The 15 highest paid cities for young college graduates

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    University graduate with money
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    This story originally appeared on Self.

    With the cost of college education rising, finding a well-paying job after graduation is more important than ever. Over half of young adults entering college ran into debt on typical student loans in the $ 20,000 to $ 25,000 range after graduation. According to the latest data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average recent salary for full-time graduates is about $ 50,000 per year. The number, however, varies greatly depending on the city, major and occupation.

    The good news is that the median wage of the youngest graduates (adjusted for inflation) has fluctuated over the past few decades, but the number hit a new high last year, rising nearly $ 4,500 from 2019 to 2020. As for the $ 50,000 per year wage numbers for 2020, it comes from survey data collected in March last year, so it does not adequately reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Graduates looking for work last spring faced the worst job market since the Great Depression, and it remains to be seen how wages will play out in the years to come.

    While major is one of the strongest predictors of post-graduate income, so is location. In addition, large differences in the cost of living between locations affect how comfortable it is to live on a certain wage and how easy it is to repay loans. At the state level, graduates working full-time in North Dakota and Montana have the highest median earnings after adjusting for cost of living at $ 53,751 and $ 51,337, respectively. While one of the lowest cost of living states, New Mexico also has the lowest adjusted average wage for full-time graduates at just $ 36,224 per year.

    To find the highest-paying metropolitan areas for recent college graduates, Self’s researchers analyzed the latest income data from the US Census Bureau and the cost of living from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. The researchers classified the metropolitan areas according to the median income adjusted to the cost of living for full-time university graduates aged 22 to 27 with only a bachelor’s degree. The researchers also calculated the unadjusted median income of the youngest graduates and the percentage of the population of the youngest college graduates. Only the 50 largest metropolitan areas were included in the analysis.

    Read on to find out about the highest-paying graduate metros in the United States.

    15. Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN

    Cincinnati
    anthony-heflin / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 48,565
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 44,000
    • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 2.4%
    • Cost of living: 9.4% below average

    14. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

    Minneapolis
    Nick Lundgren / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 48,591
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 50,000
    • Youngest proportion of university degrees in the total population: 3.0%
    • Cost of living: 2.9% above average

    13. Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI

    Chicago, Illinois
    f11photo / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 48,638
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 50,000
    • Youngest proportion of university degrees in the total population: 2.8%
    • Cost of living: 2.8% above average

    12. Providence-Warwick, RI-MA

    Providence, Rhode Island
    Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 48,853
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 49,000
    • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 2.5%
    • Cost of living: 0.3% above average

    11. Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX

    Houston, Texas
    Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 49,164
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 50,000
    • Youngest proportion of university degrees in the total population: 1.9%
    • Cost of living: 1.7% above average

    10. Austin-Round Rock, TX

    Austin, Texas
    Roschetzky Photography / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 49,345
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 49,000
    • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 3.2%
    • Cost of living: 0.7% below average

    9. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX

    Dallas, Texas
    mandritoiu / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 49,407
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 50,000
    • Youngest proportion of university degrees in the total population: 2.3%
    • Cost of living: 1.2% above average

    8. Columbus, OH

    Columbus, Ohio
    Randall Vermillion / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 51,856
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 47,500
    • Youngest proportion of university degrees in the total population: 2.7%
    • Cost of living: 8.4% below average

    7. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA.

    San Francisco, California
    IM_photo / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 52,045
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 70,000
    • Youngest proportion of university degrees in the total population: 3.4%
    • Cost of living: 34.5% above average

    6. Cleveland-Elyria, OH

    Cleveland, Ohio
    Rudy Balasko / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 52,280
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 47,000
    • Youngest proportion of university degrees in the total population: 2.1%
    • Cost of living: 10.1% below average

    5. Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI

    Detroit seen from the air.
    Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 52,466
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 50,000
    • Youngest proportion of university degrees in the total population: 2.1%
    • Cost of living: 4.7% below average

    4. Pittsburgh, PA

    Pittsburgh
    esb-professional / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): 52,706 USD
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 48,700
    • Youngest proportion of university degrees in the total population: 2.8%
    • Cost of living: 7.6% below average

    3. Kansas City, MO-KS

    Kansas City Missouri Highway
    Real Window Creative / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 52,802
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 49,000
    • Youngest proportion of university degrees in the total population: 2.3%
    • Cost of living: 7.2% below average

    2. St. Louis, MO-IL

    St. Louis, Missouri
    KENNY TONG / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 53,274
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 48,000
    • Youngest proportion of university degrees in the total population: 2.1%
    • Cost of living: 9.9% below average

    1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA.

    San Jose, California
    Uladzik Kryhin / Shutterstock.com
    • Median income of the youngest university graduates (adjusted): $ 56,827
    • Median earnings for youngest college graduates (actual): $ 72,000
    • Youngest share of university degrees in the total population: 3.3%
    • Cost of living: 26.7% above average

    Detailed results and methodology

    Graduate with money
    Sean Locke Photography / Shutterstock.com

    The highest-paying graduate metros are a mix of more expensive tech hubs and cheaper cities in the Midwest and Northeast. The highest-paying subway for these young professionals – San Jose, California – is one of the most expensive areas in the country, but college graduates earn enough there to make up for the high cost of living. Young graduates in metropolitan St. Louis make a median of $ 48,000, but life in this Missouri city is so affordable that its median living-cost-adjusted wage ($ 53,274) is nearly as high as that of their counterparts in San Jose.

    Nationwide, the youngest college graduates, ages 22-27, make up 2.1 percent of the population, but some of the highest-paid metros attract larger numbers. Recent graduates in metropolitan areas of San Jose, San Francisco, and Austin, Texas make up more than 3 percent of the local population, about a third more than nationally.

    To find the highest-paying graduate metros, Self’s researchers analyzed data from the 2019 American Community Survey (ACS PUMS), the American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s 2019 Regional Price Parity (RPP) dataset. Median income statistics were derived from the ACS PUMS and the cost of living index was derived from the RPP data.

    To make profits comparable across locations, profits in expensive metros have been adjusted to reflect lower purchasing power, while profits in relatively affordable metros have been adjusted to reflect higher purchasing power.

    The metropolitan areas were then classified according to the median income of the youngest college graduates, adjusted for the cost of living. Recent college graduates were defined as those aged 22-27 who only had a bachelor’s degree and worked full-time (not in school). Only the 50 largest metropolitan areas were included in the analysis.

    Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, sometimes we get compensation for clicking links in our stories.

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