To put together our list of best cities for singles, we took into account income and living costs. The cities that made the final cut boast household income levels well above the Census Bureau average of $49,536. The cost-of-living score–derived from Council for Community and Economic Research data–indicates essential costs, including rent. A high score is acceptable as long as it’s offset by attractive incomes and a strong dating pool.
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We screened cities based on the percentage of unmarried households because many otherwise great places to live are heavily populated by happily wedded couples, not swinging singles. We limited our list to cities with unmarried households comfortably above the average of 49.4%.
Finally, we added what we dubbed a date-night tab: the average cost of two movie tickets plus a bottle of wine. Use the amount to budget for your next night out. Take a tour of our top-10 cities for singles.
10. Iowa City, Iowa
Metro population: 148,620
Unmarried households: 54.4% (avg.=49.4%)
Cost-of-living score: 101.7 (avg.=101)
Median household income: $51,226 (avg.=$49,536)
Date-night tab: $24.32
Iowa City boasts the highest share of singles on our list. Attribute that statistic to the sprawling University of Iowa, which enrolls nearly 31,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students. But a strong economy and pleasant lifestyle draw newcomers to Iowa City, as well: Pearson, Oral B and Procter & Gamble all operate facilities in the area, income growth is a solid 3.8%, and unemployment is 4.3%. Moderate midwestern living costs mean that both residing and dating in Iowa City are comfortably cheap.
See the 10 best cities for singles
9. Durham, N.C.
Metro population: 488,508
Unmarried households: 53.0%
Cost-of-living score: 90.6
Median household income: $50,889
Date-night tab: $27.71
Durham is best known for Duke University and Research Triangle Park, two enviable assets that draw young people to the city by the thousands. In central Durham, Duke and its affiliated medical center employ 27,000 people and enroll 6,700 undergraduates. To the south, the 7,000-acre research park hosts labs for companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and IBM. But regardless of whether they came for school or for jobs, 226,000 unmarried adults now live in Durham. Expect to find them downtown around Durham's bustling Main and North Magnum streets. The area is noted for its restaurant scene -- which, with living costs a full 10% below average, is pretty affordable for singles and their dates.
8. New York
Metro population: 18,700,715
Unmarried households: 53.0%
Cost-of-living score: 187.6
Median household income: $63,915
Date-night tab: $34.82
New York has long been the Promised Land for the young and the restless. Thousands of jobs are open in every imaginable field, salaries skew high even at the entry level, and income growth averaged roughly 4.6% from 2005 to 2009. On the romantic end of things, well over half of adults are single, and one in five adults is between 20 and 34. While living costs are steep, pockets of value still exist for those willing to seek them out. Consider Hunters Point and Astoria in Queens, and Fort Greene in Brooklyn, where rent runs a bit cheaper. The New York Daily News named all three top neighborhoods for singles last year.
7. Trenton, N.J.
Metro population: 364,445
Unmarried households: 52.5%
Cost-of-living score: 124.8
Median household income: $71,217
Date-night tab: $27.79
Trenton proper gets a bad rap, but Princeton, the capital of Northeast prep, lies only 20 minutes to the north. Princeton University is the cultural force there, with 7,800 students and 5,750 employees living on its idyllic, tree-lined streets. Further afield, in Trenton and Ewing, technology, finance and health-care jobs have become major draws, with salaries averaging over $75,000 a year. The singles scene is good throughout the Trenton metro area, but Princeton promises especially attractive odds. An astounding three of five residents are unmarried, and three in four hold at least a bachelor's degree. While living costs skew a bit expensive, they're in line with other East Coast cities.
Metro population: 5,911,638
Unmarried households: 53.1%
Cost-of-living score: 123.8
Median household income: $60,259
Date-night tab: $27.65
Think of Philadelphia as the cheaper alternative to New York or D.C. Thousands of singles see it that way already: Since 2000, the number of college-educated young adults living in downtown Philly has jumped by 57%. Young people have long flocked to the area for college, as more than a dozen universities lie within city lines. But increasingly, trendy neighborhoods and high incomes at companies such as Comcast and Sunoco are pulling singles in to stay. Now, one in two Philadelphians is unmarried, one in five is between 20 and 34, and one in three holds at least a bachelor's degree. Young people congregate in Northern Liberties, Fishtown and Fairmount, where rent for a two-bedroom apartment averages about $1,000.
5. Los Angeles
Metro population: 12,723,781
Unmarried households: 54.1%
Cost-of-living score: 131.1
Median household income: $59,876
Date-night tab: $30.69
Fans of Bravo already know that L.A.'s a prime spot for singles. In La-La Land, after all, everyone who isn't actually in show business is dolling themselves up to be, or so the stereotype goes. In reality, Los Angeles promises an array of benefits to career-minded singles, from impressive average incomes to thousands of jobs in education, health care and the arts. Living among angels isn't cheap, of course. As in other major cities, living costs and rent run well above the national norm. But income growth registered a solid 3% from 2005 to 2009, and the city's 2011 employment growth beat Washington, Chicago and New York. Plus, L.A.'s singles ratio is the second-highest on our top-10 list.
Metro population: 2,683,160
Unmarried households: 52.9%
Cost-of-living score: 118
Median household income: $66,195
Date-night tab: $28.75
Baltimore's job and dating prospects both prove very charming, thanks to the city's strong defense, finance, medical and information-technology sectors. Those industries have kept the city's unemployment rate at 6.8% and lured thousands of job-seekers eastward for positions at employers such as Lockheed Martin, SAIC and Johns Hopkins University. In January alone, Baltimore posted more than 18,000 job openings with salaries over $50,000. Even more attractive: More than half the population is single, three in 20 hold a graduate degree, and the average date is pretty cheap. Baltimore's living costs are low compared with neighboring cities such as D.C. (with a 147.5 cost-of-living score) and Philadelphia (123.8). The city also boasts a developed waterfront with dozens of shops, museums and restaurants, which is more than D.C. or Philly can boast.
3. Santa Cruz, Calif.
Metro population: 4,244,889
Unmarried households: 53.9%
Cost-of-living score: 152.4
Median household income: $65,253
Date-night tab: $26.99
Sunny, spirited and more than a little liberal, Santa Cruz has drawn surfers and students to the Monterey Bay Coast since the 1960s. The beachside city is home to a University of California campus, which employs one in four residents and educates an additional 15,000. Living in California will cost you, and monthly rent alone can spike into the $1,200 range. But both job prospects and compensation are good -- the median household income ranks 32% higher than the national average. Plus, Santa Cruz offers numerous activities for active singles. The city is renowned for its beaches and watersports, especially sailing and surfing, and it's home to the largest seaside amusement park on the West Coast.
2. Bloomington, Ill.
Metro population: 166,706
Unmarried households: 51.9%
Cost-of-living score: 95.5
Median household income: $57,642
Date-night tab: $24.98
Bloomington singles hearken back to some charming heartland ideal: Well educated, well paid and exceptionally nice. State Farm's corporate headquarters employs more than 14,000 people, contributing to the area's high median income and 40% bachelor's-degree rate. Illinois State and Country Financial are also major employers. And lest Bloomington's small size scare you off, consider the fact that urban economist Richard Florida cited the city in his 2002 book, "The Rise of the Creative Class," noting its sky-high percentage of creative types. Today, dozens of cafes, bars and boutiques have sprung up in Bloomington's downtown business district. If nothing else, it's a heck of a lot cheaper than nearby Chicago, where jobs are equally good but young people are, statistically, scarcer.
1. Ann Arbor, Mich.
Metro population: 343,947
Unmarried households: 54.4%
Cost-of-living score: 102.2
Median household income: $59,065
Date-night tab: $23.76
The unusual combination of ultra-high wages, reasonable living costs and a well-educated dating pool -- 51% of adults hold at least a bachelor's degree -- earns the popular college town the top spot on our list of best cities for singles. Nearly 43,000 students attend undergraduate, graduate or professional school at the University of Michigan, skewing the city's demographics toward the younger set. One in four residents is between 20 and 34; one in two is unmarried. While it’s true that undergrads and dive bars can be found around every corner –- a blessing or a curse, depending on your dating objectives -- Ann Arbor offers amenities for post-grad bachelors and bachelorettes, as well. Sophisticated daters might opt for a stroll around the historic Kerrytown district, or perhaps take in a show at the city’s annual film festival or art fair. Better-than-average paychecks from plentiful jobs in tech, medicine and education help foot the bill for nights out on the town.