Study: Best Cities for Young Adults in Georgia
There’s a lot to recommend in Georgia for people of all ages, from the warm climate to the diversity of industries that call the Southern state home. For young professionals, though, there are some parts of the state that are clearly more appealing than others. So we set out to figure out which places newly minted professionals might want to check out.
Looking at the 150 largest population centers in Georgia, we considered three factors:
- Median salary for college graduates
- Percent of residents between ages 20 and 34
To determine the pay that professionals may be able to expect, we checked U.S. Census data for median annual income for folks with a bachelor’s degree in each city or town. Among the places we looked at, the average was $44,915.
Second, we wanted to find areas with a solid concentration of young adults. For this, we looked to the U.S. Census again, finding the percentage of the local population ages 20 to 34. Here the average number was 21.8 percent.
Finally, we sought out locations where young people would feel comfortable going out for fun at night or popping out of their apartment any time they want. For this, we looked at FBI data showing how many violent crimes are reported in each community for every 1,000 people. The average for this metric was five crimes.
As a result of this analysis, we determined that the following are the best places for newly minted, young professionals in Georgia:
- Median Salary for College Graduates: $62,637
- Residents Aged 20-34: 26.2%
- Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 1.4
The economy of this town of 19,000, just outside Savannah, has been going strong over the past few years. A recent story in Georgia Trend magazine identifies Pooler as a “hot spot for commercial, residential and mixed-use properties” that has benefitted from a strong local aerospace and manufacturing industry. Earnings for college graduates here are particularly high (at nearly $63,000 per year), more than a quarter of residents are between 20 and 34, and the violent crime rate is well below average at 1.4 incidents per 1,000 residents.
2. Sandy Springs
- Median Salary for College Graduates: $58,826
- Residents Aged 20-34: 27.3%
- Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 1.9
With almost 95,000 residents, this city is the biggest on our top-10 list and the sixth largest in the entire state. It’s also just 20 minutes north of Georgia’s largest population center, Atlanta. Sandy Springs is a good place for young people, with more than 27 percent of the population between 20 and 34 years old. The rate of violent crime is low, particularly for a relatively large community, at 1.9 incidents per 1,000 residents, and the typical resident with a bachelor’s degree can make almost $59,000 per year. The city offers organized activities like hikes and a farmers’ market, and it’s in the process of improving its city center to make it a walkable, bikeable draw for local residents.
- Median Salary for College Graduates: $46,302
- Residents Aged 20-34: 32.7%
- Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 0.6
This city of 11,000 promotes itself as a place that has seen “remarkable growth” in recent years, yet still offers a “small-town feel.” The violent crime rate here is a remarkably low 0.6 incidents per 1,000 residents, and it’s also very youthful, with nearly a third of locals between 20 and 34 years old. The median income for college graduate here is a respectable $46,302.
- Median Salary for College Graduates: $54,434
- Residents Aged 20-34: 28.9%
- Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 3.1
Like Sandy Springs, Smyrna is just 20 minutes from Atlanta. It’s also a substantial city itself with more than 51,000 residents. Smyrna has been on a serious growth path in recent years, with the population up more than 28 percent between 2000 and 2012, according to the city website. People here tend to be well educated - more than half of the adults have a bachelor’s degree or more. The local economy seems to reward that education, since the typical college graduate here makes more than $54,000 a year. The violent crime rate is below average, at 3.1 incidents per 1,000 people, and the city has an above-average concentration of young people, with 20- to 34-year-olds making up almost 29 percent of the population.
- Median Salary for College Graduates: $50,879
- Residents Aged 20-34: 23.9%
- Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 0.98
Not far from Smyrna in the northwestern corner of Georgia, Kennesaw has also seen its population grow significantly in recent years, and it now counts about 30,000 residents. The city website suggests the community, located within the Greater Atlanta region, has become more “suburbanized” in recent years, and its location just off Interstate 75 gives it easy access to many nearby communities for commuters and fun-seekers. The typical annual income for a college graduate here is almost $51,000, the concentration of young adults is above average at 24 percent, and the crime rate is distinctly low at less than one violent incident per 1,000 residents.
- Median Salary for College Graduates: $53,495
- Residents Aged 20-34: 27.2%
- Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 3.3
This community of 14,000, 30 minutes south of Macon, is home to the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter, which hosts the Georgia State Fair as well as horse shows and all kinds of entertainment. Despite the rural trappings, this is a city where educated people can do well, with a typical income of $53,495 for college graduates. It’s also a young community, with more than 27 percent of residents aged 20 to 34. The violent crime rate is well below average, with 3.3 crimes for every 1,000 residents.
7. Social Circle
- Median Salary for College Graduates: $50,879
- Residents Aged 20-34: 27.2%
- Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 2.1
Georgia’s “Greatest Little Town” really is little, with less than 5,000 residents. But it’s also a logical choice for college graduates looking for good job prospects, with a typical salary of more than $50,000. It’s also a youthful spot, with more than 27 percent of locals between 20 and 34, and the crime rate is just 2.1 violent incidents per 1,000 residents. According to its website, the town is actively working to create a small business climate while also striving to maintain a small-town feel.
- Median Salary for College Graduates: $59,865
- Residents Aged 20-34: 20.6%
- Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 0.95
Next door to Sandy Springs in the Atlanta area, Dunwoody is home to 46,000 people, and more than one in five of them between ages 20 and 34. There’s a lot to do here, with annual festivals celebrating books, art, restaurants and butterflies. The violent crime rate is very low - less than one incident per 1,000 people - and the typical income for a college graduate is nearly $60,000, one of the highest on our list.
- Median Salary for College Graduates: $56,977
- Residents Aged 20-34: 22.1%
- Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 1.7
This community of 24,000, just north of Kennesaw, boasts a median income of $57,000 for college graduates. With a farmer’s market, community concerts and downtown celebrations every Friday, this is a place to find real community. For young professionals, it doesn’t hurt that 22 percent of residents are between 20 and 34. Woodstock is also a safe place to live with just 1.7 violent crimes for every 1,000 people.
10. Holly Springs
- Median Salary for College Graduates: $43,389
- Residents Aged 20-34: 24.1%
- Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 0.53
The final city on our list is Woodstock’s neighbor. Holly Springs is just north of that community, and it has an even lower violent crime rate at just 0.5 incidents per 1,000 people. Less than 10,000 people live in the city, but it hosts its own job fairs and has community gardens and cleanups. The median income for college graduates is just slightly below average for the communities we looked at, but the concentration of young people is high at close to a quarter of local residents.
The best place for a young professional depends on a lot of things, from personal preferences for urban or rural living to job prospects in particular industries. But, assuming income, plenty of contact with other young people and safety are important to you, this list should offer a good place to start looking at Georgia communities.
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Livia Gershon is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and financial education website. Our data-driven analysis has been recognized by major news outlets across the country and has helped young adults make savvy financial and lifestyle decisions.
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