When it comes to agonizing over the direction their lives will take, young people spend a lot of time worrying about whether they've picked the right degree or chosen the right career path. But when it comes to the quality of your life (as well as the success of your career), the decision of where to live is arguably equally monumental.
Choosing the right city to put down roots affects your job opportunities, personal happiness, lifestyle, and over time how much you can manage to save. There are always tradeoffs--the cities with the most jobs are generally far from the cheapest (though there are some exceptions), and the value of hometown support, when everyone has known you since at least the fourth grade, has to be weighed against the difficulty of reinventing yourself.
But while no city is perfect and the decision of where to live is deeply personal, there are generally better and worse choices. Niche.com, a site that collects data on America's neighborhoods, recently tried to quantify exactly how well particular places are likely to serve young people who opt to start their working lives there.
To come up with its latest ranking, Niche factored in 12 types of data, on everything from the availability of bars to the unemployment rate, diversity, and cost of living. Here are the cities that came out on top:
- Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Arlington, Virginia
- Alexandria, Virginia
- San Francisco
- Ann Arbor, Michigan
- Washington, D.C
Check out the complete ranking for the rest of the top 25.
A word of caution
As someone who writes career advice for young people for a living, I feel obliged to close with a word of caution. There are a lot of these rankings (which, after all, are a great way of attracting media attention), and while some cities are frequent flyers on these lists (hello, Austin!), there isn't much overlap. No doubt that's because the organizations crunching the numbers all weigh different factors differently--the same way individuals all have their own personal recipes for the perfect place to live.
So don't view any of this "where to live" advice as definitive. Instead, I'd suggest you use these lists more as a starting point to get ideas of places to consider and explore. At the end of the day, the only person who can effectively rank the best cities for you is you.