Loved by marketers yet vilified by media, millennials are at once the most popular and unpopular generation alive. While they’re currently the largest generation, having overtaken the baby boomers in 2019, they are likely to lose that status to Generation Z by 2026. However, with a population of around 80 million, millennials will continue to have a huge influence on American culture and consumption. Today, these mid-20-to-early-40-somethings who are often depicted through negative stereotypes — entitled, parentally dependent, emotionally fragile — are responsible for 21 percent of all consumer discretionary spending in the U.S.
Yet despite millennials’ trillion-dollar purchasing power and higher educational attainment, they are economically worse off than their parents. Why? The financial crisis remains a big part of the reason. Millennials have come of age and entered the workforce in the shadow of the Great Recession, which has significantly reduced their job prospects and earning potential for decades to come. Plus, many millennials are struggling due to financial difficulties from the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting high rate of unemployment.
But the millennial experience is not the same everywhere. WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia to determine where this generational has thrived and struggled. We examined each state and the District across 34 key metrics, ranging from share of millennials to millennial unemployment rate to millennial voter-turnout rate.
Best States for Millennials
Education & Health
Quality of Life
|2||District of Columbia||67.46||30||1||1||10||18|
Note: With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that state, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.
As today’s largest generation in the workforce, millennials’ financial habits have become a topic of interest to researchers and marketers alike. We therefore turned to a panel of experts for their insight on the following key questions:
- Are millennials more or less financially savvy than other generations?
- How are the financial habits and behaviors of millennials different from older generations?
- Are millennials more or less likely to talk about money than other groups?
- How can state and local authorities attract and retain highly skilled millennial workers?
- What are the most common mistakes millennials make when starting their careers?
- How have the COVID-19 pandemic and the work from home policies impacted the career development and job security of millennial workers?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the most livable places for millennials, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across five key dimensions: 1) Affordability, 2) Education & Health, 3) Quality of Life, 4) Economic Health and 5) Civic Engagement.
We evaluated those dimensions using 34 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the most favorable conditions for millennials.
We then determined each state and the District’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.
For the purpose of this study, “millennials” are defined as individuals who were born between 1981 and 1996.
Affordability – Total Points: 22.5
- Cost of Living: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
- Average Starbucks Latte Price: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
- Average Monthly Earnings for Millennials: Triple Weight (~9.00 Points)
- Housing Cost for Millennials: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
Note: This is a composite metric of median home price divided by average earnings for millennials and average two-bedroom rent divided by average earnings for millennials.
- Millennial Homeownership Rate: Half Weight (~1.50 Points)
- Annual Cost of Childcare: Full Weight (~3.00 Points)
Note: This metric measures the average annual cost of early childcare as a share of average earnings for millennials.
Education & Health – Total Points: 22.5
- Share of Millennials with at Least a High School Diploma: Full Weight (~1.73 Points)
- Share of Insured Millennials: Full Weight (~1.73 Points)
- Share of Millennials with Poor or Fair Health: Full Weight (~1.73 Points)
- Share of Millennials Diagnosed with Depression: Full Weight (~1.73 Points)
- Suicide Death Rate Among Millennials: Full Weight (~1.73 Points)
- Share of Inactive Millennials: Full Weight (~1.73 Points)
Note: This metric refers to the share of millennials with no physical activity in the past month.
- Share of Overweight & Obese Millennials: Full Weight (~1.73 Points)
- Share of Millennial Binge Drinkers: Full Weight (~1.73 Points)
- Share of Millennial Smokers: Full Weight (~1.73 Points)
- Share of Millennials with No Doctor Visits in the Past Year Due to Cost: Full Weight (~1.73 Points)
- Share of Millennials with No Primary Doctor: Full Weight (~1.73 Points)
- Share of Millennials Who Had a Routine Checkup in the Past Year: Full Weight (~1.73 Points)
- Share of Millennials Who Visited a Dentist in the Past Year: Full Weight (~1.73 Points)
Quality of Life – Total Points: 22.5
- Share of Millennials: Full Weight (~6.43 Points)
- Share of Millennials Living with Their Parents: Half Weight (~3.21 Points)
Note: Due to data limitations, this metric refers to adults aged 18 to 34.
- Singles-Friendliness: Full Weight (~6.43 Points)
Note: Based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst States for Singles” ranking.
- Family-Friendliness: Full Weight (~6.43 Points)
Note: Based on WalletHub’s “Best & Worst States to Raise a Family” ranking.
Economic Health – Total Points: 22.5
- Share of Millennial Newcomers: Half Weight (~1.18 Points)
- Millennial Population Growth: Double Weight (~4.74 Points)
- Average Earnings Growth for Millennials: Full Weight (~2.37 Points)
- Millennial Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~2.37 Points)
- Underemployment Rate: Full Weight (~2.37 Points)
- Labor Force Participation Rate Growth for Millennials (2019 vs 2018): Double Weight (~4.74 Points)
- Median Student-Loan Debt: Full Weight (~2.37 Points)
- Share of Millennials Living in Poverty: Full Weight (~2.37 Points)
Civic Engagement – Total Points: 10
- Millennial Voter Turnout Rate: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric is based on 2016 election data.
- Millennial Volunteer Rate: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- States with Millennials Caucus: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This binary metric measures the presence or absence of a millennial caucus in the states.
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Council for Community and Economic Research, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, TransUnion, Corporation for National and Community Service, Child Care Aware of America, Fast Food Menu Prices, Millennial Action Project and WalletHub research.