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While the term ‘millennial’ tends to get used to describe young people, the truth is that millennials are all grown up now, making their way through young adulthood.
In fact, the 2020s are the age of Generation Z (also known as zoomers), a generation that roughly spans those born between the mid to late 1990s and the early 2010s.
That means that Gen Z is coming of age, with a rough age span of 12 to 27, and many have already headed out into the world on their own, paying bills, learning to cook, going furniture shopping, and all the other things that come with adulting.
So where are the best places in the US for the next generation to live? To find out, we’ve analyzed some of the biggest cities in the country on a variety of factors that matter to Gen Z, including affordability, job prospects, equality, and more.
The best cities to live in for Gen Z
Rising from fourth place last year to the top spot is Portland, Oregon with a score of 6.60 out of 10. The city in the Pacific Northwest ranks highly for accessibility to both mental health providers and local physicians, placing in the top 3 for both factors. The state of Oregon also has the largest LBGTQ+ community too. Portland is perfect if you love green spaces, it’s home to nearly 300 city parks and only a short road trip away from breathtaking Oregon landscapes.
Portland has taken Oakland’s crown as the best place to live for Gen Z thanks to the dramatic increase in the affordability of its housing market, with house prices dropping by more than $22,000 since 2021, thanks to a lack of demand caused by rising mortgage rates. The city is also up two points in the equality index and has increased its proportion of mental health providers by more than 10%.
Up next is Minneapolis, Minnesota, scoring 6.38 out of 10. The City of Lakes takes second place thanks to its high level of equality as it has the smallest gender pay gap and Minneapolis also shares the top spot for its equality index score. The city is regularly ranked one of the healthiest in the nation, with plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation and access to fresh food,
Since last year, house prices in Minneapolis have dropped by more than $3,000 and the ratio of patients to mental health providers has decreased too so it’s no surprise it has moved up from tenth place in 2021.
Up from tenth place in 2021 is Denver, Colorado with a score of 6.35 out of 10. When it comes to healthcare, Denver places highly for access to both local physicians and mental healthcare providers. The city also shares the top spot for its commitment to LGBTQ+ equality and places in the top 10 for its narrow gender pay gap.
Denver has improved dramatically for Gen Z since last year, with its broadband access increasing by 3.2% thanks to increased infrastructure spending from the state government, although it has slipped from 18th to 19th place for the factor.
The best city for average age
If you’re moving to a new area, you want to know that there are going to be lots of people of a similar age to you, so that you can easily make friends. It was Lubbock, in Texas, that had the youngest population with a median age of just 29.8 years! A lot of people come to Lubbock to study at the highly-rated Texas Tech University and it’s also home to one of the best high schools in the country.
The largest LGBTQ+ population
Data for the size of the LGBT population was only available at state level, rather than by city, but we can see that Oregon has the highest, with 5.6% of the population identifying as LGBTQ+. Oregon is frequently referred to as one of the most LGBT-friendly states in the country and has multiple gay-friendly bars, clubs, and events.
The best cities for Equality Index
We also looked at the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index 2021 which ranks cities on a number of factors relating to equality, such as how inclusive the municipal laws, policies, and services are and things like non-discrimination laws and leadership on LGBTQ+ equality. A number of cities score a perfect 100 out of 100 including San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles.
The best city for patient to clinician ratio
Access to healthcare is another important thing to think about when moving to a new city, so we also took a look at which places had the highest numbers of clinicians on hand per person. It was San Francisco that had the most favorable ratio, at 629 people for every doctor.
The best cities for people to mental health provider ratio
As well as physical health, it’s important that we’re able to take care of our mental health too. As was the case with clinicians, San Francisco also had the best ratio of people to mental health providers, with 100 to 1, tied with Portland, Oregon, both topping the list for the second year running for the factor and increasing their number of mental health providers.
The best city for access to the internet
Being connected to the internet is vital today, whether that’s for work, school, or just keeping in touch with family and friends, but not everywhere in the country is as well connected. The city on our list that had the highest number of households connected was Gilbert, Arizona, with 96.3% increasing by 0.5% since 2021. It takes the top spot two years in a row thanks to the state government’s recent $68 million investment in its broadband capabilities.
Gilbert is located in the wider Phoenix area and has grown rapidly over the last three decades, from just 5,717 people to 243,254 as of 2020.
The best city for internet privacy
While access to the internet is important, it’s equally important that our personal data is safe when using it. That’s why we also took a look at Comparitech’s ranking of internet privacy laws by state, which gives a score out of 100 to each state based on the laws in place that govern how companies can use and disclose your data online, with those cities situated in California achieving the highest score, with 77 out of 100.
The best city for current job listings
Getting a job is one of the most important things for zoomers who have just graduated high school or college, so a healthy job market is super important. Looking at current job listings, it was Jersey City that had the highest proportion, with 84,613 per 100,000 people, a trend that continues from last year. Interestingly, another city in New Jersey had the second-highest number of job opportunities: Newark.
The best city for house prices
The affordability of housing is also a key concern and varies quite drastically around the country. The cheapest major city in the US when it comes to property prices is Detroit, where the average house costs just $56,960, down from $61,539 last year. The decline of the city’s famous motor industry saw Detroit fall on hard times and in 2013 was the largest US city to file for bankruptcy, but the city is undergoing a revival, with income and house prices both on the rise now.
The city with the lowest gender pay gap
Unfortunately, there’s a gap between the earnings of men and women right around the country, but the major city where that gap is the narrowest is Minneapolis. Men in the city earn an average of $47,297 compared to $45,805 for women, a difference of 3.15% making it the city with the highest level of financial equality.
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We looked at the 100 most populated cities in the US, ranking each on the following factors, giving them a normalized score out of 10 for each factor before taking a final average score across all ten. Note that some cities had to be omitted due to a lack of data.
The median age in each city according to Data USA.
The LGBT proportion of the population for the state according to the UCLA School of Law Williams Institute’s LGBT data & demographics.
Ash is the founder of Living Cozy. He's been featured by publishers like MyDomaine, Realtor, Real Homes, Architectural Digest, The Spruce, Homes and Gardens, and more. As a writer his work has appeared in publications like FastCompany, TNW, and Entrepreneur.
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