15 Best Places to Move After College

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Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on Porch.

Last year was a difficult time for recent college graduates. Those who graduated in the spring of 2020 found themselves job-hunting in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic when businesses across the country were forced to shut their doors. And among those businesses that didn’t have to close were many who put the brakes on hiring.

With the U.S. starting now to round the corner of the pandemic, this year’s college graduates will face a very different job market. Unemployment rates are declining, vaccination rates are increasing, and businesses have a much brighter outlook for the future.

Recent graduates will want to consider such factors as earning potential, local job market conditions, and the cost of living when they choose where to locate after the pandemic. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2019 before the pandemic, median income for recent college graduates was $40,000, and the unemployment rate for this group was 3.4%.

Job market conditions vary across the country, and some places have been harder hit than others by the current recession. Recent college graduates will find it easier to find jobs in cities with historically robust job markets. Additionally, starting salaries and earning potential for college graduates vary on a geographic basis due to the local industry makeup, the supply and demand of skilled workers, and cost of living.

To find the best metropolitan areas in the U.S. for students to move after college, researchers at Porch applied the same methodology and ranked metro areas according to their composite score. To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis.

Here are the best metros to move after college.

15. Columbus, OH

Columbus Ohio
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  • Composite score: 79.4
  • Median income for recent graduates: $40,000
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 3.5%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 21.9
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): +28.3%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $886
  • Cost of living (compared with average): -8.4%

14. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH

Boston, Massachusetts
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  • Composite score: 80.0
  • Median income for recent graduates: $48,000
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 2.5%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 27.6
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): +92.9%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $1,858
  • Cost of living (compared with average): +15.5%

13. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

Downtown Seattle
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  • Composite score: 80.2
  • Median income for recent graduates: $50,000
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 2.5%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 27.6
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): +61.9%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $1,621
  • Cost of living (compared with average): +14.5%

12. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN

Indianapolis, Indiana
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  • Composite score: 80.4
  • Median income for recent graduates: $40,000
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 4.3%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 23.3
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): +22.4%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $831
  • Cost of living (compared with average): -8.9%

11. Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC

Charlotte North Carolina
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  • Composite score: 80.4
  • Median income for recent graduates: $40,000
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 1.9%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 23.9
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): +26.1%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $1,090
  • Cost of living (compared with average): -5.6%

10. Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI

Milwaukee, Wisconsin
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  • Composite score: 81.2
  • Median income for recent graduates: $40,000
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 2.4%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 25.0
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): +1.2%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $853
  • Cost of living (compared with average): -5.4%

9. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis
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  • Composite score: 81.8
  • Median income for recent graduates: $44,000
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 2.1%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 26.8
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): +51.4%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $1,136
  • Cost of living (compared with average): +2.9%

8. Kansas City, MO-KS

Kansas City Missouri traffic highways
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  • Composite score: 82.2
  • Median income for recent graduates: $43,000
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 2.9%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 24.4
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): +15.6%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $919
  • Cost of living (compared with average): -7.2%

7. Buffalo-Cheektowaga, NY

Buffalo, New York
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  • Composite score: 82.8
  • Median income for recent graduates: $37,000
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 0.8%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 24.9
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): +6.0%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $824
  • Cost of living (compared with average): -5.5%

6. Louisville/Jefferson County, KY-IN

Louisville, Kentucky
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  • Composite score: 83.0
  • Median income for recent graduates: $36,000
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 1.3%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 23.8
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): +6.5%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $810
  • Cost of living (compared with average): -10.4%

5. Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN

Cincinnati
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  • Composite score: 83.2
  • Median income for recent graduates: $38,500
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 2.6%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 22.1
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): +21.0%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $754
  • Cost of living (compared with average): -9.4%

4. Cleveland-Elyria, OH

Cleveland, Ohio
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  • Composite score: 83.4
  • Median income for recent graduates: $39,000
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 3.0%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 25.2
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): -12.1%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $754
  • Cost of living (compared with average): -10.1%

3. Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA

Omaha Nebraska
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  • Composite score: 83.7
  • Median income for recent graduates: $41,000
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 1.9%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 23.5
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): +15.4%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $852
  • Cost of living (compared with average): -8.3%

2. St. Louis, MO-IL

St. Louis, Missouri
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  • Composite score: 86.0
  • Median income for recent graduates: $40,000
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 1.8%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 26.1
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): -2.2%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $783
  • Cost of living (compared with average): -9.9%

1. Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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  • Composite score: 88.2
  • Median income for recent graduates: $41,600
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: 1.9%
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: 26.9
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): +33.1%
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: $839
  • Cost of living (compared with average): -7.6%

Methodology

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To find the best places to move after college, researchers at Porch analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample (PUMS) and 2018 County Business Patterns (CBP), the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 2021 50th Percentile Rent Estimates, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s 2019 Regional Price Parities (RPP). The researchers created a composite score based on the following components (measured prior to the pandemic):

  • Median income for recent graduates: the median total personal income for recent college graduates
  • Unemployment rate for recent graduates: the number of unemployed recent graduates as a percentage of all recent graduates in the labor force
  • Number of employer firms per 1,000 residents: number of business establishments with at least 1 employee per 1,000 residents
  • Concentration of recent graduates (compared with average): population share of recent college graduates compared to the national share
  • Median 1-bedroom rent: the median monthly price for a rental unit
  • Cost of living: cost of living relative to the national average

Recent college graduates were defined as residents aged 22 to 27 with a bachelor’s degree or higher, not currently in school. Median income for recent graduates, the unemployment rate for recent graduates, and the concentration of recent graduates were calculated from the PUMS data. The number of employer firms per 1,000 residents was sourced from the CBP data, and the median one-bedroom rent was derived from the HUD rent data.

Metro areas were ranked according to their composite score. In the event of a tie, the metro with the larger population share of recent graduates was ranked higher.

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