The Best-Paying Cities for Millennial Women

00 Millennial women-P503T2 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

By Jeff Smith

Compared to previous generations, millennial women have made tremendous strides in the workforce. Millennial women outpace men when it comes to earning college degrees, they have achieved record-high levels of labor force participation, and they continue to narrow the gender wage gap. According to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, median earnings for full-time millennial women is $38,000 compared to $43,000 for millennial men.

Young women’s median income has risen dramatically over the past 70 years. According to figures from the Current Population Survey, the median income for full- and part-time women aged 25 to 34 was just over $12,000 in 1948 (in 2018 dollars). As of 2018, that figure had increased by 161 percent, to over $32,000. In comparison, real median income for men aged 25 to 34 increased by just 23 percent over the same time period. While young women’s income has grown steadily since 1948 (after adjusting for inflation), that for young men peaked in 1973 and has been trending downward since.

Chart1 Female wages over time

Not only are millennial women earning more today than previous generations, but they are more likely to participate in the labor force. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that over three-quarters of women aged 25 to 34 were in the labor force at the start of 2020. This represents a dramatic increase from earlier generations. For reference, just one-third of 25- to 34-year-old women were in the labor force in 1948. Interestingly, labor force participation among young men has declined from its peak in the 1950s. As of the start of 2020, approximately 89 percent of men aged 25 to 34 were in the labor force, down from a high of almost 98 percent in 1955.

Chart2 Female labor force participation over time

Despite strides at the national level, millennial women’s earnings vary considerably across cities and states. In order to make earnings comparable across locations, median earnings for each state and metro were adjusted up or down based on cost-of-living differences. In high-priced cities, such as San Jose, cost-of-living-adjusted earnings are lower than actuals; whereas, in more affordable cities, like Cincinnati, cost-of-living-adjusted earnings are higher than actuals.

At the state level, Massachusetts and Connecticut are the best-paying cities for full-time millennial women, with cost-of-living-adjusted median earnings of $45,579 and $42,413, respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, Florida and New Mexico rank the lowest, with cost-of-living-adjusted median earnings at $33,797 and $32,931, respectively.

Chart3 Best paying states for millennial women


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To find the best-paying metropolitan areas for millennial women, researchers at Self Financial, a company that helps consumers build credit, analyzed the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The researchers ranked metro areas according to the cost-of-living-adjusted median earnings for full-time millennial women. Researchers also calculated unadjusted median annual earnings for millennial women and men and the labor force participation rate among millennial women.

To improve relevance, only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, metro areas were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size:

  • Small metros: 100,000-349,999
  • Midsize metros: 350,000-999,999
  • Large metros: 1,000,000 or more

Here are the best-paying metropolitan areas for millennial women.

Chart4 Best paying small and midsize metros for millennial women

Best-Paying Large Metros for Millennial Women

15 Maryland Baltimore-M5G7K2 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

15. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $42,174
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $45,000
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $52,000
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 83.8%
  • Cost of living: 6.7% above average

14 New York Buffalo-PRP666 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

14. Buffalo-Cheektowaga-Niagara Falls, NY

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $42,194
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $40,000
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $44,000
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 81.7%
  • Cost of living: 5.2% below average

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13 Wisconsin Milwauee-MPKK1M copy Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

13. Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $42,194
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $40,000
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $48,000
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 84.0%
  • Cost of living: 5.2% below average

12 Pennsylvania Philadelphia-TBMYRC Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

12. Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $42,694
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $45,000
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $48,000
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 81.0%
  • Cost of living: 5.4% above average

11 Pennsylvania Pittsburgh-KCH540 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

11. Pittsburgh, PA

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $42,965
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $40,000
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $46,000
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 81.6%
  • Cost of living: 6.9% below average

10 Minnesota Minneapolis-J73XBX Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

10. Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $43,372
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $44,500
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $50,000
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 87.5%
  • Cost of living: 2.6% above average

09 Ohio Columbus-P1R4RP Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

9. Columbus, OH

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $43,526
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $40,000
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $45,400
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 81.0%
  • Cost of living: 8.1% below average

08 Indiana Indianapolis KWPHPX Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

8. Indianapolis-Carmel-Anderson, IN

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $43,668
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $40,000
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $42,500
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 79.6%
  • Cost of living: 8.4% below average

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07 Washington Bellevue-KHM6E1 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

7. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $43,844
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $49,500
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $60,000
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 78.9%
  • Cost of living: 12.9% above average

06 North Carolina Raleigh-EN5EED Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

6. Raleigh, NC

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $43,996
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $42,500
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $44,500
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 79.1%
  • Cost of living: 3.4% below average

05 Massachusetts Boston EAYKR2 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

5. Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $44,658
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $51,000
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $60,000
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 84.5%
  • Cost of living: 14.2% above average

04 District of Columbia-ETY6HN copy Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

4. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $46,689
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $55,000
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $60,000
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 84.7%
  • Cost of living: 17.8% above average

03 Connecticut Hartford ETY5T6 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

3. Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $48,972
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $50,000
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $50,000
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 84.4%
  • Cost of living: 2.1% above average

02 California San Francisco-J328FW copy Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

2. San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $49,392
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $65,000
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $70,000
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 81.9%
  • Cost of living: 31.6% above average

01 California Sunnyvale-HAPGB7 Photo Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (adjusted): $51,005
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial women (unadjusted): $66,000
  • Median earnings for full-time millennial men (unadjusted): $80,000
  • Labor force participation among millennial women: 79.1%
  • Cost of living: 29.4% above average

Detailed Findings & Methodology

The best-paying metro areas for millennial women are spread out across the country, running the gamut from very expensive to affordable. Although the San Jose and San Francisco metro areas are some of the priciest in the country, these metros claim the top two spots among the best-paying large metro areas even after taking cost of living into account. Wages are high enough in these metros to make up for the sky-high living costs.

The best-paying large metros tend to have high rates of labor force participation among millennial women. On average, over 82 percent of millennial women are in the labor force for these metros, compared to the national average of 78.6 percent. This pattern holds true for the best-paying midsize metros as well, but labor force participation rates among millennial women vary significantly across the best-paying small metros.

Statistics on labor force participation and median earnings for full-time millennials were derived from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 American Community Survey Public Use Microdata Sample (ACS PUMS). The Pew Research Center defines millennials as the generation of people born between 1981 and 1996, meaning millennials were 22 to 37 years old in 2018.

The cost-of-living index is from the Bureau of Economic Analysis’s Regional Price Parity dataset for 2018. To account for cost-of-living differences, median earnings for each metro were adjusted using the cost-of-living index for that metro. Earnings in expensive metros were adjusted down to reflect lower purchasing power while earnings in relatively affordable locations were adjusted up to reflect higher purchasing power.

Metro areas were ranked by the cost-of-living-adjusted median earnings for full-time millennial women. Only metropolitan areas with at least 100,000 people were included in the analysis. Additionally, metro areas were grouped into the following cohorts based on population size:

  • Small metros: 100,000-349,999
  • Midsize metros: 350,000-999,999
  • Large metros: 1,000,000 or more

About the author

Jeff Smith is the VP of Marketing for Self Financial.

Written on September 2, 2020

Self is a venture-backed startup that helps people build credit and savings.
Comments? Questions? Send us a note at hello@self.inc.

Disclaimer: Self is not providing financial advice. The content presented does not reflect the view of the Issuing Banks and is presented for general education and informational purposes only. Please consult with a qualified professional for financial advice.

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