While there's debate as to what years define the millennial generation, it's generally considered adults under 35 or so, representing nearly a quarter of the population, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
These millennials aren't kids anymore. All of them can vote, most of them can drink, a third of them are married and about half have children. So, it's no surprise most of them are heads of their own households.
Millennial renters feel at home in these cities
But which of America's largest cities have the most millennial renters? Where do you find the highest overlap between the number of renters and heads of households under age 35?
It seems that the cities with the most millennial renters are more affordable cities — away from the coasts and in states with low costs of living — and college towns, where they may have already gone to school and decided to stay or where the entertainment, transportation and workforce infrastructures are ideal for young adults.
Spanning nearly the entire nation, here are the top 10 cities for head of household renters under 35 among America's 100 largest cities.
10. Anchorage, AK
Even before coronavirus, 85 percent of millennials indicated they'd prefer jobs with full-time remote work opportunities. The generation of digital nomads can work from anywhere, so why not somewhere really far away if it's cool? Anchorage is that place.
Just 370 miles from the Arctic Circle, Anchorage isn't sled dogs and glaciers. Sure, it offers unmatched natural mountain beauty, but it's also a thriving metropolis with trendy restaurants (and the freshest seafood), fashionable retail, arts and music culture, a diverse population (with more than 100 languages spoken), a strong economy and two large universities.
And it's also an increasingly younger city, with millennial renters representing more than 46 percent of lease-holders. Where else can you live in an urban environment with all the trappings for young adults, yet be so close to last frontier wilderness and outdoor adventure?
Anchorage is the most affordable city in Alaska in which to live, but it's certainly not cheap. As people discover the wonders of 20 hours a day of summer sunshine, rental prices for an average one-bedroom will still run you $1,262 a month.
9. Lexington, KY
A couple of years ago, the Lexington Legends minor league baseball team held a “Millennial Night," featuring “activities" like nap time, petition signing, selfie stations and participation ribbons. While well-intentioned, the Lexington millennial population didn't take kindly to it. But what it did was prove what a big millennial town Lexington truly is, as shown by the more than 46 percent of rental household heads falling into that demographic.
Besides the occasional baseball game, there's a great scene in Lexington for young adults. While too old to hang in the student section, a game night at Rupp Arena to watch Wildcats hoops is always a good time out. Culture abounds at the Smithsonian International Museum of the Horse or the University of Kentucky Art Museum. Find your inner hipster at the Festival of the Bluegrass or Third Street Stuff & Coffee. Take an urban walk through Triangle Park or a woodsy stroll at Raven Run Nature Sanctuary. Grab some food on Restaurant Row or West Short Street. And you can't millennial in Kentucky without a stop at one of Lexington's amazing distilleries for some real Kentucky bourbon.
Lexington ranks 10th in the nation for college education rate, with 39.5 percent of residents having at least a bachelor's degree. Many of those college grads are millennial renters, with the city offering an average one-bedroom apartment for $928 monthly.
8. Baton Rouge, LA
Sure, New Orleans gets all the attention and is a top party town for millennials. But Baton Rouge, the state's capital just 100 minutes up I-10 from NOLA, is Louisiana's underrated millennial hub, with its own world-class Mardi Gras party with eight parades, Cajun and creole cuisine and vibrant jazz, hip-hop and Delta blues music scene.
What Baton Rouge lacks in glitz and fame, it makes up for with more manageable crowds, fewer tourists, a lower crime rate, a lower cost of living and a 30,000-enrollment research university with a multiple championship football team.
More than 42 percent of rental heads of household in Baton Rouge are millennials, a figure bolstered by recent grads from Louisiana State University and personnel from elected government officials' staffs. Thankfully, it's a friendly, welcoming Southern city with a personality. Not only does Baton Rouge offer a crowd of more than 100,000 every Saturday at Tiger Stadium (sixth-largest in the nation), but there's much to do in the Red Stick city for you and your fam.
Baton Rouge was named one of the “Best Foodie Cities For Groups," and offers a robust locally-sourced farm-to-table scene. The Oasis is a recreational destination with beach volleyball courts, virtual golf, live music, restaurants and bars. During festival season, music is around nearly every weekend at Funk Fest, Flambeau Festival, Northgate Music & Arts Festival and Baton Rouge Blues Festival, America's oldest.
And at the end of the day, Historic Third Street in downtown is a hub of trendy restaurants, bars, music venues and nightclubs open into the wee hours.
Baton Rouge is also an affordable Southern city, where a one-bedroom apartment leases for a monthly rate of $982 on average.
7. Seattle, WA
Coffee, technology, sports, music, hipsters, food and drink, breweries and dispensaries, progressive government, diversity, outdoor recreation and did we mention coffee? There is so very much for young adults in Seattle, it's no wonder that just less than half of rental household heads are millennial renters. And they're certainly not alone, as Seattle's King County has the second-highest percentage of millennials among the most populous counties in the U.S.
Even in a fluctuating economy, the job market in Seattle is strong, defined by millennial-targeted industry titans like Starbucks, Boeing, Amazon, Nordstrom, Microsoft, T-Mobile, Expedia and Nintendo of America calling the city and its surrounding region home. Not into the giant corporate culture? No problem for millennials, as Seattle is also the No. 1 city in the nation to launch a start-up.
The work-life balance in Seattle is strong, as well, in a city that almost feels made for young adults, with attractions like the Center for Wooden Boats, Fremont troll sculpture, Great Wheel, MoPop Museum, Chihuly Glass Museum and the Underground Tour. Even the tourist traps in Seattle are cool, like the Space Needle, Pike Place Market and the original Starbucks and the Reserve Roastery.
As one of America's best cities for work and for chill, Seattle is a highly desirable city for millennials, but also pricey for renters. A one-bedroom unit rents for $2,567 on average monthly.
6. Austin, TX
It should be a surprise to absolutely no one that Austin is on any list of best or biggest places for millennials. The gigantic University of Texas is one of the 10 biggest colleges in the nation. South By Southwest and Austin City Limits are two of the most popular music and arts festivals anywhere. And it's the metro area with the largest percentage of millennial residents and only getting bigger. An oasis deep in the heart of Texas, the city embodies its “Keep Austin Weird" — it's a way of life for the young adults living here.
There are a number of reasons Austin remains popular with millennials. It's a top city in the U.S. for future job growth and for job seekers. It's one of the best cities for millennial housing, even during the pandemic. It's sustainable, as “The Greenest City in America." But even with all of those factors, it's still Austin's lifestyle that attracts millennial renters.
Austin has one of the most desirable scenes in the nation for a plethora of categories like arts, culture, dining, bars and breweries, live music, museums, education, livability, walkability, green space, biking, outdoor activities, technology, startups, shopping and college sports.
There's a lot of competition for rental housing in Austin with such a large millennial population along with the student population. On average, a one-bedroom apartment unit offers a monthly rent of $1,519.
5. Lincoln, NE
One of several college-and-state-capital cities on our list, Lincoln is the biggest city in the Great Plains for millennial renters. In fact, Business Insider named Lincoln one of the “Best Cities for Millennials"… not small cities, but all cities. It's just one thriving city in a state ranked second in the nation for “Best States for Millennials," according to MoneyRates.
Among its many positive attributes, Lincoln offers a low crime rate, job growth and a low cost of living. Just a few of the reasons why more than half of rentals in the city are headed by millennials.
Lincoln is not just cornfields and college football games. The city offers sites like the National Museum of Roller Skating, Great Plains Art Museum, Mueller Planetarium, Sunken Gardens and Museum of American Speed. Or, just experience Lincoln on a Group Therapy Bike Tour, which hits popular bars, restaurants and city landmarks. And for getting outdoors, the city's extensive park system offers more than 125 individual parks.
The Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development has been spearheading the effort to keep millennials and recent University of Nebraska grads in town for the long haul. And with the price of a one-bedroom apartment just $1,031 monthly on average, no wonder more millennials are sticking around.
4. Minneapolis, MN
When millennials are searching for great places to live, they consider many factors like job opportunities, low cost of living, urban amenities, outdoor activities, sports, culture, a progressive population and affordable rentals. Not a lot of cities check off all of those boxes in a big city atmosphere. Minneapolis, though, is one. It's been named one of the top cities for millennials by both The Atlantic and Forbes.
Thanks to a series of unique housing and tax-sharing regulations, Minneapolis has blossomed with a plethora of inviting neighborhoods that are affordable for young graduates and nice and diverse enough to stay there as they age up. And the numbers prove they do just that, with Minneapolis the No. 1 large city in the nation for retaining its workforce. It's also a business and tech hub, and home to 19 Fortune 500 companies from UnitedHealth to General Mills to, of course, Target.
Be careful if you decide to move to Minneapolis, as statistics show that you might make the larger Twin City your home for the long haul. For the meantime, you can snag a one-bedroom apartment in MLPS for an affordable $1,472 a month on average.
3. Pittsburgh, PA
With its reputation as an old steel town filled with blue collar factory workers and mustachioed Steelers fans in hard hats, you wouldn't normally think of Pittsburgh as a mecca for millennials. But the truth is, the Steel City is the top city for millennial renters in the entire eastern U.S. Today's Pittsburgh is a modern, shining business and tech hub, alive with culture, music, gleaming new glass towers and of course black-and-gold sports.
There's so much for millennials to do in Pittsburgh. Young adults can find some fun on the PNC Carousel, up the Duquesne Incline or over the view at Grandview Park, or hit up the cool museum circuit with stops like the Big Mac Museum, Randyland, Warhol Museum, Roberto Clemente Museum and Inventionland.
If you grew up on Mister Rogers, you can't miss the Neighborhood of Make-Believe exhibit at the Heinz History Museum. And don't forget to recreate the famous driving scene from “Perks of Being a Wallflower" as you enter the city through the Fort Pitt Tunnels.
In downtown, spend a day hanging at Market Square, a destination for pop-up events, art installations, shopping, summer concerts and a winter holiday market, and great people-watching. And for good eats, check out the Pittsburgh Strip District, a half-mile shopping and restaurant region full of food carts, produce stands, ethnic groceries, farmers' markets and street vendors, along with open-air bars, art studios, vintage shops, museums and warehouse and loft apartments. And if you're part of the vintage hipster crowd, there's nothing better than a sandwich from Primanti Brothers and a cold Iron City Light beer.
Despite residing in the same state as East Coast Philadelphia, Pittsburgh is pure work-a-day Midwest. Rental prices still reflect more Middle America than coastal, where a one-bedroom apartment leases for an average of $1,557 a month.
2. Lubbock, TX
Everything, they say, is bigger in Texas. Even small cities are bigger in Texas, like the South Plains city of Lubbock. Despite a population of well over a quarter-million residents, it's still just the state's 11th largest city. But one thing Lubbock has is cotton. The Lubbock area is the largest cotton-producing region in the entire world. And the city is also home to Texas Tech University and its 38,000 students.
Lubbock is also the city with the South's largest percentage of millennial renters. More than 54 percent of head of rental households are younger than 35. And the city is full of things to do for young adults, including the Buddy Holly Center (especially with a pic in front of the giant horn-rimmed glasses for your 'gram), Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts, Lubbock Memorial Arboretum, Science Spectrum Museum and Prairie Dog Town.
Whether with kids or just on your own, enjoy a day at the iconic Joyland Amusement Park, an 80-year old landmark with more than 30 rides, including two rollercoasters and an old-school carousel. And if your tastes run a bit more adult, the Lubbock region produces 80 percent of the state's wine grapes and offers five wineries for visiting and tasting.
Come nighttime, the Depot District, a former old railroad depot on the edge of downtown, is the entertainment capital of the city, offering brewpubs, music venues, upscale restaurants, theaters and nightclubs.
No matter what brings you to the West Texas region south of the Panhandle, Lubbock is an underrated spot for millennials. And a one-bedroom apartment leases for just $717 on average each month.
1. Madison, WI
With millennials representing a full 61 percent of all rental heads of households, the city of Madison is the No. 1 large or mid-sized city in the U.S. for millennial renters. Like several of our previous entrants, Madison is not just a college town — home of the University of Wisconsin main campus — it's also the state capital. This accounts for a number of apartments being rented by students and recent grads, as well as interns, pages, clerks and a number of state government workers and employees of elected officials.
Madison is a great city for millennial renters, even during the brutally cold months. Interesting attractions include Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Henry Vilas Zoo, Chazen Museum of Art, National Mustard Museum and winter skating at the Ice Rink at The Edgewater. And of course, there's no party like a Badger game, be it football, basketball or hockey.
But there are two particularly fun spots in Madison where young adults can gather and enjoy the day. The Terrace at Memorial Union, outside the University of Wisconsin's student center, is a beautiful place to relax and socialize on campus overlooking Lake Mendota, an outdoor dining and urban beach patio complete with a performance stage.
And downtown, discover State Street. The pedestrian mall runs between campus and Capitol Square and features six blocks of eclectic restaurants, pubs and shops to stroll during the day or bar hop after midnight, after grabbing a Smokey the Bandit slice at Ian's Pizza.
Madison is also a great value for students and government employees alike, with an average one-bedroom renting for $1,191 a month.
The top 50 cities with the most millennial renters
When expanded out to the top 50 cities for millennial renters, patterns stay mostly the same — affordable mid-sized cities away from the coasts, including a number of college towns, like Spokane, Durham and Fort Wayne. But there's also a marked increase in large cities such as Chicago, Houston and San Diego, showing the affordability and trendiness of large regions outside of the northeast corridor.
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The top smaller cities with the most millennial renters
And when you pull out even further and explore all American cities with populations more than 50,000, of which there are 773, true college towns have far-and-away the highest rates of millennial renters. These cities include the campuses of universities like Iowa State, Texas A&M and Kansas State, with the Provo, UT, location of Brigham Young University, at the top with nearly three-quarters of all renters younger than 35.
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Affordable cities are attracting millennial renters
Millennials aren't looking for avocado toast and PBR. They're looking for cities where they can live close to work or work remotely. A place to rent an affordable apartment and enjoy being with friends or start a family. A city with entertainment, lifestyle and business opportunities that speak to them. That's why affordable cities, Midwest locales and college towns attract them in record numbers. These are the model cities that see the greatest number of millennial renters in their midst.
To find the areas with the most millennial renters, we looked at the percentage of renter-occupied housing units in which the householder was under 35-years old in the 100 most populated cities in the country. This data came from the U.S. Census Bureau's 2018 ACS table of demographic characteristics for occupied housing units.
Rent prices are based on a rolling weighted average from Apartment Guide and Rent.com's multifamily rental property inventory of one-bedroom apartments. Data was pulled in June 2020 and goes back for one year. We use a weighted average formula that more accurately represents price availability for each individual unit type and reduces the influence of seasonality on rent prices in specific markets.
The rent information included in this article is used for illustrative purposes only. The data contained herein do not constitute financial advice or a pricing guarantee for any apartment.
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