The 10 Worst States for Millennials

worst-states-for-millennials

Millennials are struggling. With rising student debt, stagnant wages, and avocado toast, many are working hard to hardly get by.

It is no surprise millennials are struggling financially. As a group, 24-39 years old earn less and have less assets than their parents did a generation ago. However, just like the job market and cost of living, where you live matters. We analyzed all 50 states and the District of Columbia to uncover where it is hardest for millennials to thrive.

Below we detail the criteria we used to rank the states and have the full ranked list. But first, let’s see the 10 states where millennials have it the roughest.

The south dominates this list with 5 of the top 10 being southern states. The other 5? Include some areas notorious for high costs of living or in economic distress.

Keep reading to see why these states have the least to offer millennials and to see the full list.

How We Determined The Worst States For Millennials

Each state and DC were ranked 1 to 51 in four categories:

  • Millennial Unemployment Rate
  • Average Student Loan Debt
  • Millennial Home Ownership
  • Percent Of Millennials Living In Poverty

All four categories were then averaged together, each weighted equally. The lower score in each category, the lower the rank. For example, DC’s $55,400 was the highest average student loan debt, earning it a rank of #1 for student loan debt.

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We used the most recent American Community Survey 2014-2018 data from the U.S. Census Bureau to get unemployment rate by state for those 25-34. The ACS data also provided the poverty rate by state for the 25-34 age demographic.

To analyze millennial home ownership, we once again used the ACS data to find the percentage of homeowners under 35 in each state.

To gather average student loan debt by millennial borrower, we used the most recent report from Educationdata.org.

If your state isn’t among the top 10, jump down to the bottom of the post to see where it lands on the full list. Otherwise, learn more about why these states are the worst place to be a millennial.

1. Mississippi

mississippi class=

Unemployment: 10%
Poverty Rate: 29%
Homeownership: 10%

It is no surprise to see Mississippi top the list of worst places to be a millennial. Mississippi often comes in dead last in education and quality of life metrics. Why is it so hard being a millennial in
the Magnolia state?

More than 1-in-4 Mississippi millennials live in poverty, in addition to facing the worst unemployment in the nation. While housing in Mississippi is relatively affordable, it’s simply not enough to help the millennials struggling just to get by.

2. Florida

florida class=

Unemployment: 7%
Poverty Rate: 22%
Homeownership: 7%

Florida may be a beloved destination for vacationers, but millennial residents may find themselves experiencing hardship. Not only do Floridian millennials stand a 22% chance of living in poverty, the state also the 3rd worst Millennial homeownership rate in the nation.

The beautiful surroundings can only provide so much comfort to adults striving to make a living.

3. Alabama

alabama class=

Unemployment: 8%
Poverty Rate: 27%
Homeownership: 10%

Alabama comes in at #3 for the worst place to be a millennial. While unemployment for millennials is 2% lower than Mississippi, it’s still not great. 27% of Alabama millennials are below the federal poverty rate.

4. South Carolina

south carolina class=

Unemployment: 7%
Poverty Rate: 22%
Homeownership: 10%

Just graduating college in South Carolina sets you up for an average $38,300 in student loan debt. Considering 7% of millennials are unemployed, it can’t be easy paying off those hefty student loan payments.

5. Georgia

georgia class=

Unemployment: 7%
Poverty Rate: 21%
Homeownership: 10%

Georgia tells a similar story to other southern states that top the list– a high poverty rate, paired with less than stellar unemployment. Toss in the high average student debt and it’s easy to see it isn’t all peaches for millennials in the peach state.

6. North Carolina

north carolina class=

Unemployment: 7%
Poverty Rate: 22%
Homeownership: 10%

North Carolina has similar stats to its neighbor, South Carolina- paired with worst homeownership and slightly less crippling debt.

7. West Virginia

west virginia class=

Unemployment: 9%
Poverty Rate: 32%
Homeownership: 9%

West Virginia is one of the states with a shrinking population. Every year residents are packing up and moving in hopes of a brighter future. Millennials in West Virginia have the highest poverty rate in the nation, with a depressing 1-3 live below the poverty level).

Pair that with sky high unemployment, and chances are pretty good wherever they move, the grass is greener.

8. New Mexico

new mexico class=

Unemployment: 8%
Poverty Rate: 27%
Homeownership: 10%

Why is it so rough being a millennial in New Mexico? A terrible 8% unemployment rate. Since jobs make creature comforts affordable, like food and shelter, this doesn’t bode well for millennials who call New Mexico home.

9. Oregon

oregon class=

Unemployment: 6%
Poverty Rate: 23%
Homeownership: 9%

In Oregon, more millennials are working than most other states. However judging from dismal homeownership rate and a surprisingly high poverty rate, folks are working just to get by in Oregon.

10. California

california class=

Unemployment: 7%
Poverty Rate: 20%
Homeownership: 8%

California may be the golden state, but for millennials living there may not look so shiny. High home costs mean home ownership is out of reach for many millennials. When paired with high unemployment and an unpleasantly high poverty rate, it earns California its spot at #10.

Some states offer Millennials worst opportunities than others

There you have it, the 10 states where millennials have the hardest time thriving.

At the end of the day, millennials are struggling nationwide. However, some states have less job opportunities, higher costs of living, and other blockers to achieving the American Dream– or even just not living in desperate poverty.

Where should millennials go for the best opportunities? Out west! Western states dominate the top 10 best states for millennials.

Best States For Millennials

  1. North Dakota
  2. Nebraska
  3. Iowa
  4. South Dakota
  5. Wyoming
  6. Minnesota
  7. Utah
  8. Wisconsin
  9. Kansas
  10. Colorado

If your state wasn’t in the top 10, you can see where it landed below.

See Where Your State Fell On The List:

Rank Geographic Area Name Unemployment(%) Poverty Rate(%) Homeownership(%) Student Debt
1 Mississippi 9 28 10 $36,700
1 Florida 6 21 7 $39,700
3 Alabama 8 26 10 $37,100
4 South Carolina 7 21 9 $38,300
5 Georgia 7 20 9 $41,500
6 North Carolina 6 21 9 $37,500
7 West Virginia 8 32 9 $31,800
8 New Mexico 8 27 10 $33,600
9 Oregon 6 22 9 $36,900
10 California 6 20 8 $36,400
11 New York 6 18 7 $37,800
12 Michigan 7 22 10 $35,900
13 Louisiana 7 26 11 $34,400
13 Tennessee 6 22 10 $36,200
15 Delaware 6 17 9 $37,000
15 Connecticut 7 17 7 $34,900
15 Hawaii 4 20 6 $36,500
18 Arizona 6 22 9 $34,100
19 New Jersey 6 17 7 $35,100
20 Illinois 6 18 10 $37,600
21 Maryland 6 15 9 $42,700
22 Pennsylvania 6 19 9 $35,400
23 Kentucky 6 24 11 $32,500
23 Ohio 6 21 10 $34,600
25 Nevada 6 20 10 $33,600
26 Maine 5 22 9 $32,500
26 Arkansas 6 24 11 $33,300
26 Virginia 5 16 9 $39,000
29 Rhode Island 6 18 8 $31,800
30 Vermont 4 15 8 $36,700
31 Missouri 5 20 11 $35,400
32 Massachusetts 5 16 8 $34,100
33 New Hampshire 3 15 8 $36,700
34 Washington 5 17 10 $35,000
35 Indiana 5 21 11 $32,800
36 Alaska 7 15 12 $33,600
37 Idaho 4 23 12 $32,600
37 District of Columbia 5 10 12 $55,400
39 Montana 4 21 10 $33,300
40 Oklahoma 5 23 12 $31,500
41 Texas 5 18 11 $32,800
42 Colorado 4 15 11 $35,800
43 Kansas 4 20 12 $32,500
44 Wisconsin 4 16 10 $31,800
45 Utah 3 20 15 $32,200
46 Minnesota 3 14 12 $33,400
47 Wyoming 5 17 13 $31,000
48 Iowa 3 19 13 $30,500
48 South Dakota 3 19 14 $31,100
50 Nebraska 3 17 13 $32,100
51 North Dakota 2 13 16 $29,200

Want the latest research and most engaging stories first? Email Kathy Morris at kmorris@zippia.com to be added to our weekly newsletter.

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This is why millennials struggle to buy homes

The homeownership rate of millennials is 8% lower than it was for Gen Xers and Baby Boomers when they were the same age, according to a new report by the Urban Institute. So why are younger generations struggling to obtain a home at the same rate as their parents were?

In its Millennial Homeownership report, the Urban Institute states that there would be 3.4 million more homeowners if millennials had managed to keep pace with their earlier generations.

Obviously they haven’t, and so the Urban Institute tried to find out why. It’s confusing at first because millennials are the most educated generation in the history of the U.S., but that unfortunately means that many are being hampered by student debts that prevent them from saving for a down payment on a home. The Urban Institute said its own research has found that it only takes a 1% increase in a person’s student loan debt to decrease their chances of buying a home. But the average student debt of millennials now is $19,000, way above the average debt of $12,800 that Gen Xers had when they were the same age.

Millennials face other problems too. They’re renting their accommodation for longer than earlier generations did and they have to pay higher housing costs too. As such, some analysts have started using the term “rent burdended” to describe many millennials that are forced to spend more than 30% of their income on their housing.

Another factor that makes it less likely for millennials to buy a home is that they’re generally waiting longer than their parents did before getting married. The median age for marriage has shifted from the early-20s in 1960, to the late 20s today.

The Urban Institute does however say that the new remote work trend that took off because of COVID-19 could push more millennials to look at buying a home, in order to give themselves more living space. Working from home has led to a desire among many people for more personal space, and it also gives some the freedom to move to other parts of the country where housing might be cheaper.

Indeed, realtor.com predicts in its 2021 Housing Forecast that millennials will really start to shape the housing market in the new year, and could even outnumber Gen Xer and Baby Boomer buyers.

“Older millennials will likely be trade-up buyers, while the larger, younger segment of the generation age into their key homebuying years,” realtor.com notes in its report.

Gen Z, the youngest generation, is also expected to emerge in larger numbers in 2021 and compete with millennials for a limited number of entry-level homes.

Source: realtybiznews.com