Places Where Living Like a Person Is Still Possible

Writer, editor, and millenial Nona Willis Aronowitz spent six weeks traveling the country in search of the next crop of livable cities for twenty-somethings—places where you can do dreamy things like go to a record store, start a business, get a job, find a date, make art, start a family, and maybe even contribute to your 401(k):

My generation, the Millennials, are infamously the first Americans who are not necessarily expected to do better than their parents. Having come of age during the Great Recession and now a long-lived weak job market, the assumption is not only that we’ll be less wealthy, but that the traditional markers of adulthood will be delayed. Or never achieved at all.

Yet this worry also assumes today’s twentysomethings are aiming for the same things as previous generations: either to make it big in the major cities that have traditionally held the promise of success, or to settle down in the house with the white picket fence in the suburbs. Some of us certainly still yearn for this paradigm, but most of us are adjusting our expectations. We’re realizing that those big, bustling cities have become unaffordable for those of us just starting out. And the house in the suburbs, with its long commutes and high gas bills, doesn’t fare much better. So where does a Millennial turn?

Her first stop, Omaha, Neb., is up on Atlantic Cities today, and full of hope, with more cities to come in the next two weeks. These places, like Pittsburgh, Pa., and Milwaukee, Wis., make living the dream seem so not so far-off and impossible after all (although if anyone has figured out what “living the dream” really means in practice, please let me know).

Photo: richardefreeman

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17 Comments / Post A Comment

Houston is dominated by oil money, which provides energy jobs

:( :( :(

flickafly (#4,808)

@apples and oranges Houston is a great city to live in though. people give it so much crap, but it’s an international city – a massive melting pot – the 4th largest city in the US. it is really easy to buy a home there (I bought one when i was 19 for $70K). And despite what Austin-folks will tell you, there is a vibrant and wonderful art/museum scene (funded by some of that oil money sure, but who cares really) and there’s lots of fun weirdos too as long as you live in the loop

@flickafly I’m sure all of that is true! I just am bummed that an article about where Millennials can go have a real future is encouraging the idea of oil-based energy jobs. Because our future is gonna need a lot more than oil (and other fossil fuel based) energy. And, ideally, since Millennials have been raised with Captain Planet and recycling and saving the pandas, they/we are more amenable to these newer energy sector jobs.

Eric18 (#4,486)

@apples and oranges I’m glad that we are increasing our natural gas and other energy sources. I would much rather we rely on ourselves for our energy needs than rely on oppressive regimes in the Middle East.

Eric18 (#4,486)

@flickafly Agreed. Houston, demographics wise, is a far more accurate picture of the U.S. than any other major city. It’s too bad so many people on the coasts are so close minded when it comes to the “flyover states.”

Senna (#3,456)

I think Durham, NC should have been on their list. It’s a small city in its own right, with plenty to see and do, but also very affordable – I can walk downtown and my rent is less than $500/mo. Big city Raleigh and cool college town Chapel Hill are 30 minutes away. Plus Research Triangle Park and several universities (Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State) offer lots of great jobs.

TheDilettantista (#1,255)

@Senna I was just about to come on here to say this. I am a Durhamite in everything but address (pre-husband is at UNC for degree number two but once he is done we are moving to Durham!!! Also Chapel Hill is only 15 minutes away really, as evidenced by my daily commute). I spend 90% of my waking hours in Durham. I work in downtown. I socialize here. I eat out here. I spend an inordinate amount of time at Fullsteam and the Carolina Theatre. Durham should absolutely be on this list–between the affordability factor, all the universities, the Research Triangle and the wealth of art and culture. DURHAM FOREVER.

WhyHelloThere (#1,398)

There are a lot of places that could have been on the list but weren’t. I think it’s meant more to be examples of an idea than an exhaustive list of places.

I live in a place that could have been on the list but isn’t. Some days I don’t understand why all my New-York-based friends and family don’t up and move here, and some days I desperately want to live in a city with good Chinese food and public transit that runs on Sundays. It’s all about tradeoffs, I guess.

Catface (#1,106)

@Senna I have two sets of friends living in Durham and am afraid to go visit them because after all they’ve told me, I think I might explode with jealousy and/or never want to come back home. I can barely wrap my head around the fact that you can buy a nice house in a pleasant part of town on one income — not that that’s a goal of mine per se, it’s just an extremely sobering data point. But I will go, and soon. They assure me that Durham is relatively lacking in ethnic food and microbreweries, but it is cold comfort. (Please, if they are lying to me, let the delusion continue.)

ThatJenn (#916)

@WhyHelloThere “Some days I don’t understand why all my New-York-based friends and family don’t up and move here, and some days I desperately want to live in a city with good Chinese food and public transit that runs on Sundays. It’s all about tradeoffs, I guess.”

You have accurately summed up how I feel about the southern college town where I live. I’ve been here seven years as of this week and I guess I’m staying?

TeaCamelPyramid (#5,197)

I live in Pittsburgh. When I was a graduate student I bought myself a brick house with a yard in a low-crime neighborhood. It was a 24th birthday gift to myself (prior self birthday gift: a pair of sneakers). It’s walking distance to the grocery store and my favorite bar.

Prices have gone up in the last few years, but it’s still quite affordable.

Meaghano (#529)

@TeaCamelPyramid I think I spent my 24th birthday drunk-crying because my internet crush didn’t like me back, so I am impressed. Also, I went to Pittsburgh for a wedding shower recently and it was really great! I want to go back.

r&rkd (#1,657)

@TeaCamelPyramid
Aah! I love Pittsburgh! How all the buildings are up on the hills all around you, it’s like that Paris scene from ‘Inception,’ so cute and cozy.

planforamiracle (#4,034)

Any Canadians have insight on this? I hear all the cool kids are moving to Hamilton…

Lianne (#4,240)

@planforamiracle I was wondering this too.

I’ve lived in Ottawa, Vancouver, the woods, Montreal, Calgary, a small town in Northern BC, and now, Edmonton. And now I’m planning on moving to Fredericton in a few years.

My perception has been that Vancouver is the least livable in terms of wages/housing costs/everything costs. Montreal is getting a lot more expensive all the while, same with Toronto. I speak french and I still found it hard to find a job in Montreal, especially one that wasn’t low-wage. Calgary is pretty expensive, but if you have skills there are lots of jobs. Ottawa is great but only if you have a job before you move there – not a lot of work. Living in a small town in northern BC was affordable and there was lots of work for decent wages when compared to the rest of the province. However, not much resources for further education (why I left). Edmonton so far is paying me $25/hr with pretty much no qualifications. Rent is not too terrible ($1200/month 2 bedroom, inclds utilities) although it can be hard to find a place as vacancy is crazy low. I’m hoping to move east to finish school and live somewhere a little smaller and quieter and hopefully somwhere where I might be able to afford a house.
just my 2 cents (also this has been over the last 10 years; may be different now)

greyeminence (#6,244)

@planforamiracle I went to Western, meaning I lived in London for 4 years. Despite my general preference for larger cities, I actually quite liked London and, had circumstances been a little different, wouldn’t have been averse to sticking around (I live in TO now). London is large enough that the shopping, food and cultural scenes are pretty extensive and well-established, but still small enough that it’s relatively inexpensive to live there and has a small-town feel in certain neighbourhoods. And it has a lovely bike path, if you’re into that. Don’t take that for granted – lots of Canadian cities don’t.

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