By Ian Salisbury
June 11, 2018

For many Americans, the years in your 20s and early 30s are a time to pull up stakes and head off someplace new — where, with luck, you’ll make your fortune. But where to go?

For ambitious millennials, the first places that pop to mind could be California or New York, where industries like Hollywood, tech and finance seem to mint 20-something millionaires overnight.

And if fame or tycoon-style riches are really what you’re after, that’s probably still your best bet.

But most of Americans aren’t after those things at all. What they actually want is a solid income — and a comfortable life. And if that’s what you’re seeking, your perfect place may be completely different.

To get a sense of which states offer young workers the best prospects now, we pulled the most recent Census data showing median household earnings for the age cohort that most closely aligns with the millennial generation — ages 25 to 44. Overall, it showed what you might expect. The District of Columbia — with a median income of more than $87,200 — topped the list. Other coastal states like Massachusetts ($86,600), Washington ($74,300), California ($71,900), and New York ($71,200) weren’t far behind.

The problem is, these places can be expensive to live. Sometimes insanely so. Earning $70,000 or more doesn’t seem that great when the median home price is more than $500,000.

So to better account for the cost of living — and get a real sense of which states offer millennials the best economic prospects — we used the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s regional price parity calculations to adjust those state-by-state earnings numbers.

As you can see when you scroll over our map, above, the places where millennials actually achieve a higher standard of living are a lot different than the initial set.

While young workers in some coastal states like Massachusetts and Virginia remain among the best off, those in places like New York and California fall far behind. Meanwhile, young people living in places like the Dakotas and Wyoming — inexpensive areas that have been benefited from a decade-long energy job boom — seem rich by comparison.

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