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The Best-Paying Cities for Millennials


The Best-Paying Cities for Millennials

Numbering over 72 million, millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers to be the largest living adult generation. Millennials, defined by the Pew Research Center as people born between 1981–1996, are now in their prime home-buying years. However, millennial homeownership rates have lagged that of older generations—in part, because while home prices have been rising, income has not kept pace. According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, median annual income for full-time working millennials was $42,000 in 2019, leaving many millennials struggling to afford a home.

Nationally, data from the Census Bureau shows that while the homeownership rate in the U.S. was 64.6% in 2019, the rate for millennials was just 39.9%. The median income for 25 to 34-year-olds has increased 2.5-fold since 1980; however, housing prices have more than tripled over the same time period. Median income growth for that age group kept pace with housing prices until the year 2000 when housing prices began to rise more steeply. Although housing prices dropped significantly during the Great Recession, they have been rising rapidly since 2012.

At the state level, millennials living in Minnesota and Massachusetts had the highest median incomes after adjusting for cost of living, at $51,282 and $50,137 in 2019, respectively. Due to its very high cost of living, millennials living in Hawaii tend to earn less with a cost-of-living adjusted median income of $37,849 last year. The cost of living in Florida is about the same as the national average, but millennials in Florida earned just $34,990 in adjusted median income, the lowest in the country.

To find the best-paying metropolitan areas for millennials, researchers at HireAHelper analyzed the latest data on income and home prices from the U.S. Census Bureau and Zillow. The researchers ranked metro areas according to the cost-of-living adjusted median income for full-time working millennials. Researchers also calculated the unadjusted median income for full-time millennials, the median home price, and the millennial homeownership rate.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, separate rankings were generated for small (100,000–349,999 residents), midsize (350,000–999,999 residents), and large (1,000,000 or more residents) metros.

Here are the large metropolitan areas with the highest median income for full-time millennials, after adjusting for the cost of living.

Metro Rank Median income for full-time millennials (cost-of-living adjusted) Median income for full-time millennials (unadjusted) Median home price Millennial homeownership rate Cost of living (compared to the national average)


San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA     1         $60,201 $77,900 $1,219,074 26.6% +29.4%
San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA     2         $53,191 $70,000 $1,113,664 25.0% +31.6%
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA     3         $51,727 $58,400 $555,689 36.3% +12.9%
Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH     4         $51,664 $59,000 $520,206 35.4% +14.2%
Pittsburgh, PA     5         $51,557 $48,000 $172,719 44.3% -6.9%
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV     6         $50,934 $60,000 $455,038 38.0% +17.8%
Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT     7         $48,972 $50,000 $246,266 41.3% +2.1%
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI     8         $48,733 $50,000 $307,156 48.8% +2.6%
Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN     9         $48,667 $43,800 $201,822 43.9% -10.0%
Kansas City, MO-KS    10         $48,439 $45,000 $218,314 43.9% -7.1%
St. Louis, MO-IL    11         $47,967 $43,650 $188,845 48.0% -9.0%
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO    12         $47,664 $50,000 $462,724 42.9% +4.9%
Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI    13         $47,489 $45,020 $200,213 35.4% -5.2%
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD    14         $46,860 $50,000 $307,675 44.3% +6.7%
Columbus, OH    15         $46,790 $43,000 $223,010 37.9% -8.1%
United States         $42,000 $42,000 $259,906 39.9% N/A


For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on HireAHelper’s website:


U.S. Cities With the Highest Cost-of-Living Adjusted Salaries

The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a surge in geographic mobility. According to Pew Research Center, 22 percent of adults in the U.S. have relocated during the pandemic or know someone who did. Interestingly, this reverses a longstanding trend in which Americans were staying put.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that prior to COVID-19, Americans were moving a lot less. In 1981, 3.4 percent of Americans moved to a different county within the same state while only 2.8 percent moved to a different state entirely. By 2019, those percentages dropped to 2.1 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively. The share of Americans moving across county lines has remained at a relatively flat, low level since 2010.

As people think about where to move during COVID-19 and beyond, job prospects and earning potential will be top of mind. Median earnings for full-time workers in the U.S. was $50,078 in 2019, a 20.6 percent increase since 2010 in nominal dollars. However, the relative cost of living in a given area impacts purchasing power and should be an important factor when weighing employment opportunities. There is significant regional variation in cost-of-living adjusted earnings across the U.S., with residents in the Northeast and Midwest generally faring better than those in the South or West. For example, median adjusted earnings range from a low of $41,063 in Florida to a high of $58,029 in Massachusetts.

To find which metropolitan areas offer the greatest purchasing power, researchers at Smartest Dollar calculated cost-of-living adjusted earnings using data for full-time workers from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. To improve relevance, metros were grouped into the following categories based on population: small (100,000–349,999), midsize (350,000–999,999), and large (1,000,000 or more).

Similar to the statewide trends, the small and midsize metros offering the highest adjusted earnings are concentrated in the Midwest and Northeast. Unlike the state-level trends, the large metros with the best pay are scattered throughout the country, with similar levels of representation in the Northeast, West, and Midwest.

Here are the large metropolitan areas with the highest cost-of-living adjusted earnings.






 Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted)


Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted)


Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted)


Cost of living (compared to national average)

San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 1 $63,727 $82,463 30.7% +29.4%
Hartford-East Hartford-Middletown, CT 2 $60,357 $61,625 18.1% +2.1%
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV 3 $59,993 $70,672 17.0% +17.8%
Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH 4 $59,046 $67,430 24.3% +14.2%
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA 5 $58,573 $66,129 28.2% +12.9%
Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI 6 $58,512 $60,033 21.3% +2.6%
San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, CA 7 $58,331 $76,764 31.5% +31.6%
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD 8 $57,575 $61,432 20.5% +6.7%
Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN 9 $57,222 $51,500 19.8% -10.0%
Raleigh-Cary, NC 10 $56,934 $54,998 19.7% -3.4%
St. Louis, MO-IL 11 $56,624 $51,528 21.8% -9.0%
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO 12 $55,894 $58,633 23.6% +4.9%
Cleveland-Elyria, OH 13 $55,892 $50,359 18.8% -9.9%
Pittsburgh, PA 14 $55,798 $51,948 24.5% -6.9%
Columbus, OH 15 $55,530 $51,032 19.2% -8.1%
United States $50,078 $50,078 20.6% N/A


For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Smartest Dollar’s website:

This article originally appeared on Smartest Dollar’s website. Republished with permission.