The 10 Worst States for Millennials

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Depressed millennial worried about money
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Millennials are struggling. With rising student debt and stagnant wages, many are working hard to hardly get by.

It is no surprise millennials are struggling financially. However, just as with the job market and cost of living, where you live matters.

We analyzed all 50 states and the District of Columbia to uncover where it is hardest for millennials to thrive.

Next, we detailed the criteria we used to rank the states and then highlighted the states where millennials have it the roughest.

How we determined the worst states for millennials

An adult millennial child living at home with his parents
SpeedKingz /

Each state and the District of Columbia were ranked 1 to 51 in four categories:

  • Millennial unemployment rate
  • Average student loan debt
  • Millennial homeownership
  • Percent of millennials living in poverty

All four categories were then averaged together, each weighted equally. The lower score in each category, the lower the rank. For example, D.C.’s $55,400 was the highest average student loan debt, earning it a rank of No. 1 for student loan debt.

We used American Community Survey 2014-2018 data from the U.S. Census Bureau to get unemployment rates by state for those ages 25-34. The survey data also provided the poverty rate by state for the 25-34 age demographic.

To analyze millennial homeownership, we once again used the ACS data to find the percentage of homeowners under 35 in each state.

To gather data on average student loan debt by millennial borrowers, we used the most recent report from

1. Mississippi

Gulf Coast at Biloxi, Mississippi.
Joseph Sohm /

Unemployment: 10%
Poverty rate: 29%
Homeownership: 10%

More than 1 in 4 Mississippi millennials live in poverty, in addition to facing the worst unemployment in the nation. While housing in Mississippi is relatively affordable, it’s simply not enough to help the millennials struggling just to get by.

2. Florida

Fort Lauderdale Florida
GagliardiPhotography /

Unemployment: 7%
Poverty rate: 22%
Homeownership: 7%

Florida may be a beloved destination for vacationers, but millennial residents may find themselves experiencing hardship.

Not only do Florida millennials stand a 22% chance of living in poverty, the state also has the third-worst millennial homeownership rate in the nation.

The beautiful surroundings can only provide so much comfort to adults striving to make a living.

3. Alabama

Huntsville Alabama cityscape skyline
By Sean Pavone /

Unemployment: 8%
Poverty rate: 27%
Homeownership: 10%

Alabama comes in at No. 3 for the worst place to be a millennial. While unemployment for millennials is 2% lower than in Mississippi, it’s still not great. Data shows 27% of Alabama millennials are below the federal poverty rate.

4. South Carolina

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina
Kevin Ruck /

Unemployment: 7%
Poverty rate: 22%
Homeownership: 10%

Graduating college in South Carolina sets you up for an average $38,300 in student loan debt. Considering 7% of millennials in the state are unemployed, it can’t be easy paying off those hefty student loan payments.

5. Georgia

Athens, Georgia
Sean Pavone /

Unemployment: 7%
Poverty rate: 21%
Homeownership: 10%

Georgia tells a similar story to other Southern states that top the list: a high poverty rate, paired with less than stellar unemployment. Toss in the high average student debt and it’s easy to see it isn’t all peaches for millennials in the Peach State.

6. North Carolina

Davidson, North Carolina.
Jon Bilous /

Unemployment: 7%
Poverty rate: 22%
Homeownership: 10%

North Carolina has similar stats to its neighbor, South Carolina, with slightly less crippling debt for millennials.

7. West Virginia

West Virginia
Sean Pavone /

Unemployment: 9%
Poverty rate: 32%
Homeownership: 9%

West Virginia is one of the states with a shrinking population. Every year residents are packing up and moving in hopes of a brighter future. Millennials in West Virginia have the highest poverty rate in the nation, with a depressing 1 in 3 living below the poverty level.

Pair that with high unemployment, and chances are pretty good that wherever they move, the grass is greener.

8. New Mexico

New Mexico road amid desert, mountains
Earl D. Walker /

Unemployment: 8%
Poverty rate: 27%
Homeownership: 10%

Why is it so rough being a millennial in New Mexico? Those residents have a terrible 8% unemployment rate and 1 in 4 living in poverty.

9. Oregon

Bend, Oregon
melissamn /

Unemployment: 6%
Poverty rate: 23%
Homeownership: 9%

In Oregon, more millennials are working than in most other states. However, judging from the low homeownership rate and a surprisingly high poverty rate, many of that generation are working just to get by in Oregon.

10. California

San Francisco, California
IM_photo /

Unemployment: 7%
Poverty rate: 20%
Homeownership: 8%

California may be the Golden State, but for millennials living there may not look so shiny. High home costs mean homeownership is out of reach for many millennials.

When paired with high unemployment and an unpleasantly high poverty rate for millennials, it earns California its spot at No. 10.

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