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America’s Biggest Boomtowns

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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The story of the United States is the story of people migrating to different cities and towns to build new lives through new opportunities. From the promise of gold to the promise of big tech in Northern California; from trading furs to building cars in Detroit; from the prosperity of shipping to the prosperity of hospitality in Charleston, the country is built on boomtowns.

We wanted to find out where Americans are gathering now to take advantage of growing prosperity and improved lifestyles to achieve the American dream.

Key findings

  • Austin, Texas; Provo, Utah and Raleigh, N.C., top our list of America’s boomtowns.
  • Scranton, Pa.; Syracuse, N.Y. and New Haven, Conn., fall to the bottom.
  • Americans are flocking to and prospering in Texas.
    • Texas metros take up one-third of the top 15 spots.
  • Parts of the Mountain region are also booming, comprising four of the top 15.
    • Two of the three Utah metros we reviewed are in the top 15 (Provo in 2nd place and Ogden in 12th), with Salt Lake City not far behind in 18th.
    • Denver came in 6th, and Boise, Idaho came in 8th.
  • The Carolinas are also attracting workers and businesses, with Raleigh taking the 3rd spot, Charleston the 4th and Charlotte the 13th. Durham, Raleigh’s neighbor, is in 16th place.
  • On the other end of the spectrum are the Northeast and some neighboring states, including Ohio, where four of six metros in our study saw their labor forces and the number of businesses shrink, and only one saw appreciable growth (Columbus, Ohio).
  • Every metro in Connecticut and Pennsylvania falls in the bottom quarter of our list, as did every metro in New York except for New York City. In fact, the only Northeast city to fall in the top half of our list was Boston.

The elements of a boom

To find out which of America’s metros are booming, we looked at how much each metro has changed between 2011 and 2016 (the most recent year for which all data is available at the metro level) in three different categories, which we scored independently before combining the results to reach a metro’s final score.

Growing industry

The first thing we looked at was how much business and industry has grown locally. We not only wanted to know how many new businesses there are but also how businesses in general are doing, as measured by their increase in hiring and — for businesses that don’t have employees, known as non-employers — how much revenue has increased.

More people and housing

The most essential component to a boomtown is this: Are people coming, and is the metro growing to keep up? To figure that out, we used the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) to measure changes in total population and the number of housing units.

Growing workforce and employment opportunities

People generally enter a local workforce because they seek better opportunities, so we wanted to see how that changed, along with improvements to the unemployment rate and the increase in earnings.

Why some of our results might surprise you

Some of the metros that have been declared among the “fastest growing” in the news may fall lower on our list on than one would expect. For example, Greenville, S.C., has been touted as one of the fastest growing cities in America, but we see a population growth of 5.5% over the five-year period. Nothing to sniff at, but it’s the 13th highest on our list rather than in the top five.

One reason is that we looked at the five-year growth period rather than one year. Another is that the Census changed the area of some metros, so additional counties were added between 2012 and 2013. To make sure we were actually talking about the exact same footprint, we used and compared the data for counties that are currently in each metropolitan statistical area.

The biggest boomtown in America

These are the metros that are seeing the biggest influx of people, work opportunities and business growth.

1. Austin, Texas

Final Score: 87.8

Austin jumps way out ahead of all the metros we reviewed, showing the greatest five-year growth in population and housing, earning a perfect Population & Housing score of 100. Even so, the increase in housing units of 10% isn’t keeping up with the population growth of almost 16% over a five-year period. Interestingly, almost all of those gains in population have gone directly to the local workforce, and that, combined with a 23% drop in unemployment and an almost 9% increase in median wages, gives Austin the highest Workforce & Earnings score (70.3) on our list. While the metro comes in second for Business Growth, it’s with an A score of 93, thanks to a 21% increase in the number of businesses and a 24% increase in the number of employees those firms hired.

2. Provo, Utah

Final Score: 75.7

Business is booming in Provo, with 20% more businesses in 2016 than in 2011 employing 30% more workers. This gives the metro the top Business Growth score of 95.1. It also ranks high in Population & Housing, coming in third with a score of 79.9 thanks to a population increase of 12% and a housing increase of 8%. The Workforce & Earnings score is a respectable 52.2 (8th highest on our list), thanks to 13% growth in the workforce, and an OK drop in unemployment compared with other metros, at 20% (32nd). But wages don’t seem to be keeping up, as the median earnings for workers is only 3.5% higher than it was five years earlier (63rd).

3. Raleigh, N.C.

Final Score: 67.7

The second biggest population and housing increases — 13% and 9%, respectively — give Raleigh the second highest Population & Housing score of 84.1. North Carolina’s capital ranks No. 5 in Business Growth with a score of 70.8, boasting a 13% increase in establishments and a 21% increase in paid employees. Raleigh earned the 10th highest Workforce & Earnings score (48.3), thanks to 12% increase in the civilian labor force, which offset the mediocre (relative to the other metros on our list) 18% drop in the unemployment rate and a median earnings growth of under 4%.

4. Charleston, S.C.

Final Score: 66.4

Nipping at Raleigh’s heels, the historical coastal city saw its population jump by 11% between 2011 and 2016. The increase in housing units hasn’t kept up, at just over 6%, giving Charleston the fifth-highest Population & Housing score (66.9). The Business Growth score is the fourth highest on our list, at 71.7, due to a 14% increase in business establishments and 17% increase in paid employees (the fifth and 18th highest gains on our list, respectively). Charleston shines even more in Workforce & Earnings category, with a score of 60.6, the third highest on our list. The healthy 22% drop in unemployment and an 11% increase in the workforce (closely matching the overall population increase) are matched by the seventh-highest median wage increase of over 9%.

5. Nashville, Tenn.

Final Score: 60.7

Business is good in Nashville, where firms grew their staff by 21% (fourth highest), numbers that seem to be in excess of the 10% increase in establishment (22nd highest). That earned Nashville a Business Growth score of 72.9, the third highest among the metros we reviewed. It follows that the metro, which has long been diversifying from its country music legacy, has the fifth highest Workforce & Earnings score of 54.6, thanks to a 9% increase in workforce (ninth highest), a 25% drop in unemployment (14th highest), and 7% increase in median earnings for workers (16th highest). An interesting note is that the increase in the workforce is actually greater than the overall increase in population of just under 9% (14th highest), suggesting that the boom may be luring people to work. Although at 5%, housing growth isn’t keeping up with the influx of people, it is the 13th biggest increase on our list and adds up to a Population & Housing score of 54.5.

The most sluggish places

Not every metro is growing, and some are even contracting. These are the five most sluggish of the metros we reviewed.

100. Scranton, Pa.

Final Score: 9.9

Believe it or not, Scranton’s 0.4 Population & Housing score wasn’t the lowest on our list (Toledo, Ohio earned a perfect 0.0), but it is the result of a population drop of 0.4% and a 0.1% increase in housing units. At 14.3, Scranton had the third lowest Business Growth score (Pittsburgh and Syracuse, N.Y. fare worse at 13.2 and 14.1 respectively), thanks to an incremental 0.6% increase in business establishments. However, businesses did slightly better in hiring 5.5% more employees, the 15th lowest on our list. One bright spot is the rise in median earnings for workers — at 8.4%, it was the 11th highest of all the metros we reviewed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to counter the 1.4% drop in labor force that presumably followed the drop in population, or the slight increase in unemployment (the fifth and sixth smallest gains on our list). That adds up to a Workforce & Earnings score 15.1, the 12th lowest on our list.

99. Syracuse, N.Y.

Final Score: 10.8

Business isn’t great in this upstate college town; only one other metro (Pittsburgh) got a score lower than Syracuse’s Business Growth score of 14.1. The metro saw no change in the number of business establishments, and businesses only increased their staff by 4% (the eighth lowest on our list). The population stayed steady with a 0.1% increase and was slightly outpaced by new housing units (0.9%), earning the metro a Population & Housing score of 4.6, the 12th lowest on our list. A 0.4% decrease in workforce and a marginal decrease in the unemployment rate of 3.2% offset the metro’s respectable 5.9% gain in median earnings (33rd highest), leaving Syracuse with the eighth-lowest Workforce & Earnings score (13.6).

98. New Haven, Conn.

Final Score: 11.6

People aren’t moving to this Ivy League community, and the people there seem to be leaving the workforce. Unemployment was down almost 9%, which seems great, but 72 other metros on our list saw bigger improvements, and 66 other metros had their median earnings increase by more than the 3% New Haven did. Business establishments grew by almost 2% in New Haven in five years (80th out of 100), but they only took on 5% more workers (90th place). That general stasis earned New Haven a score of 3 for Population & Housing (10th lowest), 13.9 for Workforce & Earnings (ninth lowest) and 17.9 in Business Growth (ninth lowest).

97. Cleveland

Final Score: 13.1

People seem to be leaving metros in Ohio, and Cleveland is no exception, experiencing a population decrease of just under 1%. In fact, it was the biggest population loss of all metros we reviewed. There was a small increase of 0.2% in housing units (fourth lowest), which is why Cleveland’s Population & Housing score of 1.1 came in ahead of Toledo, Ohio and Scranton, Pa. The number of establishments actually went down by about 1% (second only to Toledo’s loss of 1.4%), and the remaining businesses only increased their staff by about 4% (the fifth lowest gain). Overall, Cleveland’s Business Growth score of 15.6 was the sixth lowest on our list. On a brighter note, Cleveland earned a Workforce & Earning score of 22.7 (71st out of 100), thanks to a substantial 17% reduction in unemployment (46th out of 100) and over 4% more in median earnings (52nd), but these results were dragged down by a workforce that shrank by 1.4%, the fourth biggest loss on our list.

96. Hartford, Conn.

Final Score: 13.3

The good news is that median earnings for workers in Hartford went up by 6.6%, the 23rd highest on our list. The drop in unemployment was almost 9%, which seems like a lot, but 74 metros on our list did better. That, combined with a barely perceptible 0.3% increase in the workforce gave Hartford a Workforce & Earnings score of 20.6, which ranks 76th out of 100. Unfortunately, it’s downhill from there, with 90th place in the Population & Housing score because of a population growth of 0.3% and a housing unit increase of 0.6%. Connecticut’s capital had the 5th lowest Business Growth score of 15.1, thanks mostly to a lackluster 7% increase in receipts by non-employer businesses (second lowest on our list).

Comparing the 100 biggest metros in the U.S.

Methodology

Limiting our research to the current 100 largest metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”), we tracked the five-year change between 2011 and 2016 (the last year for which all data was available) using data from the U.S. Census American Community Survey and County Business Patterns in the following categories:

Population & Housing:

  • Total population
  • Total housing units

Workforce & Earnings:

  • Total civilian labor force
  • Unemployment rate
  • Median earnings for workers (dollars)

Business Growth:

  • Number of establishments
  • Paid employees per pay period
  • Total receipts for non-employers

Because the U.S. Census has changed the boundaries of some MSAs in the intervening years, we collected the data at the county level and then mapped it to the current MSA borders.

Each data series was scored relative to the other metros so that the biggest positive change received a score of 100 and any zero or negative changes received a score of 0 (except for unemployment rate, where this was reversed). For each category, these scores were summed and then divided by the number of series in each category, for a highest possible category score of 100 and a lowest of 0. The three category scores were then summed and divided by three for a final score. The highest possible final score was 100 and the lowest was 0.

How the metros have changed

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Kali McFadden
Kali McFadden |

Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at kali.mcfadden@magnifymoney.com

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The Best Places to Spend Your Golden Years (and Age in Place)

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Retirement doesn’t have to mean moving away from a city you love or giving up the cultural opportunities bigger metros provide that can make your retirement years golden. Aging in place is a growing phenomenon, as many seniors plan to stay in their own homes and remain active members of their communities rather than move elsewhere. But other retirees may still feel the urge for new scenery and a new zip code, whether to lower their cost of living as they adjust to life on a fixed income, or to find a new home that better fits their lifestyle or health care needs.

At MagnifyMoney, we decided to look at which of the 50 largest metros offer the best opportunities for senior citizens in terms of lifestyle, cost of living, medical care and — when the time comes — both in-home and residential assisted care.

Key takeaways

  • Portland, Ore., Salt Lake City and Denver top the list of best places to spend your golden years.
  • Retirement life isn’t so golden in New York, Houston and Miami, which earned spots in the bottom three of our list.
  • Surprisingly, metros in the iconic retiree destination Florida didn’t do well on our list, with Jacksonville ranking 32 out of 50, Orlando ranking 40, and Miami ranking 48.
  • Midwestern metros did well, however, thanks to a relatively low cost of living.

Aging in place

Aging in place simply means living in one’s own home (possibly in a continuing care retirement community) independently for as long as possible. In a 2017 AARP survey, senior citizens consistently expressed a preference for living “in their homes and community-at-large”.

As the monumental baby-boomer generation tips into old age, communities, policy makers and other institutions have started to focus their attention on creating environments to increase the likelihood of successfully aging in place.

One big bright spot is the availability of technology to assist people with certain vital tasks, such as taking medicines, keeping track of lists and contacting medical providers for nonemergency consultations.

Seniors can access transportation from anywhere with apps like Uber and Lyft, shop for groceries from their computers and use smart speakers if the keypads on their phones become challenging, access smart-home features (like changing the thermostat) or even call for help in an emergency.  Wearable health monitors including fall alerts, mean that family and medical professionals can be immediately alerted if any concerns arise.

With that in mind, we were especially mindful of local metrics that would help people age in place, such as lower costs of living, community engagement and the availability and quality of assisted care.

How we ranked metros

We used four major categories to make our determinations of which of the biggest 50 US metros were the best places to spend one’s golden years.

Lifestyle:

  • Volunteer rates for those ages 55 and older to get a sense of where senior citizens had the opportunities to be most engaged with the community-at-large
  • Rate of physical activity in each metro to get a sense of which communities offer the most opportunities for activity
  • Percentage of residents ages 65 and over who moved into the metro that year so we could see how desirable seniors find these metros

Cost of living:

  • Median monthly housing costs because whether renting or owning, retirees are on fixed incomes and the ability to afford housing is crucial to aging in place
  • Regional prices for goods and services because the salary bumps of living in more expensive places no longer apply to those who are no longer working

Medical quality and cost:

  • The percentage of hospital discharges of Medicare enrollees that were for conditions considered preventable with adequate primary care
  • The average cost that Medicare pays per enrollee in a given metro
  • The percentage of people aged 65 or older who are up-to-date on their core preventive services, such as flu shots and cancer screenings

The availability and quality of different kinds of assisted care:

  • We looked at the number of home nursing service providers registered with Medicare per 100,000 residents because the availability of home nursing may be essential to those who age in place
  • The average Medicare rating of registered home nursing service providers
  • The number of nursing home beds registered with Medicare per 100,000 residents because sometimes people do require temporary or permanent intensive residential care and sometimes on very short notice
  • The number of continuing care retirement communities registered with Medicare per 100,000 residents because these communities (a subset of nursing homes) offer a bridge between independent living in private apartments (with some community and medical amenities such as dining rooms, group activities, physical therapy) and more intensive nursing care in the same facility
  • The average Medicare rating of registered nursing homes

The top places to spend your golden years

1 – Portland, Ore.

Final score: 62.6
About 6% of Portland’s population ages 65 and older moved there from somewhere else in 2016, the highest rate of any metro on our list, which implies that retirees who have ability to move find Portland highly desirable. The metro boasts an 82.6% activity rate, and while housings costs are higher than average at $1,236 per month, costs for goods and services are a smidgen below the nation’s average. Seattle was the only metro on our list to get a medical quality and cost score higher than Portland’s score of 79.8. Portland falls short in the availability of assisted care services, however, with fewer than one home nursing provider per 100,000 residents, and they’re not rated particularly well by Medicare. A lack of nursing homes and continuing care retirement communities leaves Portland with an assisted care quality and availability score of 21.1; the average among metros we reviewed was 38.4.

2 – Salt Lake City

Final score: 61.3
Salt Lake City seems to have the most engaged senior community, with 40.3% of people over the age of 55 volunteering, far in excess of the 24.7% average among the 50 metros we reviewed. Residents in the metro are also a bit more active than many other places, and at 27.6%, the metro has the lowest rate of preventable hospital stays. That may explain why, at $8,914, the average healthcare cost per Medicare patient is lower than the $9,627 average for the 50 metros. The metro could use a boost in their assisted care and quality availability, earning a score of 35.4, which is lower than the average of all metros we reviewed. Interestingly, Salt Lake City does not appear to be a draw for seniors, as only 1.5% of them moved there from elsewhere.

3 – Denver

Final score: 61.1
Residents in only two other metros (San Francisco and San Diego) get more physical activity than in Denver, where 83.3% do, and that combined with the fourth highest percentage of seniors who moved into the metro from elsewhere brings Denver’s lifestyle score to 75.5 – drastically higher than 50 metro average of 43.8. At just 29%, the Mile High City has the third lowest rate of hospitalizations of Medicare recipients are for preventable causes, and the medical quality and cost score is 75.9, compared with the average of 48.3 across all 50 metros. On the downside, median housing is quite expensive at $1,285 per month, higher than the national average, and the metro could use some additional assisted care options.

The worst places to spend your golden years

50 – New York

Final score: 30.8
Those who always dreamed of moving to New York City sometime in the future may be disappointed to know that senior citizens don’t fare very well there. Community engagement is low, with only 16.2% of seniors volunteering, although locals do get a respectable amount of physical activity. The big issue for the Big Apple is the high cost of living: The metro has the highest costs for good and services, and median monthly housing costs for the metro are $1,528. Health care also isn’t as good as it could be, with the metro earning a score of 34.0, compared with the 50 metro average of 48.3. The upside is that assisted care availability score just bumps over the metro average at 39.0.

49 – Houston

Final score: 33.7
Houston needs to improve in several areas, but where it does worst is in the availability of assisted care. The metro has fewer than one home nursing service provider for every 100,000 residents, and fewer than 295 beds per 100,000 residents (compared with the 50 metro average of 463.3). What’s more, the average Medicare ratings for nursing homes is the lowest of any metro we reviewed, at 2.3. All of these things combined to give the metro the lowest assisted care availability and quality score by a considerable margin (19.3). The metro also performed very poorly for medical care quality and cost, earning a score of 24.5, compared with the 50 metro average of 48.3.

48 – Miami

Final score 39.1
Surprisingly for a place we often think of as a mecca for retirees, Miami isn’t the ideal destination we saw in “The Golden Girls” TV series. Senior volunteer rates of just 12.1% are the lowest of any metro we reviewed, the average cost per Medicare enrollee is the highest ($11,582) and it has the fourth lowest rate of seniors being up-to-date on preventative care (26.3%). Miami runs on the low end of the middle of the pack for cost of living, but it does much better in assisted care availability and quality, earning a score of 46.9, compared with the 50 metro average of 38.4.

Metros often perform well in some areas and poorly in others

It stands to reason that with so many elements to consider, no metro can beat the others in every single area, and some metros that rise to the top in one area we measured sink to the bottom in others.

  • Cleveland has the lowest rate of seniors who are up-to-date on their core preventative services, but it has the most continuing care retirement communities per capita of any of the metros we reviewed.
  • Conversely, Raleigh, N.C., has the highest rate of seniors who are up-to-date on preventative care, but the fourth fewest continuing care retirement communities.
  • Washington, D.C., has the fourth highest senior volunteer rate, but also has the third highest housing costs.
  • Buffalo, N.Y., has the second cheapest housing, but also has the second worst rate of seniors up-to-date on core preventative services.

It’s important for individuals and couples to decide which elements are most important for their later years and make their choices accordingly.

It’s also essential for communities to make improvements in their weakest areas as the number of retirees continues to skyrocket.

Here’s How All 50 Metros Compare With Each Other

Methodology:

Data was grouped into four categories:

Lifestyle

  • Percent of people aged 55 and over who volunteered (Corporation for National & Community Service “Volunteering and Civic Life in America” database, available here.)
  • Percentage of people who reported getting physical activity (The Robert Wood Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute “2018 County Health Rankings” database, available here.)
  • Percentage of the population, aged 65 and older, who moved into the metro in 2016 (U.S. Census Bureau “Geographic Mobility by Selected Characteristics in the United States” 2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, available here.)

Cost of living

  • Median Monthly Housing Costs (U.S. Census Bureau “Median Monthly Housing Costs (Dollars)” 2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, available here.)
  • Regional Price Parities, excluding housing costs (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Real Personal Income and Regional Price Parities for 2016, available here.)

Medical quality and cost

  • Percentage of hospital admissions of Medicare enrollees that are for preventable conditions (The Robert Wood Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute “2018 County Health Rankings” database, available here.)
  • Health care costs per Medicare enrollee (The Robert Wood Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute “2018 County Health Rankings” database, available here.)
  • Percentage of the population, aged 65 and older, who are up-to-date on core preventative services (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “500 Cities: Local Data for Better Health, 2017 release,” available here.)

Assisted care availability and quality

  • Number of home nursing service providers per 100,000 residents (Medicare “Home Health Care Agencies” database, available here.)
  • Average rating of home nursing service providers (Medicare “Home Health Care Agencies” database, available here.)
  • Nursing home beds per 100,000 residents (Medicare, “Nursing Home Compare” dataset, available here.)
  • Continuing care retirement communities per 100,000 residents (Medicare, “Nursing Home Compare” dataset, available here.)
  • Average nursing home ratings (Medicare, “Nursing Home Compare” dataset, available here.)

The data was aggregated to the metropolitan statistical area level (“MSA”) and limited to the 50 largest MSAs by population.  Where necessary, statistics were derived using the 2016 population data from the “Comparative Demographic Estimates” table for 2016 from the US Census Bureau’s American Community Survey 5-year estimates (available here.)

Each category was scored individually by created a relative value for each component, summing them together, and then dividing by the number of components, for a highest possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of zero.  The sum of these four categorical scores were then divided by four to create the final score, with a highest possible score of 100 and a lowest of zero.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Kali McFadden
Kali McFadden |

Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at kali.mcfadden@magnifymoney.com

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Life Events

America’s Most ‘Hygge’ Cities

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

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In Denmark, the term “hygge” refers to a quality of coziness or sense of comfort. Around the rest of the world, hygge has become a lifestyle trend in the way people approach relaxation and everyday indulgences.

Hygge, pronounced “hoo-guh,” can be a focus on the atmosphere you create at home with candles or a plush throw blanket, the yoga pants you lounge around in when you’re decompressing after a long workweek or even the most comforting dishes or homemade sweet treats you indulge in with friends and family. However you translate it, hygge is certainly not staring at your phone all day or binge-watching Netflix alone all afternoon.

That’s why MagnifyMoney decided to take a look at major cities in the U.S. to find out which ones offer the best chance to build a truly “hygge lifestyle.”

We scraped Instagram for 17 different hygge-themed hashtags (like #cozy, #content and #hygge itself) across a total of 1.7 million posts. Then we surveyed Danish residents to find out how closely they think each of the above terms related to their idea of hygge lifestyle on a scale of 1 to 7. The averages of these ratings were used to weigh each term’s influence.

Our analysis revealed the top 15 cities across the U.S. embracing the hygge lifestyle. With results scattered all across the country, this list proves that cozy, comfortable living isn’t dependent on a particular climate or scenery and can be achieved virtually anywhere.

Key Findings

  1. Santa Monica, Calif., (a generally warm state) was the most hygge city in America.
  2. Overall, states that stood as the most hygge were generally found in colder northern regions lead by Vermont, Washington, D.C. and Montana.
  3. Based on more than 28,000 hashtags, hygge was more commonly linked to home decor and interior design than anything else.
  4. Cities like Miami, Orlando and Atlanta ranked among the most prevalent for feelings and words associated with hygge, indicating traveling to warm climates could be a popular way to channel hygge in colder months.

Leading the way with the highest value of weighted tags we searched for was Santa Monica, Calif. This oceanside city proves you don’t need freezing temperatures to channel the hygge mood and ranked at the top of our list for hashtags like #comfortable, #content and #cozy. With several hygge-friendly beach boutique hotels and plenty of choices for dining out or eating in, you can savor the hygge atmosphere whether you live in Santa Monica or are just passing through.

Head north for a truly hygge lifestyle

While sunny beach paradises across the country — like Santa Monica and Miami Beach, Fla., (related hashtags included #happy, #love and #relaxed) — made the cut for our most hygge cities in America, many of the coziest environments were actually found in states known for more frigid climates.

Perhaps because comfy sweaters, crackling fireplaces and low-lit candles can be such an easy way to evoke the Danish concept, hygge can be a powerful tool in warding off the winter blues in cities like Missoula, Mont. and Minneapolis.

The state of Montana ranked second overall in Google search queries related to “hygge” and Missoula ranked fourth overall. With more than a few picture-perfect ways to spend the winter, from scenic nature trails to adventurous ski slopes, you can stay peaceful and relaxed while still embracing the cold weather in the Treasure State.

In Washington, with a similar fondness for both indoor and outdoor activities in the cooler winter months, we found Seattle ranked among the top 10 cities for #hygge, #autumn and #sweaterweather. According to the Danish, food (and especially eating with friends) is an integral part of hygge culture, and Seattle has locals and visitors alike covered on that front, whether you’re looking for a warm drink or a comforting bite.

A nationwide trend

Every state has a little bit of hygge in it, even if the cities there didn’t necessarily rank among our most definitive places to soak in the relaxed energy and contentment associated with the concept.

At least one city in every state earned the highest marks for the number of hashtags used in that area, including #hygge, #snug, #comfortable and #content (among others). While some of these cities (including Austin, Texas, New Orleans and Seattle) may be well-known locales, others may be embracing hygge under the radar. Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is known for its scenic lakefront mountain views and comfortable balance between warm summer months and colder winter temperatures.

In Flagstaff, Ariz., there is a similarly elevated climate and mountainous landscape abound. With the second highest altitude among metropolitan areas, the typical desert heat is lost on people enjoying the hygge vibe in this small mountain city.

Ranking each state

While some warmer cities may have stood out among our most popular destinations for that comforting, intimate energy, the states specializing in hygge were largely clustered in regions that typically endure a more frigid winter season.

The cold winter months may look inviting on a postcard or a TV holiday special, but finding that glowing sentiment can take a bit of work when the temperatures start to fall. The physical sensation of putting on a comfy sweater or cuddling up with someone under a warm blanket does more than keep the harsh cool air away; it can help create a more balanced mental state and sense of well-being. The Danish know a thing or two about the cold, and even just sitting by the open fire with a warm drink or enjoying home-baked goods with pleasant company can do the trick.

As we learned, the states that have the best hygge energy may also have the most practice with these winter weather techniques. Vermont, Washington, D.C., Montana, New York and Maine ranked as the top five regions for their hygge status on social media.

Conclusion

Denmark isn’t just known for bracing the bitter cold in the winter months — it has also been called one of the happiest countries on the planet. Hygge may not be the answer to all of life’s problems, but if Denmark is any indication, it probably couldn’t hurt. Americans in both cool and warm climates are finding ways to bring that picture-perfect, cozy vibe out of magazines and into real life. While search trends for hygge were higher in northern regions, we found no limit to the types of cities and states that might be trying to take a slightly more comfortable and mild approach.

Methodology

We scraped Instagram for 17 different hashtags. We surveyed Danish residents on how closely each of the above terms relates to hygge on a scale of 1 to 7. The averages of these ratings were used to weight each term’s influence. Terms directly related (like “hygge”) were excluded and automatically given a 7. The weights, number of posts and dates collected for each are outlined below.

Data was cleaned and geocoded using shape files of the U.S. We pulled the populations of incorporated areas, with populations over 50,000 from the U.S. Census to calculate per capita numbers for each term and city. Each per capita ranking per term was then again normalized to a scale of 0 to 1.

The weights were applied to the normalized per capita for the related term and added together to get an overall ranking of hygge-related posts on Instagram.

We pulled the search interest for hygge from Google Trends over a 12-month span on Nov. 30, 2017. We then normalized the search trends on a scale of 0 to 1. The normalized trends were added to the Instagram posts score to get a meta ranking to represent hygge across the U.S. We used the search trends across the entire state for each city as city trends were limited to only 13 of the most populated areas. For more information on the methodology behind Google Trends, see here.

Cities in Vermont are notably missing from these rankings because the most populated city, Burlington, only has a population of just over 42,000, which excludes it from the census population set.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Kali McFadden
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Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at kali.mcfadden@magnifymoney.com

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Places That Lost the Most Bank Branches

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

Not only are banks shuttering many of their branches across America, but they’re also declining to build more branches to accommodate population growth in others.

In a new study by MagnifyMoney, we found that there were 7% fewer bank branches in 2017 than there were a decade earlier in America’s 100 biggest metros.  At the same time, the population of those metros grew an average of 11%, so the number of branches per capita actually dropped an average of 16%.

For the analysis, we looked at a combination of data, including a record of active bank branches from the U.S. Federal Reserve and population data from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.

Even in some fast-growing places, we found banks are shuttering brick-and-mortar locations at a pretty good clip.  It’s a lot easier to not build new branches than it is to close existing ones, so it seems likely that failure to keep pace with a growing population fits nicely into a strategy of reducing branches for a growing customer base.

There are several reasons for this trend, but here are the big ones.

Merging banks means less need to compete through branch access

The word “synergy” is a popular one for the Mergers & Acquisitions crowd, and the banking world has been pretty gung-ho about mergers over the last few years. Indeed, the FDIC reports that the number of individual banking companies that conduct their business with branches dropped an astounding 25% between 2006 and 2016, thanks to 2,447 mergers among commercial banks and 349 among savings banks.  The newly consolidated banks don’t need branches that cover the same areas, and they may find that the reduced competition means they don’t need to fight for customers with more storefronts.

Branch access isn’t as important to banking customers as it used to be

A 2015 survey by the consulting firm Accenture reported that only 19% of customers say they would close their accounts if they lost their local branches, a significant drop from 2013, when 48% said they would close their accounts due to the inconvenience.

Friday afternoon teller lines to deposit paychecks and get the week’s cash have gone the way of rotary phones, but even the need for ATMs has been steadily declining thanks to easier card-over-cash use, online access and mobile banking apps that have improved exponentially over the last couple of years.  Users don’t even have to set foot in a bank to deposit the occasional physical check, thanks to smartphone scans, and friends can pay each other back with independent apps.

People are becoming more comfortable with accessing their money by digital means only, and they’re often getting better returns on, and cheaper access to, their money with savings account rates at online banks often much higher than those at traditional banks.

While many people find walking into a bank and talking to a professional behind a large desk a reassuring way to deal with the uncertainty and anxiety around buying financial products and services, more and more people prefer to gather as much information as they can across multiple banks, lenders and other businesses in the financial products space.

One exception to the trend

J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. recently announced that it will use part of its recent tax-cut windfall to build new branches, but at first glance, this appears to be a push into new markets, not a revitalization of existing ones.

Places that lost the most branches

1 – Lakeland, Fla.

Banks are shutting more branches in this in central Florida community than in any of the others we reviewed — a loss of 23% over 10 years.  Thanks to a healthy population increase of 19%, Lakeland-Winter Haven lost even more branches on a per capita basis: 35%.  That brings them down to 17 branches per 100,000 residents, which is considerably lower than the average 25 per 100,000 residents we found for the 100 cities we reviewed. Interestingly, Winter Haven is home to CenterState Bank, which has been on a buying spree to become the state’s biggest community bank. They closed 100 of their branches between 2009 and 2017 (just under half of what they had and acquired), which they say resulted in a per-branch deposit increase of 185%. They show no sign of slowing down this approach.

2 – Buffalo, N.Y.

Buffalo lost one out of five bank branches in the last decade.  This was marginally offset on per capita basis by the slight population loss (less than half a percent).  This may be in part because Buffalo’s hometown bank company, M&T, has closed branches as they gobble up banks in other communities, but they’re certainly not alone.  For example, KeyBank shut down several branches after purchasing local First Niagara.

3 – Baltimore

Some 19% of Baltimore’s bank branches closed their doors in the last ten years, although that still leaves them with slightly higher than average 27 branches per 100,000 people.  That’s especially surprising, given that the population increased by 8%, leading to a per capita loss of 25% (16% is the average for the 100 cities we examined).  Baltimore started the decade with almost 36 banks per 100,000, significantly higher than the 2007 average of 30.  While many banks closed branches, Santander shuttered every one of its Maryland branches in 2015, many of which they had thanks to the 2009 acquisition of Sovereign Bank.

4 – Stockton, Calif.

Stockton started with fewer bank branches on a per capita basis than most other big cities (18 versus an average of 30 for every 100,000 residents), but that didn’t stop them from closing their doors at a rate of 18% over the last ten years.  This combined with a population bump of 9% over the same period, to create a per capita loss of 28%.  If the city’s guaranteed basic income experiment works out, banks may take another look at the struggling community.

5 – Melbourne, Fla.

Palm Bay and Melbourne sit due east of Winter Haven, and while CenterState doesn’t appear to have a stake in this community, plenty of other community banks are consolidating in central Florida.  Melbourne has changed at a similar rate to Stockton: 18% fewer branches, 8% more people, leaving 24% fewer branches per capita, but that still leaves them with 20 branches per 100,000 people.

Places that saw an increase in branches

1 – El Paso, Texas

El Paso has 11% more branches now than it did 10 years ago, but that may be because they were so underserved to begin with.  To put this in perspective, the metro of 838,000 has 90 bank branches, which comes out to just under 11 branches per 100,000 people.  The average among the 100 biggest cities is 25 branches per 100,000 people, even after the drawdown.  The addition of nine new branches hasn’t kept up with the population increase of 14%, leading to an overall drop in branches per person of over 2%.  It looks like banks may continue to open branches, with a revitalization effort underway for Western Heritage Bank (in part, at least, through acquisition) and El Paso’s downtown.  Meanwhile, El Paso’s biggest credit union, GECU, is trying a strategy of more, but smaller, branches.

2 – Raleigh, N.C.

Like other many other southern cities, Research Triangle has seen a population explosion of 32% in the last decade. The addition of 24 branches (9%) doesn’t cover the distance, which means the number of branches per capita actually dropped by a substantial 17%.

3 – Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City is something of an anomaly, in that they added more branches to their already higher than average (per capita) number (33 per 100,000 residents in 2007).  That may be a function of the sheer land mass – the metropolitan statistical area comprised over 5,500 square miles.  They’ve added 18 branches over the last ten years, an increase of over 5%, but in a familiar story, that increase didn’t keep up with the 17% population increase.

Methodology:

Because the borders of Metropolitan Statistical Areas (“MSAs”) changed at the 2010 census, sometimes dramatically, we constructed the data to the current definition of MSAs using the crosswalk provided by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. We used the county-to-MSA crosswalk because that was the smallest geographic population designation reported by the U.S. Census for the 2006 American Community Survey.  In the event that a particular county was not reported for both time frames, that county was excluded from the analysis.

Loss of branches data were reported by the U.S. Federal Reserve and were matched at the constituted MSA level to 2016 (most recent available) and 2007 populations from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey.  The results were limited to the 100 largest constituted MSAs, by population.

Statistics regarding the number of individual institutions was derived from “Statistics At A Glance,” as of Sept. 30, 2017 table and Table CB03 from the FDIC.

For the sake of clarity, we used the first city name and state name listed in the metropolitan statistical area designation, which we understand to be the most populated component (e.g., “St. Louis” for “St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington, MO-IL”), except where a secondary city was deemed more familiar (e.g., “Fort Myers, Fla.” for “Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL”).

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Kali McFadden
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Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at kali.mcfadden@magnifymoney.com

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Places Where Americans Live the Most Balanced Lifestyles

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

As Americans, we’re often focused on status markers, like the amount of money we make, but research indicates that time we spend with people we care about, good health and income equality are some of biggest factors that lead to happiness. It’s not just how much we earn, it’s what we have to do to earn it, what we get in exchange for it and whether we have the time and health to enjoy our friends and family.

In other words, a balanced life.

To figure out where people are most likely to find that kind of balance, we compared seven measures in the 50 biggest metropolitan areas of the U.S.

We looked at the following (full methodology below):

    • Average commute times
    • How much of their incomes residents spend on housing
    • How many hours people work compared to how much they earn
    • Local income inequality
    • How many people are in very good or excellent health
    • Whether they get enough sleep at night
    • How local prices for typical consumer goods and services (excluding housing) compare with the national average

Below are the places that ranked highest — and lowest.

Places with the most balanced lifestyles

For clarity, we used the name of the major city in a metro area (i.e., Grand Rapids, instead of Grand Rapids-Wyoming-Muskegon, Mich.)

1. Grand Rapids, Mich.

Residents of Grand Rapids work a little harder for their money than those at other top cities on our list, but that money seems to work a lot harder for them, too. Generally, housing only costs 18% of income, commutes are under 22 minutes, prices on consumer goods are about 5% lower than the national average, and income inequality is relatively low. Maybe that’s why 56% of the population are reported to be in very good health (the ninth highest), even though 14 other cities have fewer sleep-deprived citizens. Of course, we might expect denizens to be made of hearty stock, given all the opportunities for outdoor activity for those who can make it through the notoriously harsh winters.

Score: 83 (out of 100)

2. Salt Lake City

Another city with a vibrant outdoor culture, Salt Lake City takes the number two spot with a score of 81. The key seems to be the widespread prosperity: Salt Lake City has the second-lowest income equality of any metro we reviewed, which is especially impressive considering the median income was $69,490 in 2016, considerably more than the national median of $55,322. And it only takes an average of 22 minutes to commute to those high-paying jobs (about the same as Grand Rapids), where workers spend about an hour less a week than average Americans. Prices for goods and services are about on par with the national average, but Salt Lakers spend 20% of their income on housing — about 1% less than people in the other cities we reviewed. Almost 57% of the population are reported to be in very good health, and more than two-thirds report getting at least seven hours of sleep a night.
Score: 81

3. Minneapolis

The Twin Cities are home to more people in very good or excellent health than anywhere else on our list. Maybe it’s because they get so much rest; only four other places report lower rates of sleep-deprived citizens. Income inequality is a touch higher than in Grand Rapids and Salt Lake (but still the fifth lowest on our list) and the average commute is about three minutes longer, but residents get more money for their time. Housing costs about 20% of the median income, and goods are priced about 4% lower than the national average.
Score: 80

4. Raleigh, N.C.

The Research Triangle Area places fourth on our list, thanks to a very healthy (third on our list) and well-rested (sixth for fewest sleep-deprived citizens) population. Commute times are fair at about 26 minutes on average, as is the percentage of median income that goes to cover the median housing costs (20 percent). In terms of income inequality, Raleigh also runs middle of the pack among cities we reviewed, ranking 23rd, but that’s a big jump from the first three cities on list, which ranked third, second and fifth. Moreover, Raleigh ranks 18th for both the amount they earn for how long they work and the cost of consumer goods compared to the national average.
Score: 71

5. Kansas City, Mo.

A healthy showing on average commute times (under 23 minutes), income inequality (8th lowest on our list) and share of income that goes towards housing (19%) sends KCMO to the fifth spot on our list. Kansas City ranks in the top half of our list for citizens who aren’t sleep deprived (22nd), percentage of the population in very good or excellent health (19th) and income earned compared to hours worked (24th). The place where they rank lower than more than half the cities on our list is in local prices compared to national averages (27th), but they should still expect to pay about 3.7 percent less than most other Americans for goods and services.
Score: 68

Places with the least balanced lifestyles

50. New York

It probably doesn’t surprise anyone that New Yorkers endure the longest average commute times (over 35 minutes), and pay the highest prices for goods and services of America’s 50 largest metro areas. It also sits at the 49th slot for income inequality. While New York has one of the highest median housing costs (San Francisco is the most expensive), it’s somewhat offset by higher median household income. But not too far offset; residents of only three other cities spend a larger portion of their income on housing. Lending credence to the famous epithet of “the city that never sleeps,” 41% of New Yorkers report being sleep deprived (Detroit is the most sleep-deprived, with just over half of residents reporting fewer than seven hours of sleep a night). With 31% of the population reported in good or excellent health, New York ranks 35th out of 50 in that area. One bright spot is placing 8th for the amount of money New Yorkers earn for the number of hours they work. Sadly, that didn’t help New York’s score much.

Score: 20

49. Miami

Not to be outdone, Miami also ranks dead last in two areas we measured: The cost of housing relative to income and income inequality. Miami fares poorly in other areas, too, like the number of hours worked relative to the amount of money earned (43th), average commute time (41st), and prices for goods and services relative to the national average (39th). It runs in the middle of the pack in other two categories, coming in 26th for both the percentage of people in very good or excellent health and the number of people getting at least seven hours of sleep a night.

Score: 22

48. Philadelphia

Philly doesn’t rank last in any area, but it falls in the bottom ten for all but two categories: Average commute time (40th), income equality (41st), very good health (45th), enough sleep (47th) and consumer prices (47th). It does slightly better in the percentage of income that goes toward housing (35th), but has a stronger showing in the number of hours citizens work relative to how much they earn (15th).
Score: 23

47. Los Angeles

Citizens of LA earn a lot for the hours they work, but that doesn’t help too much given the high price of housing — only two other cities spend more of their incomes on housing (San Diego and Miami). The cost of goods and services are the highest outside of New York City and San Francisco. Add to that high income inequality (ranked 45th), that famously horrific commute (45th) and poor health (42nd) to get a low score.
Score: 24

46. Tampa, Fla.

Another Florida city in the bottom five, Tampa’s biggest flaw is the ratio of hours worked to income earned (ranked 45th). Tampa doesn’t rank that low elsewhere, but it doesn’t rank high in anything, either; its top showing is a rank of 31 in the percentage of people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night. Average commutes clock in over 27 minutes (35th), and only half the population are reported to be in good or excellent health (32nd). The city ranks even lower for the prices of goods and services (40th) and the percentage of income that goes toward housing (41st).
Score: 26

Methodology:

The top 50 Combined Statistical Areas (CSAs) are ranked on a 100-point scale on the following seven measures:

  1. Average commute time, as reported in the 2016 American Community Survey (“ACS”)
  2. Percentage of income spent on housing, calculated as (the median monthly housing cost) / (median household income / 12 months), as reported in the 2016 ACS
  3. The number of hours worked relative to income earned, calculated as (the mean average number of hours worked) / (divided by the mean monthly household income / 12 months), as reported in the 2016 ACS
  4. Gini coefficient to represent income inequality, as reported in the 2016 ACS
  5. Price index, calculated as (Price Index for Goods + Price Index for Other) / (2), as reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis in the “Real Personal Income for States and Metropolitan Areas, 2015” release
  6. Share of the population in very good health, calculated as (percentage of the population in very good health) + (percentage of the population in excellent health), as reported in the 500 Cities Project (2016) from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”)
  7. Share of the population who gets fewer than seven hours of sleep a night, as reported by the CDC. Data was not available for the following metro areas, so the unweighted average for available areas in the same state was used: Greenville, S.C. and Harrisburg, Pa.

The sum of all ranks was then divided by seven, for a maximum possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of zero.

Advertiser Disclosure: The card offers that appear on this site are from companies from which MagnifyMoney receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). MagnifyMoney does not include all card companies or all card offers available in the marketplace.

Kali McFadden
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Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at kali.mcfadden@magnifymoney.com

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The Best Places to Work Your Way Through College and Avoid Student Loan Debt

Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any financial institution and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities prior to publication.

financial aid refund

The average cost of a four-year college education was almost five times higher in 2015 than a mere twenty years earlier, making the cost of an education seem out of reach for many. But, the data is clear: someone with a four-year college degree can expect to make $32,000 more a year than a high school graduate, or a whopping $1.4 million over the course of a working life. This forces American students (and their parents) into difficult and confusing decisions about how to approach a college education and what kind of student loans to take on.

It turns out that if you attend a public four-year university in one of these places, the days of working your way through college may not be over, despite common perceptions to the contrary. This is especially true when we consider that many, if not most, students are awarded various grants and scholarships to take the edge off an already (relatively) low in-state tuition.

A summer job doesn’t do it anymore, but a student who works – for minimum wage – about 20 hours a week while school is in session, 40 hours a week when it’s not, and takes a couple of well-deserved weeks off, can avoid student debt by paying off tuition in more places than you think, and may even have something left over for living expenses. Even if you earn enough to pay income taxes, spending your earnings on education can means substantial tax credits and deductions.

If You’re On Your Own…

There’s no question that working to pay your tuition bill is hard enough, but covering the basic costs of living on top of that can seem downright impossible.  If you’re doing it yourself, these areas might offer a workable path to economic security. It takes a lot of work, but students can still pay off that tuition bill and the leftover income will go a lot farther towards necessities.

100 communities were scored on four factors: 1) Average rent compared to the rest of the country, 2) average cost of goods compared to the rest of the country, 3) the amount of average in-state tuition someone could pay off working 1,280 hours a year at minimum wage, and 4) the unemployment rate for people between the ages of 16 and 24 years old. A score of 51 represents the average score of the 100 largest Combined Statistical Areas we reviewed. The highest score is 76, and the lowest is 10.

1 – Springfield, Missouri

At just 7.2 percent, the Springfield-Branson area of Missouri boasts the lowest unemployment rate for young people among all of the communities we examined, and it’s the fifth cheapest place to live (McAllen, Texas is the cheapest, but that only gets it a score of 46, as youth unemployment is significantly higher than other places, state tuition is a touch higher than average, and the minimum wage is the lowest allowable by federal law). You can expect to pay 34 percent less in rent than your friends in the rest of America, and about $1,000 less in tuition. A minimum wage of $7.70 means you won’t have tons of money left over after paying your tuition (a student can earn about 111 percent of his or her full course tuition and fees), but you can buy more with what you do have.

Local public universities include Missouri State University. US News & World Report gives it a Regional Universities Midwest ranking of 106, reports that tuition for the 2017-18 academic year is lower than the state average at $7,060 (not including room and board), and notes admission is selective with an acceptance rate of 86 percent.

2 – St. Louis, Missouri

Both the first and third ranked areas have lower average rents and youth unemployment rates than St. Louis, but a cost of goods that’s seven percent lower than the national average just edges this community to a higher score than Little Rock, Ark. Even so, the rent is an impressive 18 percent lower than the national average, and at 11 percent the youth unemployment rate is still about 13 percent less than the average of the communities we examined. Students can plan to earn about 111 percent of their full course load tuition. It’s also the most metropolitan area to place in the top 10, with a population of almost three million.

The big caveat is that this really only applies to people who live on the western side of the Mississippi River, because the average tuition in Illinois is the fifth highest in the nation at $13,620. Unfortunately, a student would only cover 72 percent of that by working for minimum wage.

Local public colleges and universities for Missouri residents include University of Missouri St. Louis. US News & World Report gives it national ranking of 231-300, reports that tuition and fees for the 2017-18 academic year were $10,275 (not including room and board), and notes that admission is “more selective” with an acceptance rate of 71 percent. At just over half the price, Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis gets a US News & World Report Regional Colleges Midwest ranking of 62-80, has a reported 2017-18 academic year tuition and fees cost of $5,220 (not including room and board), and admission is designated “least selective” despite an acceptance rate of 55 percent.

3 – Little Rock, Arkansas

A comfortably low average state tuition, combined with a better-than-typical minimum wage of $8.50 (34th highest among the 100 communities we examined), means that students here can hope to have a bit of money left over, since they can earn about 127 percent of their full course load tuition. The cost of goods are four percent lower than the national average and rents that are 29 percent lower, which means that money you work so hard for can go further. The youth unemployment rate of 9.8 percent is also significantly less than our median rate of 12.5 percent. Finally, students also have more options than in some of our other highly scored areas, with three public four-year universities in the area.

Local public universities include the flagship campus of The University of Arkansas-Little Rock. US News & World Report gives it a national ranking of 231-300, reports that tuition for the 2017-18 academic year is $8,401 (not including room and board), and notes admission is “selective” with an acceptance rate of 77 percent. The University of Central Arkansas in Conway gets a Regional Universities South ranking of 72 from US News & World Report, and has a reported tuition for the 2017-18 academic year of $8,524 (not including room and board), and is considered selective with an acceptance rate of 90 percent. US News & World Report gives University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff a Regional Colleges South ranking of 50, reports that tuition for 2017-18 is $7,336, and note admission is less selective with an acceptance rate of 42 percent.

 

If You Live at Home…

Most college bound kids dream of leaving home as soon as they can, but delaying gratification can have a big, long-term payoff if you’re from one of these areas.  Who knows, maybe you even like your parents, or at least all the things they do and buy for you.

Low in-state tuition, youth unemployment rates, and high minimum wages give you the best chance of completely paying off your tuition by working part time while school is in session and full time when it’s not. Statewide, Florida comes out on top, and even expensive places, like the Bay Area, get high scores thanks to higher wages.

These communities are scored on two factors: 1) the amount of average in-state tuition someone could pay off working 1,280 hours a year at minimum wage, and 2) the local unemployment rate for people between the ages of 16 and 24 years old. A score of 51 represents the average score of the 100 largest Combined Statistical Areas we reviewed. The highest score of the communities we examined is 94, and the lowest is nine.

1 – Cape Coral, Florida

2 – Lakeland, Florida

3 – Palm Bay, Florida

The bronze, silver, and gold all go to communities in the Sunshine State. That’s because Florida has a state-wide minimum wage right at the median for all the cities we reviewed and the absolute lowest average in-state tuition. Combine that with the low youth unemployment rates these three cities boast, and we see some A grades. If you were lucky enough to grow up in paradise, sticking around a little longer in the sun and surf isn’t just enticing – it’s the responsible financial choice. In all three places, you can expect to earn about 163 percent of your full course load tuition by working 1,280 hours at minimum wage.  Another bonus?  While Florida’s state universities have selective admissions, every single state college is open admission.

The three communities span the state from east to west, with Cape Coral on the Gulf Coast, Lakeland just east of Tampa, and Palm Bay nestled between extensive nature preserves and the Atlantic Ocean.

Just because you’re in paradise doesn’t mean the cost of living is as high as one might expect, either: the cost of goods is four percent lower than the national average. Cape Coral ticks just over the national average for rent.

In fact, the cost of living is so low in Lakeland, with rents a full 17 percent lower than the national average, it ties for the number five spot on our list of best places to work your way through college if you don’t live at home. In other words, even if your parents ask you to kick in some money for expenses, you should be okay.

Palm Bay comes in at eight percent lower rent than the national average, earning it the number 10 spot on our other list. The hitch is that the nearest public, four-year institution is about 40 miles away in Fort Pierce, but it may be worth it for a 2017-18 academic year tuition of – ready? – $2,640. Heck, you could pay the room and board of $5,700 and still come out better than most American students are paying for in-state tuition alone.

Local public colleges and universities in the Cape Coral-Fort Myers-Naples area include Florida SouthWestern State College (formerly Edison State College) in Fort Myers. US News & World Reports doesn’t give it a ranking, but notes that last year’s tuition was an astoundingly low $3,401. It is “least selective”, with an acceptance rate of 81 percent. Also in Fort Myers is Florida Gulf Coast University, which was awarded a Regional Universities South ranking of 73 by US News & World Report, which reports this year’s tuition and fees (not including room and board) is $6,118, and notes admission is “selective” with an acceptance rate of 56 percent.

Local public colleges and universities in the Lakeland-Winter Haven area include the University of South Florida in nearby Tampa.  US News & World Reports gives it a national ranking of 140, and notes that it is “more selective” with an acceptance rate of 47 percent.  Another option is Polk State College in Winter Haven. US News & World Reports doesn’t give it a ranking, but notes that last year’s tuition was an astoundingly low $3,366. It is “least selective”, and the acceptance rate isn’t available.

Unfortunately, you have to drive a fair distance to reach a public, four-year university near Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, but if that’s doable, the closest schools include Indian River State College in Fort Pierce. US News & World Reports gives it a Regional Colleges South ranking of 60-79, reports that tuition and fees for this year is – just when you thought tuitions couldn’t get any lower — $2,640 (not including room and board). The school is “less selective” and has a 100 percent admission rate. If you’re willing and able to drive fifty miles, the University of Central Florida in Orlando gets a national ranking from US News & World Reports of 171, has a 2017-18 academic year tuition and fees (not including room and board) of $6,368, and is designated “more selective” with a 50 percent admission rate.

4 – San Francisco, California

Everyone knows the Bay Area in general, and San Francisco in particular, is one of the most expensive places in the world, so how can it come in fourth on a list of places where you can work your way through school? This community demonstrates the power of living in an expensive place – as long as someone else can cover your expenses – because higher costs can mean higher wages. San Francisco boasts a minimum wage of $14 and California has an average tuition rate of $9,680 for the current academic year, meaning a student can handily afford that tuition by working part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer. Combine that with a plethora of public schools – including world famous Berkeley – and prospective students might just learn to appreciate living with their parents a little longer. A student can expect to earn 159 percent of a full course load tuition.

Local public universities include one of the nation’s premier public universities, The University of California at Berkeley. US News & World Report gives it a national ranking of 21, reports that tuition for the 2017-18 academic year is higher than the state average at $14,098 (not including room and board), and notes admission is “most selective” with an acceptance rate of only 16 percent. For students who are just looking for something else, San Francisco State University gets a US News & World Report national ranking of 231-300, is actually cheaper than the state average, with a tuition for the 2017-18 academic year of $7,254 (not including room and board), and admission is “less selective”, with an acceptance rate of 68 percent. Other local public colleges and universities include California State University – East Bay in Hayward, and San Jose State University in San Jose.

Special Mention – Seattle, Washington

Seattle-Tacoma placed 13 on our list because its youth unemployment rate was at the median (and just slightly below average) of all the communities we examined. But if your teammate’s cousin’s girlfriend can hook you up with a job in Seattle proper, this community offers the best potential to cover tuition while working minimum wage of any community we rated.

You may remember when Seattle made headlines as the first place in America to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour, allowing locals to earn dramatically more than their peers around the country. With an average state school tuition of $9,480 (just under the nation’s median average in-state tuition of $9,580), working students can earn an amazing 203 percent of their full course load tuition costs… As long as they don’t have to pay their own living expenses. Despite the high minimum wage, Seattle didn’t fare well on our other list (ranking 81 out of 100), thanks to a high cost of living. Residents can expect to pay 26 percent more in rent than the average American, and even seven percent more for they stuff they buy.

Local public universities include the flagship campus of The University of Washington. US News & World Report gives it a national ranking of 56, reports tuition for the 2017-18 academic year is $10,974 (not including room and board), and notes admission is “selective” with an acceptance rate of 45 percent.

 

What’s the National Picture?

Compare where you live (or plan to live) to the averages and medians of the 100 Combined Statistical Areas we examined.

Working your way through school scores (Living on your own)

Metro

Score

Rent vs National Avg.

Cost of Goods vs National Avg.

Avg. In-State Tuition

Minimum Wage

Unemployment Rate
(Age 16-24)

% of Tuition Covered by Work

Albany, N.Y.

42

2%

-4%

$7,940

$9.70

13.5%

156%

Albuquerque, N.M.

65

-8%

-5%

$6,920

$8.50

13.0%

157%

Atlanta, Ga.

45

-10%

-4%

$8,570

$7.25

11.5%

108%

Augusta, Ga.

56

-32%

-5%

$8,570

$7.25

17.2%

108%

Austin, Texas

40

13%

-4%

$9,840

$7.25

10.8%

94%

Bakersfield, Calif.

53

-8%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

19.0%

139%

Baton Rouge, La.

50

-16%

-5%

$9,300

$7.25

15.1%

100%

Birmingham, Ala.

47

-32%

-5%

$10,530

$7.25

15.3%

88%

Boise City, Idaho

65

-20%

-5%

$7,250

$7.25

13.4%

128%

Boston, Mass.

37

25%

-1%

$12,730

$11.00

11.0%

111%

Buffalo, N.Y.

66

-23%

-4%

$7,940

$9.70

10.3%

156%

Cape Coral, Fla.

65

1%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

9.3%

163%

Charleston, W.Va.

66

-42%

-4%

$7,890

$8.75

14.7%

142%

Charleston, S.C.

31

-5%

-4%

$12,610

$7.25

13.8%

74%

Charlotte, N.C.

56

-16%

-5%

$7,380

$7.25

13.9%

126%

Chattanooga, Tenn.

62

-31%

-6%

$9,790

$7.25

13.9%

95%

Chicago, Ill.

23

13%

0%

$13,620

$11.00

14.2%

103%

Cincinnati, Ohio

69

-22%

-9%

$10,510

$8.15

11.3%

99%

Cleveland, Ohio

67

-24%

-6%

$10,510

$8.15

12.3%

99%

Colorado Springs, Colo.

43

3%

-5%

$10,800

$9.30

15.4%

110%

Columbia, S.C.

41

-22%

-5%

$12,610

$7.25

15.4%

74%

Columbus, Ohio

52

-18%

-4%

$10,510

$8.15

12.0%

99%

Corpus Christi, Texas

42

-16%

-4%

$9,840

$7.25

14.3%

94%

Dallas, Texas

39

0%

-4%

$9,840

$7.25

10.6%

94%

Dayton, Ohio

48

-30%

-4%

$10,510

$8.15

13.3%

99%

Denver, Colo.

41

21%

0%

$10,800

$9.30

9.3%

110%

Des Moines, Iowa

71

-10%

-6%

$8,760

$7.25

8.1%

106%

Detroit, Mich.

23

-13%

-3%

$12,930

$8.90

14.9%

88%

El Paso, Texas

48

-28%

-5%

$9,840

$7.25

14.6%

94%

Fayetteville, N.C.

53

-23%

-5%

$7,380

$7.25

19.5%

126%

Fort Wayne, Ind.

62

-31%

-4%

$9,360

$7.25

9.0%

99%

Fresno, Calif.

55

-11%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

17.7%

139%

Grand Rapids, Mich.

51

-17%

-4%

$12,930

$8.90

11.1%

88%

Greensboro, N.C.

63

-30%

-4%

$7,380

$7.25

12.7%

126%

Greenville, S.C.

58

-31%

-4%

$12,610

$7.25

11.0%

74%

Harrisburg, Pa.

35

-14%

-4%

$14,440

$7.25

11.9%

64%

Hartford, Conn.

30

7%

-3%

$12,390

$10.10

13.2%

104%

Houston, Texas

39

0%

-5%

$9,840

$7.25

14.3%

94%

Huntsville, Ala.

54

-35%

-4%

$10,530

$7.25

12.4%

88%

Indianapolis, Ind.

51

-20%

-4%

$9,360

$7.25

11.1%

99%

Jackson, Miss.

55

-28%

-5%

$7,990

$7.25

17.6%

116%

Jacksonville, Fla.

57

-6%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

12.6%

163%

Kalamazoo, Mich.

52

-24%

-4%

$12,930

$8.90

10.0%

88%

Kansas City, Mo.

72

-19%

-5%

$8,870

$7.70

9.5%

111%

Knoxville, Tenn.

72

-32%

-6%

$9,790

$7.25

11.0%

95%

Lafayette, La.

57

-31%

-5%

$9,300

$7.25

16.2%

100%

Lakeland, Fla.

72

-17%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

10.2%

163%

Lansing, Mich.

31

-17%

-4%

$12,930

$8.90

15.0%

88%

Las Vegas, Nev.

64

-5%

-5%

$7,270

$8.25

12.5%

145%

Lexington,Ky.

51

-23%

-4%

$10,300

$7.25

11.5%

90%

Little Rock, Ark.

73

-29%

-4%

$8,550

$8.50

9.8%

127%

Los Angeles, Calif.

30

51%

2%

$9,680

$12.00

14.5%

159%

Louisville, Ky.

60

-25%

-5%

$10,300

$7.25

11.6%

90%

Madison, Wis.

56

2%

-4%

$8,960

$7.25

8.1%

104%

McAllen, Texas

46

-42%

-4%

$9,840

$7.25

16.3%

94%

Memphis, Tenn.

47

-24%

-4%

$9,790

$7.25

14.5%

95%

Miami, Fla.

42

24%

-2%

$6,360

$8.10

12.6%

163%

Milwaukee, Wis.

65

-7%

-6%

$8,960

$7.25

10.1%

104%

Minneapolis, Minn.

42

6%

2%

$11,300

$9.50

7.6%

108%

Mobile, Ala.

59

-31%

-4%

$10,530

$7.25

10.1%

88%

Modesto, Calif.

53

-10%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

21.6%

139%

Nashville, Tenn.

60

-14%

-5%

$9,790

$7.25

8.1%

95%

New Orleans, La.

47

-9%

-5%

$9,300

$7.25

14.4%

100%

New York, N.Y.

34

48%

7%

$7,940

$11.00

14.1%

177%

North Port, Fla.

54

5%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

12.4%

163%

Oklahoma City, Okla.

60

-22%

-4%

$8,460

$7.25

11.7%

110%

Omaha, Neb.

65

-16%

-4%

$8,270

$9.00

9.1%

139%

Orlando, Fla.

67

-1%

-5%

$6,360

$8.10

11.9%

163%

Palm Bay, Fla.

67

-8%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

10.3%

163%

Philadelphia, Pa.

10

7%

0%

$14,440

$7.25

15.2%

64%

Phoenix, Ariz.

43

-5%

-4%

$11,220

$10.00

11.7%

114%

Pittsburgh, Pa.

38

-24%

-4%

$14,440

$7.25

12.3%

64%

Portland, Maine

50

3%

-3%

$9,970

$10.68

8.5%

137%

Portland, Ore.

42

6%

-3%

$10,360

$10.25

11.2%

127%

Raleigh, N.C.

55

-7%

-4%

$7,380

$7.25

11.3%

126%

Reno, Nev.

55

-3%

-5%

$7,270

$8.25

13.7%

145%

Richmond, Va.

27

-4%

-4%

$12,820

$7.25

15.1%

72%

Rochester, N.Y.

57

-7%

-4%

$7,940

$9.70

10.6%

156%

Sacramento, Calif.

55

14%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

13.3%

139%

Salt Lake City, Utah

71

-6%

-5%

$6,790

$7.25

7.6%

137%

San Antonio, Texas

54

-11%

-5%

$9,840

$7.25

10.9%

94%

San Diego, Calif.

34

63%

0%

$9,680

$11.50

12.8%

152%

San Francisco, Calif.

44

74%

6%

$9,680

$12.00

10.3%

159%

Savannah, Ga.

50

-14%

-5%

$8,570

$7.25

19.4%

108%

Seattle, Wash.

40

26%

5%

$9,480

$15.00

12.5%

203%

South Bend, Ind.

54

-30%

-4%

$9,360

$7.25

12.6%

99%

Spokane, Wash.

66

-17%

-5%

$9,480

$11.00

12.2%

149%

Springfield, Mo.

76

-34%

-4%

$8,870

$7.70

7.2%

111%

Springfield, Mass.

35

-8%

-4%

$12,730

$11.00

14.7%

111%

St. Louis, Mo.

74

-18%

-7%

$8,870

$7.70

11.0%

111%

Syracuse, N.Y.

56

-14%

-4%

$7,940

$9.70

11.9%

156%

Tampa, Fla.

45

1%

-4%

$6,360

$8.10

13.8%

163%

Toledo, Ohio

46

-34%

-4%

$10,510

$8.15

14.7%

99%

Tucson, Ariz.

52

-12%

-5%

$11,220

$10.00

17.6%

114%

Tulsa, Okla.

54

-26%

-4%

$8,460

$7.25

14.5%

110%

Virginia Beach, Va.

29

4%

-4%

$12,820

$7.25

13.3%

72%

Visalia, Calif.

56

-18%

-5%

$9,680

$10.50

17.1%

139%

Washington, D.C.

38

46%

2%

$9,580

$12.50

12.7%

167%

Wichita, Kan.

60

-28%

-4%

$9,230

$7.25

10.5%

101%

Youngstown, Ohio

51

-40%

-4%

$10,510

$8.15

13.3%

99%

Average of 100 Examined CSAs

51

-10%

-4%

$9,644

$8.46

12.7%

117%

Working your way through school scores (Living at home)

Metro

Score

Avg. In-State Tuition

Minimum Wage

Unemployment Rate (Age 16-24)

% of Tuition Covered by Work

Albany, N.Y.

62

$7,940

$9.70

13.5%

156%

Albuquerque, N.M.

66

$6,920

$8.50

13.0%

157%

Atlanta, Ga.

58

$8,570

$7.25

11.5%

108%

Augusta, Ga.

29

$8,570

$7.25

17.2%

108%

Austin, Texas

51

$9,840

$7.25

10.8%

94%

Bakersfield, Calif.

40

$9,680

$10.50

19.0%

139%

Baton Rouge, La.

29

$9,300

$7.25

15.1%

100%

Birmingham, Ala.

15

$10,530

$7.25

15.3%

88%

Boise City, Idaho

54

$7,250

$7.25

13.4%

128%

Boston, Mass.

65

$12,730

$11.00

11.0%

111%

Buffalo, N.Y.

84

$7,940

$9.70

10.3%

156%

Cape Coral, Fla.

94

$6,360

$8.10

9.3%

163%

Charleston, W.Va.

50

$7,890

$8.75

14.7%

142%

Charleston, S.C.

22

$12,610

$7.25

13.8%

74%

Charlotte, N.C.

50

$7,380

$7.25

13.9%

126%

Chattanooga, Tenn.

31

$9,790

$7.25

13.9%

95%

Chicago, Ill.

36

$13,620

$11.00

14.2%

103%

Cincinnati, Ohio

52

$10,510

$8.15

11.3%

99%

Cleveland, Ohio

47

$10,510

$8.15

12.3%

99%

Colorado Springs, Colo.

33

$10,800

$9.30

15.4%

110%

Columbia, S.C.

11

$12,610

$7.25

15.4%

74%

Columbus, Ohio

48

$10,510

$8.15

12.0%

99%

Corpus Christi, Texas

27

$9,840

$7.25

14.3%

94%

Dallas, Texas

51

$9,840

$7.25

10.6%

94%

Dayton, Ohio

38

$10,510

$8.15

13.3%

99%

Denver, Colo.

72

$10,800

$9.30

9.3%

110%

Des Moines, Iowa

71

$8,760

$7.25

8.1%

106%

Detroit, Mich.

16

$12,930

$8.90

14.9%

88%

El Paso, Texas

24

$9,840

$7.25

14.6%

94%

Fayetteville, N.C.

34

$7,380

$7.25

19.5%

126%

Fort Wayne, Ind.

62

$9,360

$7.25

9.0%

99%

Fresno, Calif.

41

$9,680

$10.50

17.7%

139%

Grand Rapids, Mich.

41

$12,930

$8.90

11.1%

88%

Greensboro,N.C.

57

$7,380

$7.25

12.7%

126%

Greenville, S.C.

40

$12,610

$7.25

11.0%

74%

Harrisburg, Pa.

31

$14,440

$7.25

11.9%

64%

Hartford, Conn.

44

$12,390

$10.10

13.2%

104%

Houston, Texas

26

$9,840

$7.25

14.3%

94%

Huntsville, Ala.

34

$10,530

$7.25

12.4%

88%

Indianapolis, Ind.

51

$9,360

$7.25

11.1%

99%

Jackson, Miss.

34

$7,990

$7.25

17.6%

116%

Jacksonville, Fla.

73

$6,360

$8.10

12.6%

163%

Kalamazoo, Mich.

50

$12,930

$8.90

10.0%

88%

Kansas City, Mo.

74

$8,870

$7.70

9.5%

111%

Knoxville, Tenn.

52

$9,790

$7.25

11.0%

95%

Lafayette, La.

26

$9,300

$7.25

16.2%

100%

Lakeland, Fla.

91

$6,360

$8.10

10.2%

163%

Lansing, Mich.

15

$12,930

$8.90

15.0%

88%

Las Vegas, Nev.

66

$7,270

$8.25

12.5%

145%

Lexington, Ky.

41

$10,300

$7.25

11.5%

90%

Little Rock, Ark.

78

$8,550

$8.50

9.8%

127%

Los Angeles, Calif.

57

$9,680

$12.00

14.5%

159%

Louisville, Ky.

41

$10,300

$7.25

11.6%

90%

Madison, Wis.

71

$8,960

$7.25

8.1%

104%

McAllen, Texas

17

$9,840

$7.25

16.3%

94%

Memphis, Tenn.

27

$9,790

$7.25

14.5%

95%

Miami, Fla.

73

$6,360

$8.10

12.6%

163%

Milwaukee, Wis.

65

$8,960

$7.25

10.1%

104%

Minneapolis, Minn.

73

$11,300

$9.50

7.6%

108%

Mobile, Ala.

51

$10,530

$7.25

10.1%

88%

Modesto, Calif.

39

$9,680

$10.50

21.6%

139%

Nashville, Tenn.

62

$9,790

$7.25

8.1%

95%

New Orleans, La.

34

$9,300

$7.25

14.4%

100%

New York, N.Y.

65

$7,940

$11.00

14.1%

177%

North Port, Fla.

76

$6,360

$8.10

12.4%

163%

Oklahoma City, Okla.

57

$8,460

$7.25

11.7%

110%

Omaha, Neb.

85

$8,270

$9.00

9.1%

139%

Orlando, Fla.

79

$6,360

$8.10

11.9%

163%

Palm Bay, Fla.

90

$6,360

$8.10

10.3%

163%

Philadelphia, Pa.

9

$14,440

$7.25

15.2%

64%

Phoenix, Ariz.

62

$11,220

$10.00

11.7%

114%

Pittsburgh, Pa.

29

$14,440

$7.25

12.3%

64%

Portland, Maine

83

$9,970

$10.68

8.5%

137%

Portland, Ore.

68

$10,360

$10.25

11.2%

127%

Raleigh, N.C.

67

$7,380

$7.25

11.3%

126%

Reno, Nev.

58

$7,270

$8.25

13.7%

145%

Richmond, Va.

11

$12,820

$7.25

15.1%

72%

Rochester, N.Y.

83

$7,940

$9.70

10.6%

156%

Sacramento, Calif.

59

$9,680

$10.50

13.3%

139%

Salt Lake City, Utah

84

$6,790

$7.25

7.6%

137%

San Antonio, Texas

50

$9,840

$7.25

10.9%

94%

San Diego, Calif.

64

$9,680

$11.50

12.8%

152%

San Francisco, Calif.

86

$9,680

$12.00

10.3%

159%

Savannah, Ga.

27

$8,570

$7.25

19.4%

108%

Seattle, Wash.

76

$9,480

$15.00

12.5%

203%

South Bend, Ind.

41

$9,360

$7.25

12.6%

99%

Spokane, Wash.

69

$9,480

$11.00

12.2%

149%

Springfield, Mo.

80

$8,870

$7.70

7.2%

111%

Springfield, Mass.

38

$12,730

$11.00

14.7%

111%

St. Louis, Mo.

66

$8,870

$7.70

11.0%

111%

Syracuse, N.Y.

73

$7,940

$9.70

11.9%

156%

Tampa, Fla.

66

$6,360

$8.10

13.8%

163%

Toledo, Ohio

29

$10,510

$8.15

14.7%

99%

Tucson, Ariz.

34

$11,220

$10.00

17.6%

114%

Tulsa, Okla.

39

$8,460

$7.25

14.5%

110%

Virginia Beach, Va.

23

$12,820

$7.25

13.3%

72%

Visalia, Calif.

43

$9,680

$10.50

17.1%

139%

Washington, D.C.

72

$9,580

$12.50

12.7%

167%

Wichita, Kan.

61

$9,230

$7.25

10.5%

101%

Youngstown, Ohio

40

$10,510

$8.15

13.3%

99%

Average of 100 Examined CSAs

51

$9,644

$8.46

12.7%

117%

Methodology:

For “On Your Own”, the top 100 Combined Statistical Areas by population were ranked against all examined CSAs according to the following characteristics:

  • Percentage of average in-state tuition a student could expect to pay working 1,280 hours a year at minimum wage. ((1,280 x [local minimum wage]) / [average in-state tuition])
  • Unemployment rate for the population aged 16 – 24
  • Average rent price parity
  • Average goods price parity

The score is sum of all ranked parts (equally weighted) divided by four, for a total possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of four, and then rounded to the nearest integer. Final rankings are determined by the sum of all ranked parts, prior to division by four.

For “Living at Home”, the top 100 Combined Statistical Areas by population were ranked against all examined CSAs according to the following characteristics:

  • Percentage of average in-state tuition a student could expect to pay working 1,280 hours a year at minimum wage. ((1,280 x [local minimum wage]) / [average in-state tuition])
  • Unemployment rate for the population aged 16 – 24

The score is sum of all ranked parts (equally weighted) divided by two, for a total possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of two, and then rounded to the nearest integer. Final rankings are determined by the sum of all ranked parts, prior to division by two.

Notes: Average rent and average cost of goods are the weighted (by youth population, ages 16-24) averages of those averages within component MSAs. Where there were multiple tuitions or/and minimum wages within a CSA, the lead city or state was used, except for the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA CSA, where the minimum wage for San Francisco was used. The youth unemployment rate was calculated on the CSA level as the total unemployed population aged 16-24 divided by the total civilian population aged 16-24 in the labor force.

We assume that our hypothetical students would have at least 100 percent of their federal taxes refunded, but recognize that personal and family circumstances differ, and there may be substantial changes to tax policy.

References:

  1. “Figure 6: 2017-18 Tuition and Fees at Public Four-Year Institutions by State and Five-Year Percentage Change in In-State Tuition and Fees,” CollegeBoard, October 2017. Available at: https://trends.collegeboard.org/college-pricing/figures-tables/2017-18-state-tuition-and-fees-public-four-year-institutions-state-and-five-year-percentage (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  2. American FactFinder Community Survey, US Department of Census, 2016.
  3. “State Minimum Wages / 2017 Minimum Wage by State,” National Conference of State Legislatures, January 5, 2017. Available at: http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-minimum-wage-chart.aspx (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  4. “Inventory of US City and County Minimum Wage Ordinances”, UC Berkeley Labor Center, November 16, 2017. Available at: http://laborcenter.berkeley.edu/minimum-wage-living-wage-resources/inventory-of-us-city-and-county-minimum-wage-ordinances/ (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  5. Table 6. Regional Price Parities by Metropolitan Area, 2015, “Real Personal Income for States and Metropolitan Areas, 2015”, Bureau of Economic Analysis, June 22, 2017. Available at: https://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/rpp/2017/pdf/rpp0617.pdf (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  6. “Tuition costs of colleges and universities”, National Center for Education Statistics Fast Facts. Available at: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=76 (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  7. Philip Trostel, “Beyond the College Earnings Premium. Way Beyond.”, The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 29, 2017. Available at: https://www.chronicle.com/article/Beyond-the-College-Earnings/239013 (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  8. “Upcoming Minimum Wage Increases”, New York State Department of Labor. Available at: https://labor.ny.gov/workerprotection/laborstandards/workprot/minwage.shtm (retrieved November 27, 2017).
  9. “Best Colleges” rankings, US News & World Report. Available at https://www.usnews.com/best-colleges (retrieved December 5, 2017).

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Kali McFadden
Kali McFadden |

Kali McFadden is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Kali at kali.mcfadden@magnifymoney.com

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