Millennials may be tempted to travel to the coasts in search of high-paying work, but after paying rent and taxes, they might have a heavier wallet in North Dakota.
That was the conclusion of a new report from The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, which was touted by state officials this week as evidence of North Dakota’s millennial-friendly economy. It found that, when adjusted for cost of living and income taxes, North Dakota led all states with median earnings of $30,447 annually for people ages 25 to 34, which was only behind Washington, D.C.
Bismarck had the highest median earnings among the country’s metro and nonmetro areas for younger workers at $33,190 annually. With unadjusted figures, the San Jose, Calif., area had the highest earnings at $50,690, but that dropped to $29,754 after factoring in the cost of living and income taxes.
“Bottom line, you’re going to do better in North Dakota than you are in California,” North Dakota Commerce Commissioner Jay Schuler said Monday, July 16.
The Fargo and Grand Forks metro areas recorded adjusted median earnings of $30,053 and $28,524, respectively, for young workers. Nationally, adjusted median earnings totaled $25,950 annually.
The Hamilton Project report used data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Iowa wasn’t included in the statewide figures because its sample size was too small.
On Twitter, Gov. Doug Burgum noted reports from last year indicating his rural state had the highest percentage of millennials of any state in the country.
“Now, we've been credited with having one of the best financial environments for millennials of any state,” the Republican wrote. “Coincidence? We don’t think so.”
Prior to the oil boom that helped insulate North Dakota from the national recession that started a decade ago, state leaders often fretted about young people leaving the state in search of work.
Schuler said the state is focused on growing high-salary jobs to help retain college graduates. He acknowledged young workers tend to be attracted to an area’s amenities first, but he argued North Dakota is making strides through Burgum’s Main Street Initiative.
“Millennials pick a place to live and then they find a job,” he said. “With the job market like it is, that’s easy to do. But you have to admit, downtown Fargo or downtown Bismarck are pretty neat places right now.”
James Jackson, president of the Bismarck-Mandan Young Professionals Network, said the cost of living in his area isn’t high but doesn’t seem to be “particularly low.” He said Bismarck’s attractions, such as its trail system and proximity to a national park, are among its strengths.
“I think that’s a great draw,” Jackson said.