Area Among Best-Paying for Young Workers - Fifth on U.S. top-10 list

November 14, 2019

South-eastern Wisconsin is one of the top 10 best-paying large metro areas in the US for workers under 25. As the labor gap continues through the years, potential employees will have more and more incentive to work in the trades.

The Milwaukee metro area — which includes Waukesha and West Allis — is fifth on a top-10 list of best-paying large metro areas for workers under 25, according to an analysis by
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Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis is among the top 10 best-paying large metro areas in the U.S. for workers under age 25, according to an analysis by

A relatively low cost of living combined with plenty of high-earning jobs make Milwaukee an attractive place for young people to call home, according to the analysis. Companies headquartered in the Milwaukee metro area include A.O. Smith, Harley-Davidson, and Kohl’s Department Stores. While residents must brave the long, cold winters, they also embrace their  summers, celebrating nearly every summer weekend with festivals and cultural events. Young Milwaukeeans can also take advantage of sailing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing on Lake Michigan.

The analysis rated the area fifth on a U.S. top-10 list. The other metros from 10th to first are Hartford-West Hartford-East, Hartford, Connecticut; Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Massachusetts-New Hampshire; Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington; Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio; Providence-Warwick, Rhode Island-Massachusetts; Indianapolis- Carmel-Anderson, Indiana; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Omaha-Council Bluffs, Nebraska-Iowa.

Data and analysis

Even though young adults are major drivers of the labor force, their earnings tend to be low. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, people under age 25 earn significantly less than older, more experienced workers. Nationwide, workers under age 25 earn a median salary of $25,700, roughly half of what workers ages 35-44, 45-54, and over 55 make. However, median salaries vary considerably across locations. Especially when accounting for cost of living differences, some cities offer far more in compensation to those just starting out in their careers.

Although big cities have historically attracted droves of recent graduates, the high costs of living in places like New York, Washington D.C, and San Francisco make it hard for young people to afford rent while also paying off student loans and enjoying city life. Fortunately, there are alternatives with robust job markets, competitive wages, and lower living costs.

To find the best-paying metro areas for young people, researchers at AutoInsurance. org analyzed the latest earnings data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Median earnings for each metro were adjusted up or down based on the relative cost of living in that metro in order to get a comparable metric of purchasing power across locations. In highly expensive cities, like New York, cost-of-living adjusted earnings are lower than actuals; whereas, in highly affordable cities, such as Knoxville, cost-of-living adjusted earnings are boosted up.

Only metro areas with over 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, metro areas were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size: Small metros: 100,000-350,000 Midsize metros: 350,000-1,000,000 Large: more than 1,000,000 Overall, cities in the Midwest tend to pay young workers the highest wages when taking cost of living into account.

For Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, those figures are:

Median earnings for full-time workers under 25 (adjusted): $30,366
Median earnings for full-time workers under 25 (unadjusted): $29,000
Median earnings for all full-time workers (unadjusted): $50,000
Proportion of population under 25: 33.7%
Cost of living: 5% below average

For a complete list of results for all metros, see