Young people from around the country are flocking to Madison. Here's how a midwest college town became a millennial hotspot.
Wisconsin’s capital city didn’t land a spot on Livability’s Top 100 Best Places to Live list by accident. There are plenty of reasons why Madison is an excellent place for anyone to call home, including its local food scene, quality education options and inclusive and diverse culture.
And while it may not be surprising that a college town like Madison has a youthful population, in recent years millennials from around the country have discovered what locals have long known about Madison: it’s not just a great place to go to college, it’s a great place to live, work and start a family.
Here are a few reasons why so many millennials are moving to Madison right now:
1. Excellent Education
The University of Wisconsin-Madison is a big draw for millennials looking to enter a four-year university. In 2016 it ranked the 10th best public college by U.S. News & World Report, and it continues to be highly regarded nationwide. With 232 majors and certificates, students have a variety of directions they can take for their future. Additionally, the average class has 30 students resulting in a more individualized experience.
The University’s retention rate speaks to student satisfaction. In the fall of 2017, 95.3 percent of the freshmen from the previous year returned. With a 6-year graduation rate of 87.3 percent, student success rates almost as high.
2. Job Opportunities
According to a study from the Brookings Institution, millennials constitute 26.8 percent of the population of Madison. With the University of Wisconsin located just a few blocks away from the city center and the state capitol, this number is no surprise. What is surprising? Wisconsin’s incredibly low unemployment rate (which is currently at a low of 2.8 percent) and the amount of quality job opportunities in Madison waiting for UW students when they graduate.
Companies like Epic offer young workers solid employment opportunities in the tech industry. Similarly, jobs in the healthcare industry are plentiful with UW Health and SSM Healthcare of Wisconsin acting as two of the biggest employers in the area. Those looking for work in education can look to UW for jobs.
3. Low Cost of Living
The cost of living in Wisconsin is 6.5% lower than the national average. While the city of Madison ranks slightly higher than the rest of the state, the average cost of housing is lower than most comparable cities in Midwest and beyond. Rent and housing prices combined with an abundance of high paying jobs keep residents living comfortably and provides a sense of security that Millennials seeking a new place to call home are hard-pressed to find in other, similar locations.
4. Incredible Outdoor Recreation
Located on an isthmus between lakes Mendota and Lake Monona, Madison provides residents with a plenty of opportunities to get outside and enjoy nature. The city itself is extremely bike-friendly with a large system of paths that make driving optional. In addition, the city of Madison is home to 260 parks with over 5,000 acres of parklands to explore all throughout the year. Fans of water recreation have 11 beaches to visit within the city limits; seven of them have lifeguards available for safe swimming. Nearby lakes including Mendota, Monona, Waubesa, Kegonsa and Wingra are perfect for all forms of water recreation.
While there are plenty of hiking options in the local park areas, there are 21 state parks, forests and recreation areas like Devil’s Lake State Park, that are under an hour’s drive away from the city. They offer visitors miles of wilderness to hike and bike on during the summer and opportunities for snow play throughout the winter months.
5. Quality of Life
With the low cost of living, an excess of job opportunities and plenty of nearby options for recreation, Madison residents enjoy a relatively laid-back lifestyle. The average commute for Madison residents is around 15 minutes and many residents choose to bike or walk to work instead of driving. Additionally, most vehicles are banned from State Street – the road that runs from UW to Capitol Square – reducing this small city’s congestion and creating a feeling of a slower pace of life.
Outdoor recreation isn’t the only perk the area has to offer, Madison has a robust music and arts scene as well. With establishments like the Overture Center of the Arts, the Orpheum Theater and the soon-to-open The Sylvee hosting concerts, plays and world-renowned art installations, residents can fill their free time with a variety of entertainment options. Similarly, the Madison food and beverage industry is going strong, giving locals a variety of restaurants and bars to choose from when the mood for a bite strikes.