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The Best U.S. Cities for People 35 and Under

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What do Americans under 35 look for in a place to live? According to Vocativ's 2014 Livability Index: Good public transportation, great food, and excellent entertainment options. Portland nabbed the top spot in last year's survey, but this year the winners are New York City (#1) and—surprise—a bunch of cities in Texas. How did your city stack up?

Last year around this time I reported on Vocativ's first Livability Index, which qualified the best places for 35-and-unders to put down roots by examining highly specific data points like coffee shops per capita and the all-important price of an ounce of weed. Although there seems to be a "best places to live" ranking released every week, they aren't really looking at the issues important to this particular age group, says Vocativ's CEO Scott Cohen.


"We want to do this so we can speak to our demographic of people in their 20s and 30s," he says. "We've gotten great feedback, from people saying thank you for your methodology, to those accusing us of having faulty methodology when their cities didn't rank as they'd expect."

That feedback from last year informed this year's study. The team started out the same way, looking at the 100 largest cities in the U.S., then narrowing the list to a top 35 based on very specific criteria. But they made a few tweaks to the methodology, which might be why New York skyrocketed to the top of the list and Portland shuffled down to #10.


One of the biggest additions was diversity, which looked at both ethnic and LGBTQ populations. Another was weather, which ranked cities by average humidity and number of sunny days (which is also perhaps why LA, which was shut out last year, ranked 13th this time).

Sample rankings for Minneapolis, which was #1 for jobs

These indicators were wrapped into eight overall categories, from demographics to jobs to entertainment. While some of the groupings are fairly obvious (housing includes the rent of a two-bedroom apartment, cleaning service and internet), others are a bit more complex. "Appeal," for example, includes the new weather category, in addition to walkability and crime.


The team then added more heft to the categories most relevant to the needs of young adults: Jobs and housing. The next two important areas? Transportation and food.

Using datasets from the U.S. Census and FBI, as well as information from places like Yelp and Walkscore, the index paints a pretty complete picture of what life is like in these cities. I was thoroughly impressed with the description of Los Angeles, although I will say I'm not as keen on the overall method of determining the price of a night out, city-to-city: The cost of a beer, one ounce of weed, and dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings. Do people really go to Buffalo Wild Wings?


Here's the top ten. New York City, although it's incredibly expensive, did so well in areas like transportation, food options, and entertainment that it beat the competition handily. If you head on over to the top 35 you'll probably notice that nine cities from Texas made it on the list, namely because of their highly diverse, very affordable, very young cities with low unemployment. Lubbock, Texas, is the youngest city in the U.S., for example, while Houston has some of the strongest job growth.


Cities you might be surprised not to see on this list? Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia, to start. Head over to Vocativ and see the entire list for yourself. [Vocativ]

Top art by Christopher Classens