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The Best Places for College Grads

San Francisco and Silicon Valley top the list
  • May 21 2012

College graduation season is upon us. When the commencement speeches end and the mortarboards fly into the air, it’s time for college graduates to make some life decisions—like where to live.

Writing on Atlantic Cities, Richard Florida, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, provides a ranking of U.S. metropolitan areas he did with his colleague Charlotta Mellander that takes into account a number of criteria important to new college graduates. Using data from the U.S. Census and the Census’ American Community Survey, as well as employment and wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, they assessed these areas based on job and career opportunities, as well as on other factors, such as access to rental housing, public transportation, and the ability to make friends and develop personal and professional networks.

The San Francisco Bay Area topped the list. It was followed closely by Silicon Valley (the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro). Greater New York City was third.

The metros that make up the Boston-Washington corridor did well overall, with Trenton-Ewing, NJ in ninth place, Boston tenth, New Haven 13th, Greater Washington, DC at 18th, Philadelphia 20th, the Hartford area 21st, and Baltimore 22nd.

California has five metros in the top 25 with Sacramento 15th, Los Angeles 17th, and San Diego 19th. The Northwest is also well represented, with Seattle 11th and Corvallis, Oregon, at 12th.

Big metropolitan areas in other parts of the country have long attracted regional grads. They remain good choices this year. Chicago ranked 16th, Atlanta 23rd and Denver 24th.

For those who want to avoid big cities, smaller college towns remain a livable alternative. Champaign-Urbana, IL, is fourth; Durham, NC, fifth; Gainesville, FL, sixth; Ithaca, NY, seventh; Ann Arbor, MI eighth; Boulder, CO, 14th; and Ames, IA, 25th. College towns like these have highly skilled, resilient economies. And, the article notes, they are holdover places for new grads thinking about their next move, whether it's the job market or on to grad school.

The eight variables used to create the rankings were:

  • Unemployment rate
  • Share of jobs in professional, technical, and creative occupations
  • Percent of adults with a BA and above
  • Average salaries and wages for professional, technical, and creative occupations
  • Rental share of housing
  • Money left over after paying for housing
  • Share of adults that have never been married
  • Share of commuters who use public transit


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