Study rates N.D. No. 1 for youthThe best U.S. state for young people to start their adult lives and begin their careers is North Dakota, according to a study released last month by Mon eyRates.com — a national financial services and investments website.
By: Brian Willhide, The Jamestown Sun
The best U.S. state for young people to start their adult lives and begin their careers is North Dakota, according to a study released last month by Mon eyRates.com — a national financial services and investments website.
MoneyRates was founded in 1999 and is based out of Foster City, Calif.
The study, completed by website columnist and 20-year veteran of the financial industry Richard Barrington, along with a group of researchers, ranked the top 10 states in terms of which had the most favorable conditions to young people.
Conditions were based on a combination of nine economic and lifestyle factors.
The findings that led to North Dakota ranking No. 1 were not much of a surprise to Barrington.
“Probably the most overpowering thing that North Dakota has in its favor is its employment situation,” said Barrington, who also serves as MoneyRates’ primary spokesperson and personal finance expert.
North Dakota’s unemployment rate was 3 percent in July, compared to the national average of 8.3 percent.
The disparity between the state and national unemployment rates for people 18 to 24 years old is even greater than the overall rates, according to Barrington.
“Specifically for 18- to 24-year-olds, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that North Dakota has a much lower unemployment rate at 5.3 percent, as opposed to 13.9 percent nationally,” he said.
Employment for young people was one of four economic factors the study examined. The other three were insurance costs for young drivers, cost of a college education and affordability of housing.
“A lot of young people don’t realize how exceptionally good the living environment and cost of living are out there,” said Barrington, referring to North Dakota and other Midwest states that were highly ranked in the study such as South Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska.
For a comparison, Barrington cited the median rental costs for housing provided by the U.S. Census Bureau and the average annual cost for a four-year college institution provided by The College Board.
“The median (monthly) rent in North Dakota is $564, compared to California, which is $1,155. Then you look at $10,774 for annual cost of a college education, whereas it’s $16,995 nationally — plus, you’ve got to multiply that number by four years,” he said.
The youth lifestyle
The study also looked at five lifestyle factors including youth-oriented retail stores, nightlife, the percentage of young people across each state, the availability of living space and healthfulness.
While North Dakota as a whole cannot compete with many other states in terms of nightlife, Barrington said there is much to consider for young people beyond just that one factor.
“Other places may have many more things going on in terms of entertainment, but the bright lights and everything aren’t much fun if you don’t have the money to enjoy them,” he said.
Barrington said the fact that there’s a high percentage of youth in the state also makes for North Dakota’s top ranking on the list.
“What attracts young people to an area is other young people. Only Washington, D.C., has a greater per capita portion of 18- to 24-year-olds than North Dakota,” he said. “And then if you look at places like California and Nevada where youth unemployment is over 17 percent, it’s truly a hardship for young people to get their careers started and get a foot in the door.”
Impact on Jamestown
The findings are proof that the state continues heading in the right direction, according to several Jamestown-area officials involved in both the influx of young people to the area and economic development.
“I think it’s very encouraging and exciting to see North Dakota showcased like this,” said Ramone Gumke, Jamestown City Council member. “Given the increase in both tangible and potential growth in all areas, this kind of publicity can really benefit us as a state and as a community like Jamestown.”
While known as a culturally and fiscally conservative state, North Dakota has proven to offer opportunities for young people to flourish, according to Quincy Backen, president of the Young Professionals of Jamestown subcommittee of the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce.
“This is a conservative state but we are very progressive with our vision for the future and giving our young leaders a chance to succeed,” he said. “The state has always wanted to retain its younger residents and the quality of life here has never been better.”
A significant part of building on the state’s quality of life has been economic development, according to Connie Ova, CEO of Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp.
“A focus for us as the JSDC has always been retaining and attracting young, productive workers — people who won’t go just anywhere for a good job,” she said. “We’ve always had the younger generation in mind when we formed partnerships … companies JSDC has targeted such as Eldermark provide jobs specifically for Jamestown College graduates who could find some careers in their field but most had to move to Bismarck, Fargo or Minneapolis.”
Eldermark is an assisted living software company based out of Minnetonka, Minn., that has a branch located in Jamestown.
Ova also said schools, safe neighborhoods and a friendly environment have been reasons she has witnessed more young people living and working in the area.
A gradual process
Overall, Barrington doesn’t expect a massive influx of young people to immediately begin migrating to the top-ranked states, instead saying it would be something that would happen over time.
“It’ll be a gradual process,” he said. “The longer the poor job market goes on, the more people will migrate to these kinds of states. Ultimately, the lure of being able to find a job could very well win out in a tough market.”
Barrington said that looking across the top 10 list he and his group compiled there are opportunities nationwide young people can take advantage of.
“You really do span the country when you take a good look at this list. It just shows that there’s a fair amount of choices out there for young people to find as a welcoming place to live and work. And, ultimately, it’s a bit of a reminder to young people to ‘Look before you leap,’ when determining where they might want to start their life and their career,” he said.
To look at the full study completed by Barrington and MoneyRates, visit www.money rates.com.
Sun reporter Brian Willhide can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org