12 Cities That Offer the Best Work-Life Balance

Looking for a better quality of life? Here are the top cities in three categories for college-educated people who are 35 or younger.

The nation’s capital is king for young college graduates seeking work-life balance in a big city.

Washington, D.C., was ranked the No. 1 major metropolitan area in the American Institute for Economic Research’s inaugural Employment Destinations Index.

The rankings are based on factors that led people ages 22 to 35 who have at least a bachelor’s degree to move to a new city. AIER, an independent nonprofit, looked at eight economic and quality-of-life factors.

Economic factors are:

  • Unemployment rates
  • Earnings
  • Rent
  • Professional competition

Quality-of-life factors are:

  • Percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree
  • Percentage that is car-dependent
  • Places to eat and drink
  • Racial and ethnic diversity

About 70 percent of the time it was the quality-of-life-factors rather than economic factors that explained why this demographic had relocated.

In the quality-of-life category, respondents most valued a high density of people with a college degree. In the economic category, respondents most valued a low unemployment rate.

Rosalind Greenstein, director of research and education at AIER, explains in a press release:

The young and educated are looking for places where they can have a meaningful work/life balance.

The top-ranked cities in each size category are:

Major metropolitan areas (population of at least 1 million people)

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. San Francisco
  3. Boston

AIER attributes Washington’s No. 1 ranking to “a wealth of government, professional and technical jobs” and “an attractive mix of walking, biking and public transportation for its highly educated populace.”

Midsize metros (500,000 to 999,999 people)

  1. Bridgeport, Connecticut
  2. Honolulu
  3. Provo, Utah

In Bridgeport, “old industrial buildings now serve as work and living spaces in a robust service economy, located an hour and a half from New York City by train.”

Small metros (250,000 to 499,999 people)

  1. Ann Arbor, Michigan
  2. Fort Collins, Colorado
  3. Gainesville, Florida

The top spot here goes to “beautiful, bikeable Ann Arbor” partly because “the university helped diversify the workforce into high-tech industries as the auto industry faded.”

Smallest metros (less than 250,000 people)

  1. Iowa City, Iowa
  2. Ithaca, New York
  3. Lawrence, Kansas

AIER attributed Iowa City’s No. 1 ranking to “the strength of a growing technology corridor, low rents, lots of restaurants and bars, as well as an increasingly diverse population.”

Stacy Johnson

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