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Utah is most popular affordable state for young adults

downtown salt lake city

Moving away from home for the first time is often a daunting and difficult part of the transition to adulthood. Due in part to high home prices and relatively low earnings, young adults often rent instead of buying a home. Choosing an affordable place to live with plenty of other young people who can share housing costs can help ease the financial burden of living away from one’s parents. However, both cost of living and the young adult demographic can vary greatly by location.

Paying an entire monthly rent bill is often out of the question for young adults who are either still in college or are just starting out in their careers. As a result, young adults frequently live with others to lessen the financial burden of rent. Just 5% of young adults ages 18 to 24 live alone. Most young adults (69%) live with their parents or other relatives, and nearly one-fifth live with roommates (such as a non-spouse partner or nonrelatives). Living with roommates has become much more common over the last few decades; in 1967, just 2.8% of people ages 18 to 24 lived with roommates.

Living with roommates has become a necessity for some young adults due to rising rent costs. Since 2000, rental affordability has been steadily declining. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Rental Affordability Index measures whether a typical renter household has enough income to qualify for a lease on a typical rental home. A Rental Affordability Index of 100 or higher means the median income can afford the median rent (assuming that no more than 30% of income goes towards rent). In the last quarter of 2000, the Rental Affordability Index was 138.2. The most recent Rental Affordability Index was 92.7, meaning the typical renter is unable to afford the median rental home. This is the lowest the index has been since HUD began tracking the metric.

When deciding where to live, one important factor other than affordability is being around other similarly aged people that can help share housing costs. However, the young adult demographic can greatly vary by location. In general, states with lower costs of living tend to have larger populations of young people. Utah and North Dakota have the highest percentages of people ages 18 to 24 in the country at 11.4% and 11%, respectively. Both of these states also have relatively low costs of living—5.4% and 8.9% less than average. In contrast, states on the West Coast and in the Northeast have higher costs of living as well as lower populations of young people.

To determine the affordable locations with the largest populations of young people, researchers at HireAHelper analyzed the latest data from the Census Bureau, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The researchers ranked states according to the percentage of the population ages 18 to 24. Researchers also calculated the total number of people ages 18 to 24, the relative cost of living, and the median monthly rent cost. Only affordable locations with below-average living costs were included in the analysis.

The analysis found that in Utah—where the cost of living is 5.4% less than average—11.4% of the population is 18 to 24 years old, compared to 9.1% nationally. Among all states with a below-average cost of living, Utah is the most popular for young adults. Here is a summary of the data for Utah:

  • Percentage of the population ages 18 to 24: 11.4%
  • Total population 18 to 24: 381,791
  • Cost of living (compared to average): -5.4%
  • Median monthly rent cost: $1,363

For reference, here are the statistics for the entire United States:

  • Percentage of the population ages 18 to 24: 9.1%
  • Total population 18 to 24: 30,225,003
  • Cost of living (compared to average): N/A
  • Median monthly rent cost: $1,435

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on HireAHelper’s website: