America’s Best Cities for Gen Z Workers

Sara Korolevich
January 17, 2024
8 min read

Checkr analyzed data to uncover the 100 best cities for Gen Z workers in 2024, along with the top 25 for large, mid-sized, and small cities. Join us as we dig into the key factors that make these American cities great places for Gen Z workers (ages 18-27) based on key factors in employment, affordability, and social aspects.

The labor market is changing, and it’s getting younger. While some have recently criticized the youngest working generation — Gen Z — about their work ethic, timeliness, and more, many others have claimed that these young workers are simply misunderstood.

Whichever way you feel, it’s important to understand that younger workers are entering the labor market and businesses may wish to consider embracing Gen Z workers and the immense talent and viewpoints they provide.

Gen Z brings a unique set of characteristics, values, and technological fluency to the workplace. As the first fully digital-native generation, Gen Zers are navigating the professional realm with a distinct blend of innovation, adaptability, and a keen awareness of the rapidly changing global landscape. In this era, businesses of all sizes should work to understand how Gen Z engages with work, collaborates with colleagues, and leverages technology to foster a cohesive and productive work environment. 

With this in mind, Checkr crunched the numbers using data sourced from the US Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis to uncover the best US cities for Gen Z workers based on three categories: employment, affordability, and social aspects. We analyzed this data to help employers in these highly ranked cities understand the importance of embracing Gen Z workers to widen their talent pool, tap into Gen Z’s diverse skill set, and bring innovative perspectives into the workplace. Gen Z workers can also use this report to learn more about new cities that might be a potential fit for them as they continue to grow as professionals.

Overall, we dug into a total of seven critical factors from the Gen Z age range (18-27) for all US cities. Each of the following key factors was assigned to one of the previously mentioned categories, which were then appropriately weighted to reveal the top cities for Gen Z workers.

Key Metrics (for people ages 18-27):

  • Unemployment rate
  • Labor force participation rate
  • Income to rent ratio
  • Percentage of renters paying <30% of income in rent 
  • Real personal income 
  • Gen Z portion of the population
  • Gen Z member per entertainment establishment

Now, let’s check out some of the key findings.

America’s best cities for Gen Z workers

Let’s start by looking at the best cities, of all sizes, for Gen Z workers. 

America’s 25 Best Cities for Gen Z Workers

*Data analyzed by Checkr from US Census Bureau & Bureau of Economic Analysis

Above you’ll see Fargo, ND as the top-ranked city in America for Gen Z workers. Fargo boasts an impressive combination of affordability (4th) and employment factors (13th) for Gen Zers, making it a great choice for young professionals in the workforce. On top of those metrics, Fargo is also well-known for its thriving art scene, entrepreneurial spirit, and a plethora of green spaces, parks, and recreational areas for outdoor enthusiasts.

Rounding out the top five best cities for Gen Z workers is a group of midwestern cities, including Oshkosh, WI, Cedar Rapids, IA, Bismarck, ND, and Madison, WI. This group of small, mid-sized, and large cities may not showcase the most desirable climate in winter, depending on your preferences, but when it comes to employment factors for Gen Z workers considered in this report, all four of these cities rank within the top 16 among all US cities. 

Joining the aforementioned cities in the top ten are Lincoln, NE, Sioux Falls, SD, Appleton, WI, Sheboygan, WI, and Missoula, MT. Again, these cold-weather cities provide excellent opportunities for Gen Z workers in the employment category, while also ranking inside the top 50 for affordability. 

While the social scene might fall behind some of the larger cities covered later in this report, the opportunity to earn a great income in the workforce in these places cannot be overlooked. 

Next, let’s dive into rankings based on city sizes, starting with the best large cities — cities with more than 300,000 people — for Gen Z workers.

America’s best large cities for Gen Z workers

In 2024, large cities can hold a magnetic allure for Gen Z workers due to their vibrant and diverse job markets, offering a lot of opportunities in emerging industries such as technology, media and entertainment, and healthcare among others. Additionally, the appeal lies in the abundance of cultural amenities, from innovative art scenes to diverse culinary experiences, aligning with many Gen Z interests.

Moreover, the collaborative and dynamic urban environments foster networking and mentorship opportunities, catering to the generation's desire for meaningful connections and professional growth. 

So, where should Gen Z look for work among America’s largest cities?

America’s Best Large Cities (300,000+) for Gen Z Workers

*Data analyzed by Checkr from US Census Bureau & Bureau of Economic

Leading the nation as the best large city for Gen Z workers is Madison, WI. Madison is home to a top-ranked university — The University of Wisconsin — and is situated between two lakes providing fantastic scenery and outdoor activities for young professionals. In addition, the social scene that comes with a major university brings a college town flair perfectly fit for Gen Zers. Madison also ranks in the top 25 for both employment and affordability factors, on top of a fantastic social scene. 

Joining Madison within the top five are Lincoln, NE, Omaha, NE, Des Moines, IA, and Grand Rapids, MI. These cities provide Gen Z workers with a combination of affordable housing and above-average wages. Much like Madison, many of these cities are home to major universities or colleges which makes them even more attractive for sports and entertainment fans as their major venues are home to some of the country’s best events in music and sports. 

Rounding out the top ten are Cincinnati, OH, three Utah cities — Provo, Salt Lake City, and Ogden — and Fayetteville, AR. 

Next up, we’ll learn more about the best mid-sized cities for Gen Z workers. 

America’s best mid-sized cities for Gen Z workers

Mid-sized cities present a compelling opportunity for Gen Z workers seeking a balanced lifestyle, with more affordable living costs and a sense of community that larger cities may lack. These cities with populations between 150,000 and 300,000 people often showcase growing tech and startup scenes, providing Gen Z with exciting career prospects while avoiding the intense competition found in large urban hubs.

The accessibility of outdoor spaces, universities, and a slower pace of life in mid-sized cities resonates with Gen Zers and their emphasis on well-being, offering a blend of professional opportunities and a quality living experience.

America’s Best Mid-Sized Cities (150,000-300,000) for Gen Z Workers

*Data analyzed by Checkr from US Census Bureau & Bureau of Economic

The top-ranked mid-sized city for Gen Z workers is also the top-ranked among all city sizes — Fargo, ND. Home to North Dakota State University, Fargo ranks 4th nationally for affordability and 13th for employment factors. Additionally, the city's commitment to sustainability and outdoor recreational opportunities may also resonate with Gen Z's focus on environmental consciousness and a balanced lifestyle outside of the workplace. 

Joining Fargo in the top five are Oshkosh, WI, Cedar Rapids, IA, Sioux Falls, SD, and Appleton, WI. These midwestern gems provide great affordability for Gen Z workers, and all rank inside the top 20 for employment factors including labor force participation and a low unemployment rate for this age group. 

Wrapping up the top ten are Midland, TX, Eau Claire, WI, Iowa City, IA, Waterloo, IA, and St. Cloud, MN. Again, these cities are all near universities and colleges — a common theme — and provide fantastic employment metrics for Gen Z workers looking to start or continue their careers.

Next, we’ll dive into the best small cities for Gen Z workers. 

America’s best small cities for Gen Z workers

Small cities hold a unique charm for Gen Z workers seeking an intimate and tight community environment. The simplicity and slower pace of life in these settings can offer respite from the hustle and bustle of major cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago. These smaller cities create a sense of peace and well-being that aligns with Gen Z's emphasis on work-life balance.

Additionally, the lower cost of living in small cities may provide financial relief, allowing Gen Z workers to allocate resources toward personal development and experiences, further enhancing the appeal of the cities listed with populations of less than 150,000 people.

America’s Best Small Cities (>150,000) for Gen Z Workers

The top-ranked small city best fit for Gen Z workers is Bismarck, ND. Bismarck is not only North Dakota’s capital city, but it is also a hub of history and culture. Bismarck ranks in the top ten nationally for affordability and employment factors, making it a desirable place for Gen Zers looking to earn a good living while saving on housing and other costs. 

Joining Bismarck in the top five are Sheboygan, WI, Missoula, MT, Fairbanks, AK, and Jefferson City, MO. Among these highly-ranked small cities, one common theme is apparent — they all rank within the top 50 nationally for employment metrics for Gen Z workers, including labor force participation and unemployment rate.  

Rounding out the top 10 best small cities for Gen Z workers are Grand Forks, ND, Grand Island, NE, California, MD, Great Falls, MT, and Fond du Lac, WI. 

Check out the full list of the top 100 best cities for Gen Z workers below to learn more about the appealing cities that Gen Zers might consider for their next move.

The full list of America’s best cities for Gen Z workers

RankMetro AreaEmployment RankAffordability RankSocial Rank
1Fargo, ND-MN Metro Area134129
2Oshkosh-Neenah, WI Metro Area326175
3Cedar Rapids, IA Metro Area116255
4Bismarck, ND Metro Area102318
5Madison, WI Metro Area1623167
6Lincoln, NE Metro Area283979
7Sioux Falls, SD Metro Area53328
8Appleton, WI Metro Area216314
9Sheboygan, WI Metro Area48345
10Missoula, MT Metro Area1441212
11Midland, TX Metro Area2058165
12Fairbanks, AK Metro Area1265191
13Eau Claire, WI Metro Area2244182
14Iowa City, IA Metro Area667153
15Jefferson City, MO Metro Area3057145
16Grand Forks, ND-MN Metro Area4452118
17Grand Island, NE Metro Area827309
18Waterloo-Cedar Falls, IA Metro Area2196119
19St. Cloud, MN Metro Area3767136
20California-Lexington Park, MD Metro Area528893
21Omaha-Council Bluffs, NE-IA Metro Area2529257
22Des Moines-West Des Moines, IA Metro Area7411220
23Grand Rapids-Kentwood, MI Metro Area4387104
24Great Falls, MT Metro Area732315
25Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN Metro Area8913178
26Provo-Orem, UT Metro Area1722141
27Fond du Lac, WI Metro Area150322
28Billings, MT Metro Area1820346
29Salt Lake City, UT Metro Area33129109
30Mankato, MN Metro Area946272
31Johnson City, TN Metro Area3816468
32Ogden-Clearfield, UT Metro Area2918066
33La Crosse-Onalaska, WI-MN Metro Area6943180
34Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers, AR Metro Area181773
35Huntsville, AL Metro Area9328147
36Fort Wayne, IN Metro Area5980164
37Knoxville, TN Metro Area48100140
38Bloomington, IL Metro Area1067762
39New Bern, NC Metro Area36142125
40Chambersburg-Waynesboro, PA Metro Area1973299
41Green Bay, WI Metro Area819296
42Elkhart-Goshen, IN Metro Area6313183
43Lancaster, PA Metro Area4678216
44Ames, IA Metro Area1091374
45Columbus, IN Metro Area11017211
46Kansas City, MO-KS Metro Area6742236
47Kalamazoo-Portage, MI Metro Area4516999
48Logan, UT-ID Metro Area628954
49Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI Metro Area3959302
50Austin-Round Rock-Georgetown, TX Metro Area7679190
51Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO Metro Area34115247
52Wausau-Weston, WI Metro Area5824333
53Canton-Massillon, OH Metro Area5554290
54Cape Girardeau, MO-IL Metro Area7815081
55Rochester, MN Metro Area5430330
56Jacksonville, NC Metro Area422872
57Bloomsburg-Berwick, PA Metro Area1693880
58Raleigh-Cary, NC Metro Area9261207
59Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Metro Area90112114
60Florence-Muscle Shoals, AL Metro Area61160133
61Chattanooga, TN-GA Metro Area24162233
62Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI Metro Area12322258
63Wichita Falls, TX Metro Area8820247
64Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro--Franklin, TN Metro Area49106274
65Akron, OH Metro Area14633183
66Davenport-Moline-Rock Island, IA-IL Metro Area6846319
67Columbus, OH Metro Area13770142
68Ann Arbor, MI Metro Area1758161
69Greeley, CO Metro Area8418290
70Evansville, IN-KY Metro Area9776226
71Janesville-Beloit, WI Metro Area26172260
72Harrisburg-Carlisle, PA Metro Area11760221
73Tulsa, OK Metro Area16037157
74Parkersburg-Vienna, WV Metro Area6531366
75Lawrence, KS Metro Area8526815
76Portland-South Portland, ME Metro Area5051371
77Tyler, TX Metro Area13913588
78Hinesville, GA Metro Area403333
79Casper, WY Metro Area1521368
80Hilton Head Island-Bluffton, SC Metro Area27111349
81Cheyenne, WY Metro Area9222292
82Fort Collins, CO Metro Area82167166
83Wichita, KS Metro Area18753115
84Duluth, MN-WI Metro Area60149263
85Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN Metro Area15834210
86Boise City, ID Metro Area53213188
87Mansfield, OH Metro Area56205192
88Manchester-Nashua, NH Metro Area62114307
89York-Hanover, PA Metro Area8795267
90Amarillo, TX Metro Area105154137
91Dayton-Kettering, OH Metro Area18356141
92Pittsburgh, PA Metro Area1745335
93Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH Metro Area11298232
94Springfield, MO Metro Area95191120
95Barnstable Town, MA Metro Area15147383
96San Angelo, TX Metro Area79210135
97Morristown, TN Metro Area80199154
98Lewiston, ID-WA Metro Area12725337
99Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Metro Area13374262
100St. Louis, MO-IL Metro Area19414295

For more information on Check’s research or to request graphics or commentary about this study, please contact


To rank America’s best cities for Gen Z workers, Checkr analyzed seven key factors from the US Census Bureau & Bureau of Economic Analysis. The factors include Gen Z unemployment rate, labor force participation rate, income-to-rent ratio, percentage of renters paying <30% of income in rent, real personal income, Gen Z portion of the population, and Gen Z members per entertainment establishment. Each factor was weighted appropriately by Checkr and scaled, resulting in the final rankings of the best cities in the country for Gen Z workers. 


The resources provided here are for educational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. We advise you to consult your own counsel if you have legal questions related to your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.

About the author

Sara Korolevich serves as’s editor and content manager. In this role, she produces educational resources for employers on a broad range of screening topics, including background check compliance and best practices. She also writes about Checkr’s company and product news to keep customers updated and informed.

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