With average undergrad debt upon graduation in the mid $20,000s and rising, and youth employment above the national average, its not surprising that many millennials are finding it more difficult than earlier generations to make ends meet. Increasingly, young Americans have been eschewing the old hallmarks of entering adulthood, abandoning their cars and quiet subdivisions for public transportation in central cities. As Lena Dunham recently noted, the lure of cheap housing is drawing more 20-somethings to revived metropolitan centers, as younger generations adapt to changing economic conditions and more companies relocate back to large cities. Here is a list of 10 cities, in no particular order, with an overall cost of living index below the national average (less than 100), and that offer great employment opportunities.
1. Cincinnati (Cost of Living Index: 90.8)
Following a riot that left many areas in disrepair and scared many locals away from the downtown area, major renovations have taken place that make many parts of the city unrecognizable to natives who have returned after years away. The historic Over-the-Rhine district has probably experienced the greatest transformation, as former drug and crime ridden blocks have become home to hip night spots and unique small businesses and galleries. The quiet emergence of Cincinnati's tech scene is drawing more young professionals closer to the central city with its cheap real estate, remarkable architecture, and growing nightlife. The planned construction of a streetcar connecting the downtown area with the nearby University of Cincinnati will offer a throwback to an era when many residents rode public transportation to get around the hilly city.
2. Columbus (Cost of Living Index: 88.0)
Columbus is the capital of and most populous city in the state of Ohio. Home to The Ohio State University, which itself is almost a small town with over 50,000 total students, Columbus attracts people from around the world with its excellent educational institutions impressive list of locally based companies. With lots of inexpensive housing available, the recent arrival of professional hockey and soccer teams to go along with perennially dominant Division 1 college football and basketball programs, and revitalized downtown art district, Columbus offers something for everyone.
3. Houston (Cost of Living Index: 99.8)
Located near the Gulf of Mexico, this old oil town has been attracting a lot of younger inhabitants with its cheap housing and continued economic growth. The influx of new younger residents has spurred development in this traditionally energy focused town, which is helping attract millennials from around the world. Houston has been getting a lot of good press as of late as more people are becoming aware of Houston's economic success and affordability.
4. Austin (Cost of Living Index: 93.1)
The capital of Texas and home to the University of Texas, Austin is a progressive bastion in heart of ultra-conservative Texas. Boasting a world famous music scene, Austin is one of the hippest cities in the country and offers plenty of things to keep the average millennial occupied outside of the office. With the tech industry picking up in Austin, the city offers plenty of opportunities for grads and has plenty of cheap housing.
5. Dallas (Cost of Living Index: 94.9)
Despite being one of the largest cities in the country, Dallas has a below-average unemployment rate. With several large corporations based in the metropolitan area, Dallas offers big city perks to go along with its unique Texas style. Add in the low cost of living and inexpensive housing to go along with booming technology and energy industries, and it's not surprising that Dallas has recently been attracting more new migrants.
6. Pittsburgh (Cost of Living Index: 95.6)
The Steel City has transformed itself into an education, technology, and artistic hub providing small town charm to go along with its increasingly vibrant nightlife. More young professionals are considering Pittsburgh with its inexpensive housing and unique neighborhoods. Home to several universities, more recent grads have been sticking around after graduation as many major companies are setting up operations in Pittsburgh to benefit from the knowledge base of some of the most respected research institutions in the world. Pittsburgh arts renaissance is causing many to consider it one of the country's next hipster meccas.
7. Tampa (Cost of Living Index: 92.7)
Despite Lena Dunham's slight dig at this coastal Florida city, Tampa truly does offer a lot of attractive benefits for young professionals. Notwithstanding the great weather and prime location near some of Florida's other popular cities, recent economic growth is increasing migration to the city.
8. Detroit (Cost of Living Index: 95.1)
Last but not least, the Motor City has been getting a lot of bad press recently. However, more 20-somethings are starting to take advantage of the abundant cheap housing and strong push by local officials and companies to attract younger workers. A burgeoning art scene has been gaining more attention as many young artists are being attracted by Detriot's cheap rent and unique urban landscape. Attracting more young professionals willing to innovate and take risks might be exactly what Detroit needs as it emerges from the effects of mismanagement and controversy.