Study: Best Cities for Young Adults in Colorado

With wide-open spaces, hip urban centers, and a sporty, healthful culture, Colorado is the kind of place many young professionals would love to settle after college. But finding a new city to call home can be a gamble anywhere. To help in the process, we set out to identify the communities in Colorado that off all three of the following essentials: work, friends, and a sense of freedom.

Study Methodology

Looking at 25 major Colorado cities and towns, we considered three main factors:

  1. Median salary for college graduates
  2. Percentage of residents between ages 20 and 34
  3. Safety

To begin with, since their career is one of the biggest factors for most young people when relocating, we looked for cities where college graduates could expect to find jobs that pay well. For this, we checked U.S. Census data on median salaries for people with bachelor’s degrees. The average annual pay for college grads among the cities we considered was $48,575.

Second, we wanted to find places with a high concentration of young people, where young adults moving in are most likely to find it easy to make friends. For this metric, we sorted cities according to U.S. Census numbers for the percentage of the population between ages 20 and 34. The average percentage was 22.5 percent.

Third, we picked out locations where arriving home at 3 a.m. after a fun night out is relatively safe. We turned to FBI data, seeking cities with low rates of violent crime. On average, the cities we considered had three violent crimes reported for every 1,000 people in 2012. (For two cities, Thornton and Brighton, we used 2011 numbers because the 2012 data was not available.)

Finally, since many young people prefer to be in a fairly urban environment, we gave a very slight preference to cities with higher populations.

10 Best Cities for Young Adults in Colorado

1. Broomfield

  • Median Income: $57,269
  • Residents Aged 20-34: 21%
  • Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 0.5

Just outside the well-known youth magnet of Boulder, Broomfield is home to offices of a number of high-tech companies, including the world headquarters of network company Level 3 Communications. That concentration of attractive employers may explain the strong median income for college graduates - more than $57,000. This city of under 60,000 people is also the very safest on our list with a violent crime rate of 0.5 per 1,000 people.

2. Westminster

  • Median Income: $55,630
  • Residents Aged 20-34: 23.2%
  • Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 2.6

Just a stone’s throw from Broomfield, Westminster shares its neighbor’s high median income for residents with bachelor’s degrees. It’s a significantly bigger city, with about 108,000 people; crime is a somewhat bigger problem here but still below average for the places we considered. Westminster is quite youthful, with 23 percent of residents between ages 20 and 34, and there’s a lot for outdoorsy young people to do, including an extensive network of trails and open spaces.

3. Castle Rock

  • Median Income: $63,086
  • Residents Aged 20-34: 16.9%
  • Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 0.9

About 40 minutes south of Denver, this community of 50,000 has a vibrant downtown as well as stunning cliffs with views of the Rocky Mountains. The median income for college graduates in this town is number one of all the communities we evaluated, and its violent crime rate is under 1 per 1,000 residents. It’s a bit less of a young person’s community than most of the places on our list, though, with just 17 percent of residents between 20 and 34.

4. Parker

  • Median Income: $62,662
  • Residents Aged 20-34: 17.5%
  • Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 1.3

Parker is the second-best location on our list when it comes to the median income for residents with bachelor’s degrees, and it’s only about a half-hour commute from downtown Denver. The community is actively working to develop a creative district in its Old Town neighborhood, with plenty of arts, entertainment, and dining options within walking distance. Like Castle Rock, Parker is a bit on the low side when it comes to the concentration of young people, but falls well below average for violent crime.

5. Brighton

  • Median Income: $60,439
  • Residents Aged 20-34: 21.9%
  • Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 2.6

This small city of 34,000, about an hour’s drive from both Boulder and Denver, is right next to the gorgeous Barr Lake State Park. It’s another of the best places in the state in terms of salaries for the typical college-educated resident. More than one in five people here are between ages 20 and 34, and the violent crime rate is a bit below average.

6. Englewood

  • Median Income: $42,819
  • Residents Aged 20-34: 24.6%
  • Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 1.9

Just to the south of downtown Denver, this town could be a great place for newly minted nurses or other medical personnel. The Swedish Medical Center, a key hospital in the Denver area, and Craig Hospital, a facility specializing in spinal cord and brain injury, are both located here. Englewood falls slightly below average when it comes to median income for college graduates, but it’s home to a significantly higher percentage of young people than most Colorado communities.

7. Northglenn

  • Median Income: $46,552
  • Residents Aged 20-34: 25.8%
  • Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 2.7

This small city has a higher concentration of young people than any other place on our top 10 list, at nearly 26 percent. The median income here is just slightly below average, but the small business climate is dynamic, with 11 new enterprises opening their doors in October 2013, according to a local newspaper. The violent crime rate here is a bit lower than average at 2.7 per 1,000 residents.

8. Arvada

  • Median Income: $51,436
  • Residents Aged 20-34: 17.9%
  • Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 1.5

Next door to Westminster and almost identical in size, with 108,000 people, Arvada is busily growing new developments. Its Olde Town neighborhood in particular is preparing for the planned arrival of a commuter rail stop in 2016 with the construction of pedestrian-friendly housing and services. Salaries for college graduates and the number of young people are slightly lower in Arvada than in Westminster, but crime is also lower.

9. Fountain

  • Median Income: $52,106
  • Residents Aged 20-34: 20.7%
  • Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 2.5

Just 15 minutes south of Colorado Springs, this is the smallest community on our list, with less than 27,000 people. Fountain bills itself as “pure Colorado,” with parks, trails, and mountain views. The crime rate is below average, and median income for college graduates is strong at $52,106. It’s also a youthful community with more than one in five residents between the ages of 20 and 34.

10. Thornton

  • Median Income: $52,629
  • Residents Aged 20-34: 23.3%
  • Crime Rate per 1,000 Residents: 5.8

If Fountain is the smallest city on our list, Thornton is the largest, with 122,000 residents. Major employers here include Dish Network, data management company Sungard Availability, and a number of medical facilities, and college graduates typically make more than $52,000. The rate of violent crime is quite high at 5.8 incidents per 1,000 residents, but it’s also a strong community for young people, with more than 23 percent of residents between 20 and 34 years old.

If you’re a new college graduate looking at Colorado, the appeal of various communities might come down to any number of things. Some parts of the state will be more attractive to skiers, artists, or fans of urban nightlife. For most young people, though, the elements considered here offer a good start for finding a place that’s attractive for growing a new career and an interesting life.

Sources used in this study:

* For Brighton and Thornton, FBI data is from 2011 because 2012 data was not available

Livia Gershon is a contributing writer at CreditDonkey, a credit card comparison and reviews website. Write to Livia Gershon at Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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