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Best Cities For Young Professionals


Matt Woolsey,
06.21.07

Head to the Big Apple, and your chances of getting the corner office might not be as far off as you think.

That's because New York City tops our list as the No. 1 city for young professionals.

That likely comes as a shock to, well, no one. Many of America's best companies, as determined by Forbes rankings of the best 400 big businesses and best 200 small businesses, including financial giant Goldman Sachs and media conglomerate News Corp. are in New York. Throw in New York's bars, clubs and world-class dining, and you get a city teaming with young professionals.


Behind The Numbers


Our list was compiled by tracking where the graduates of top universities across the country ended up 10 years after commencement; where the best business opportunities exist; which cities had the most young and unmarried people; and which cities paid young professionals the best.

To see where graduates of elite schools chose to pursue their careers, we looked at Class of 1997 alumni location data from six elite universities across the country--Harvard, Princeton, Duke, Stanford, Northwestern and Rice. The data indicated where graduates have settled 10 years later, and where their professional lives have matured.

We then excluded alumni that remained close to school. Harvard grads in Massachusetts--nixed; Dukies who stayed in North Carolina--gone; Stanford Cardinals roosting in California--tossed. The goal: to determine which cities offer such strong opportunities for young professionals that they're willing to pick up and move across the country for them.

Some cities are bigger than others, of course. So we adjusted where elite grads ended up against overall population size to measure the respective concentrations of young professionals. This allowed smaller cities such as Portland and Austin to compete equally with heavyweights such as New York and Los Angeles.

Then we stirred the locations of prized jobs into the mix. Each year, Forbes selects America's 400 best big businesses and 200 best small businesses. We used the locations of those 600 companies to determine which cities had the best professional opportunities for the under-35 set.

Money is important too. To figure out how far yearly income will go, we measured cities' variations in starting salary using data from New York-based Mercer Human Resource Consulting and adjusted it for cost of living with our own Forbes index; the idea being that the more greenhorn grads a city can attract with a decent salary to cost of living ratio, the more likely they'll stay and develop in that area.

Of course, even the most driven young professionals need to let off steam. With that in mind, the final metric was measured which cities had the highest share of never-married people in their 20s and 30s. Never married is an important qualifier. For example, of the 40 largest cities, Salt Lake City has the third-highest population share of people ages 25 to 34, but its standing as No. 27 in the never-married category really puts a damper on the nightlife.

The bottom 10 cities were brought down by a variety of causes. Salary to cost of living submarined Miami, Norfolk, Va., and San Antonio. The inability to attract top grads and top companies hurt Detroit and Las Vegas, and all our measurements converged on Tampa, Fla., beating it down to last place on our list.


© 2007 Forbes.com LLC™
 

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1. New York, N.Y.
Manhattan had far and away the highest concentration of elite-school graduates. Had it been broken out as a separate city, Brooklyn would have ranked sixth on its own in this measure. New York also dominated the rankings of best big and small businesses, and the Big Apple's population was fifth in terms of percentage young and never married.

2. San Francisco, Calif.
Despite disqualifying all the Stanford grads who settled in San Fran, the City by the Bay finished second in attracting graduates. It placed 16th in our companies rankings, ninth in the never-married category, and its No. 1 initial salary ranking helped compensate for a high cost of living.

3. Atlanta, Ga.
Most people don't associate elite grads with Atlanta, but they should. A ranking of eighth in our businesses measure and a high salary to cost of living ratio put Atlanta in the top three.

4. Los Angeles, Calif.
The city may be synonymous with smog and sprawl, but Los Angeles has an undeniable pull. The city ranks fifth in best companies, 12th in grads and second in its share of the young and never married. Salaries to cost of living are reasonable.

5. Washington, D.C.
The District is in the middle of the pack for best companies, but the number of prestigious jobs on Capitol Hill helps make the city the third most desired location for young professionals. D.C. is seventh in its never-married population and entry-level college grad jobs pay 10% more than the national average.

6. Boston, Mass.
If the Harvard grads retained by Boston factored in, the city would have climbed well above sixth in our young professional concentration measure. A very young city, it has the fourth-highest share of never married people in their 20s and mid-30s, and the city's high salaries balance out its high cost of living. Boston tied D.C. for 17th on the best companies measure.

7. Seattle, Wash.
The Emerald City was 13th in our best big and small business standing and ranked an impressive fourth in retaining the country's brightest graduates from the Class of 1997. Middle of the pack in never-married 20- to 35-year-olds, Seattle's local economy and housing market have benefited from east and west coasters accustomed to life in more expensive cities.

8. Minneapolis, Minn.
Conventional wisdom says Chicago leads the Midwest as a place for young professionals. Not so. Minneapolis ranked sixth in our best businesses ranking and ninth for its alumni distribution. Fifteenth in percentage of population young and never married, Minneapolis is tied for the fourth-best income to cost of living score.

9. Philadelphia, Pa.
Being a university town certainly benefits Philly. Tied for 23rd in the number of best big and small businesses, Philadelphia is the 11th most popular destination for grads 10 years out of school and has the 11th highest share of never-married people between the ages of 20 and 35. Salaries aren't as high compared to east coast brethren New York and Boston, but cost of living isn't either.

10. Denver, Colo.
Just clipping Austin and Portland for 10th place, Denver offers recent grads the list's best salary to cost of living ratio and finished 10th in attracting 1997's elite alumni. Those two scores balanced out the mediocre 23rds the city rated in presence of the best big and small businesses and the percentage of young never-marrieds.

11. Austin, Texas
For a good time, head to Austin; just don't expect it to pay very well. The live music hub and budding tech capital tied for 23rd in the number of best big and small businesses and achieved our lowest rating for salary to cost of living for recent grads. Both low scores weren't enough to bring down its No. 1 never-married score and No. 7 alumni distribution score.

12. Portland, Ore.
Portland may be growing, but it still has a ways to go. Ranked eighth in 1997 graduate data, and better than the mean for salary to cost of living, Portland was hampered by a rank of 27th for best big and small businesses and a rank of 25th for its young never-married population.

13. Charlotte, N.C.
The local economy in Charlotte has been growing at a rapid clip for some time. It ranks 13th in number of best businesses and has an excellent ratio of starting salary to cost of living. If its economy continues on its present course, it will likely attract more young professionals. At present, it rates 19th in grads 10 years out of school and 22nd in never-married young people.

14. St. Louis, Mo.
A very high share of the best 400 big businesses and best 200 small businesses call St. Louis home. In that measure, it ranked sixth. In attracting the cream of the graduate crop, it clocked in at 16th. The never-married population was good for 24th, and salary to cost of living hovers right around the national mean.

15. Providence, R.I.
A ranking of 30th in the number of best big and small businesses and a low salary to cost of living ratio dragged down what were otherwise impressive scores. Providence was 14th in the number of 1997 alumni it has attracted and sixth in its percentage of never-married young people.

16. Chicago, Ill.
In terms of raw numbers, Chicago attracts plenty of young professionals, but based on its size, it ranks 35th. Those who live there aren't married--the city ranks 8th in that category--and it is third overall for best big and small businesses.

17. Raleigh, N.C.
Twenty-first in 1997 alumni and 27th in best big and small businesses, Raleigh gets a boost from its No. 12 ranking for the number of never-married 20- to 35-year-olds and its relatively high salary to cost of living ratio.

18. Cincinnati, Ohio
Ranked 17th in number of big and small businesses and 15th for its collection of young professionals, Cincinnati places 33rd in the number of never-marrieds and has a favorable ratio of starting salaries to living expenses.

19. San Diego, Calif.
San Diego ranks as the 11th most popular destination for our best-rated 400 big companies and best 200 small ones. Our grad data place it 27th, and of the city's young professionals, it has the 16th highest population of people who have yet to walk down the aisle.

20. Milwaukee, Wis.
Tied with San Diego for 11th on the businesses measure, Milwaukee sits at 26th for its concentration of young professionals and 13th for the young never-married crowd. Salaries are low for students just out of school, neutralizing the boost from the city's low cost of living.


© 2007 Forbes.com LLC™
 

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21. Pittsburgh, Pa.
High marks for entrepreneurs, as Pittsburgh ranked 9th for best big and small businesses. A rank of 20th for attracting young professionals and rank of 34th for highest never-married population dragged down the score for this affordable city.

22. Nashville, Tenn.
Music City has a high number of young professionals, scoring 13th in its ability to attract the Class of 1997. An average ranking of 21st for businesses and 26th for its share of never-married 20- and 30-somethings wasn't aided by the low salary to cost of living ratio for recent graduates.

23. Columbus, Ohio
For attracting young people, it helps to have the biggest university in the country in Ohio State. Columbus did well with the overall young population and the percentage of never-married 20- to 35-year olds, ranking 14th. However, a low score of 27th for businesses helps to push away those in their early 30s--in the Class of 1997 distribution, Columbus ranked 24th.

24. New Orleans, La.
A high cost of living to low salaries and the lack of top big and small businesses may be influenced by problems stemming from Hurricane Katrina. In our other metrics, NOLA did well, 17th in attracting young professionals and third for its percentage of never-married people in their 20s and 30s.

25. Houston, Texas
There's a lot of money in Houston. Due in large part to the energy sector, it ranks second for excellent big and small businesses. However, it is 38th, behind only Detroit and Phoenix, in its ability to attract alumni. It ranks 29th for its young never-married population, and based on salary to cost of living, life is slightly less expensive than the national mean.

26. Cleveland, Ohio
The 13th most-desired location for our best-rated big and small businesses, Cleveland sinks a touch with its 22nd rank for young professionals and falls more with its 32nd ranking for percentage of never-married people aged 20 to 35. A relatively low starting salary to cost of living ratio doesn't help.

27. Phoenix, Ariz.
Phoenix does especially well given its association with an older population. Ranked ninth for our best big and small businesses, it takes a heavy hit from its 39th rank in young professional graduates. It ranks 18th for its never-married young population.

28. Sacramento, Calif.
Not having a single one of our best 400 big businesses or best 200 small businesses really hurt Sacramento's standing, and the 34th ranking for its share of high-powered young graduates doesn't help either. The silver lining: a rank of 10th for its never-married 20- to 35-year-olds.

29. Dallas, Texas
The Big D nabbed the fourth overall ranking for businesses, but fell on its 37th ranking for young professionals and its 36th ranking for the never-married population there. As for starting salaries and cost of living, Dallas hits the national mean.

30. Salt Lake City, Utah
A good place to live by many measures, Salt Lake City did not perform well in our ratings. Boasting the third-highest population of people aged 20 to 35, it has only the 27th-highest number of never-married people ages 20 to 35. Combine a rank of 23rd for best businesses and a rank of 28th for young professionals, and the result is an overall score of 30th.

31. Greensboro, N.C.
For what recent grads can expect to make in salary, Greensboro is a shade expensive. It's rank of 30th in best big and small businesses and 30th for its never-married population pull down its rank of 23rd for young professionals.

32. Miami, Fla.
Very few grads from the institutions we tracked found their way to Miami. In that category, the city ranked 33rd. For big and small businesses, it notched a ranking of 17th and for its never-married population, 31st. Also, Miami is slightly more expensive than starting salaries allow.

33. Las Vegas, Nev.
Vegas was 36th for attracting young professionals from the Class of 1997 and 30th for how many of the best big and small businesses set up shop in the city. An average rank of 21st for its never-married set wasn't enough to bring up its score.

34. Norfolk, Va.
Life can get expensive in Norfolk for those just out of college. Salary levels are among the lowest of the cities we measured, and costs aren't cheap enough to act as a counter-balance. Additionally, a ranking of 30th for businesses and 37th for its never-married population pushed it down in our rankings.

35. Orlando, Fla.
Disney World apparently isn't as attractive to people when they're 30 as it was when they were 10. Orlando's tie for 30th place in best businesses and its score of 31st for young professionals dragged down a market with a low salary to cost of living ratio.

36. San Antonio, Texas
A middle-of-the-pack 21st ranking for its best big and small businesses presence and a mediocre 29th for attracting young professionals wasn't enough to save San Antonio from its 35th rank in never-married population and its low starting salaries for recent graduates.

37. Kansas City, Mo.
Tied for last in our businesses metric and second-to-last in its percentage of never-married 20- to 35-year-olds, Kansas City turned in a respectable 25th as a place of attraction for young professionals. Slightly lower-than-average salaries were balanced by the low cost of living.

38. Detroit, Mich.
The fact that things aren't going well for Detroit is not a secret. It rated 30th for its number of best big and small businesses and dead last for the number of young professionals it has been able to retain. A rank of 28th for its never-married population and a reasonable cost of living saved it from grabbing the bottom spot.

39. Indianapolis, Ind.
Indianapolis ranked second-to-last for its big and small businesses, 30th for the number of 1997 elite grads who called it home, and 38th for the percentage of 20- to 35-year-olds who have never been married.

40. Tampa, Fla.
A nice place for a vacation, around a quarter of houses in Tampa are investment or second-home properties. As for people who live there full-time, the city ranks 32nd for young professional concentration, last for its never-married population, second-to-last for big and small businesses and, to top it all off, has a high cost of living for what a recent grad can expect to earn.


© 2007 Forbes.com LLC™
 
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