The Least Expensive, Most Job-Friendly Cities For New Graduates

Don’t follow the fashion. Cities like Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, and Kansas City may provide better opportunity than the hippest places.

This year’s college graduates face a choice about where to live and work. Do they choose a city like New York where rents are high but wages are decent? Or, do they choose a smaller city where rents are lower, but there are fewer jobs that may not pay as well?


A new joint analysis from the real estate data company Trulia and the career site LinkedIn gives an answer, and it turns out it’s not San Francisco or Miami. Recent graduates may be better off plumping for Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, or Kansas City over more fashionable locales, the companies say.

Trulia and LinkedIn looked at 40 major metros, assessing job openings available to new graduates (as opposed to vacancies in general), the affordability of housing (affordable means less than 30% of an average income for someone 22-30), and the share of population 22-30 with a college degree.

Pittsburgh comes up on top because a high proportion of its jobs are graduate-level and more than 90% of its rents are deemed affordable. By contrast, San Francisco pays the highest average salaries ($48,000) but its rents are through the roof–only 28% of its rental housing is affordable.

“The lesson here for recent grads is that although it may be tempting to seek out places with the highest wages, doing so may not necessarily lead to a better quality of life because these areas also have high rents and a lower share of entry level jobs,” writes Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia’s chief economist.

Chicago, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia also make the top 10 for graduate opportunity. And in general east is better than west. Of the 10 weakest markets for graduates, eight are in California (Portland, Oregon, and Miami are the others).

The analysis shows that big Californian cities have relatively high numbers of college graduates in the 22-30 age group, but, partly as a result, higher rents and less jobs for new graduates. They are strong job markets overall, but not necessarily for graduates marking up their resumes for the first time.


Cover Photo: Joel Shawn via Shutterstock

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.