Between 2011 and 2012, more than 1 in 10 Americans moved cities. Nearly half of college graduates move out of the states in which they were born by the time they turn 30. Whether it is for better jobs, family commitments, or educational opportunities, Americans are becoming increasingly mobile.
Much of this mobility can be attributed to a tendency to switch jobs more frequently than Americans have in the past. Job hopping is the new norm among the American workforce, particularly for young employees, and many are choosing to work freelance or pursue startup ventures. The average tenure of an employee has decreased (the median number of years an American worker has been at his or her current job is only at 4.6), and there has been an increase in the proportion of workers in jobs with less than one year of tenure.
As the traditional career paths change, Americans are increasingly in need of a way to compare cities and the many options available to them. These factors are worth considering before relocating:
Cost of living. Cities vary widely in terms of their cost of living. For example, it is twice as expensive to live in Honolulu as it is to live in Memphis. Use a cost of living calculator to determine how your expenses will change as you change cities and what categories of expenses will increase in cost. Food may be more expensive in one city, but housing might be cheaper in another.
These expenses will affect some consumers more than others, so be sure to think about your own situation. Do you need a car? Parking can be a hassle if you’re thinking about moving to Manhattan. Would you like to own your own home? Cities vary in the availability and cost of homes for sale, and some are friendlier to renters.
Quality of life. Cities differ widely in terms of culture, demographics, and quality of life. It’s important to prioritize and determine what aspects are most important to you and your happiness. The city’s diversity, age, walkability, and crime rate are all significant factors that can affect how comfortable and happy you are.
Explore your potential new city through travel guides, online forums, and a city life tool, where you can compare cities to each other according to various qualities.
Availability of jobs. While some cities are better for job seekers than others in terms of growth and employment rates, you should take into account your own preferred industries. Some cities are hubs for niche industries. For example, Dallas and Fort Worth are close to the Telecom Corridor—a technology business center—while employment in the healthcare industry in Denver has increased by 23 percent over the past five years.
Quality of schools. Parents may want to explore the public and private education options in the city—namely, to check if there are high-quality public schools or affordable private schools. Greatschools.com is a trusted, consumer-friendly resource that offers ratings of public schools.
Divya Raghavan is an analyst at NerdWallet, a website offering a cost of living calculator and city life tool to help consumers make informed decisions when moving cities.