor necessarily the existence of a causal relationship. Rather, this is a presentation of statistical correlations of public interest.
What are the best cities for new college grads in 2022?
Believe it or not, St. Louis, MO, is the best city for new college graduates in 2022, with Minneapolis, MN, Rapid City, SD, and Pittsburgh, PA, not far behind. These Midwestern cities offer many of the perks of the nation's large coastal metropolises but have more affordable costs of living.
The Best Cities for New Grads in 2022
Overall Appeal Score: 57.9 (15% greater than state average)
Cost of living index: 91.3 (vs. national average of 100)
Unemployment rate (June 2022): 2.7%
Overall Appeal Score: 32.8 (12% greater than state average)
Cost of living index: 110.7 (vs. national average of 100)
Chase Gardner is a data journalist at Insurify. He informs readers on major developments in the auto and home industries through research into driver behavior, homeownership tendencies, cost of living trends, and more. He received a bachelor’s degree with concentrations in Environmental & Urban Studies and Statistics from the University of Chicago. Chase’s work has been cited in MSN, Yahoo News, The Street, and dozens of local news outlets across the country.