Update: This article has been updated with the most recent available data. The 2018 version of the analysis can be found below the current study.
Three years and a global pandemic have really changed what Millennials expect from an ideal home, a livable city and a great place to work and raise a family. Back in 2018, our analysis about the best cities for Millennials revealed that Québec City, Victoria and Guelph were the most desirable urban centers for young people at the time. With high scores in categories such as life satisfaction, education and income, these urban hubs were practically magnets for gen Y. But, are these hot spots still the hottest, three years later? Well, yes and no.
According to new data, only Québec City retained its position in 2021, remaining the #1 most desirable city for Millennials. Conversely, Victoria and Guelph lost their advantage, with the British Columbia capital sliding all the way to #8, while Guelph exited the top 10 altogether. This year, Ottawa, ON snatched the second spot, with Kingston, ON, rounding out the top three.
The oldest Millennials are turning 40 this year. This new milestone brings fresh challenges and possibly a new perspective on life for many of the people belonging to one of the most talked-about generations. Some have just started their own families, while many are thinking about buying their own homes or moving to a new city. And while affordable housing, reliable incomes and good healthcare are mainstays, factors such as life satisfaction and climate might also start becoming more important for those Millennials who are looking for the ideal place to call home.
To that end, Canada’s up-and-coming Millennial hot spots in 2021 offer the best when it comes to housing and employment opportunities, but they also boast a high level of life satisfaction and great climate.
For the ranking, we analyzed nine factors for the 85 largest Canadian cities. Aside from income and housing, we also weighed seven other criteria that we thought were important to Millennials: unemployment rate, life satisfaction, crime rate, healthcare, climate, level of education (the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher) and the percentage of Millennials in the total population.
The most desirable places for young professionals represent the perfect mix between affordable housing; lifestyle options that promote great life satisfaction; low crime rates; and — last but not least — great weather and like-minded people. And while the top 10 cities offer the perfect balance between all of these factors, certain cities perform better than the most attractive hubs in certain categories.
The three most affordable housing markets among the 10 most attractive cities for Millennials are Trois-Rivières, QC ($174,500); Halifax, NS ($181,827) and Levis, QC ($245,000). Aside from Trois-Rivières, which boasts the lowest home price of all the cities included in the analysis, Halifax is the only other urban centre with benchmark prices below $200,000. At the other end of the spectrum, of the 85 cities in the study, 12 have crossed the $1-million mark.
Meanwhile, Ottawa and St. John’s, NL have the highest median incomes among the 10 best cities for Millennials. Specifically, both cities posted earnings that hover around $125,000. The only other cities with higher incomes for this age group were Québec and Levis, both at $118,410. Not to be outdone, Grande Prairie, AB posted the top income for Millennials ($137,235) of all of the 85 cities in the study. Overall, a total of 61 cities in the study boasted median incomes greater than $100,000, with the remaining 24 posting incomes between $90,000 and $99,000.
Québec City has the lowest unemployment rate of all cities in the analysis. It’s followed by Sherbrooke, QC and London, ON, making these three cities the most appealing from this point of view. Among the 10 most desirable cities for young people, only one other city — Ottawa — has unemployment rates below 5%, while a total of 15 cities had unemployment rates higher than 10%.
The three cities with the largest share of people who had completed higher education were Oakville, ON; Richmond Hill, ON and North Vancouver, BC. However, due to other factors, none of these three cities actually made it into the top 10. So, of the cities that did make up the top 10, only Waterloo, ON and Ottawa, ON were also among the top 10 cities with the most people with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
At 88.33%, New Westminster, BC has the highest healthcare index of the 10 best cities for Millennials. However, in the overall ranking Milton, ON came in first, with an index of 90.74. Without a doubt, factors such as the quality of the health care system, health care professionals, equipment, doctors and costs should always weigh heavy when deciding where to move to.
According to Statistics Canada, “all measures of the Crime Severity Index [CSI] — the overall CSI, the Violent CSI and the Non-violent CSI — increased for the fifth consecutive year.” But, fortunately, some cities are doing better than others. In particular, Burlington; Oakville and Caledon, in Ontario, as well as Levis, QC all have CSI rates below 30%. Yet, aside from Levis, Québec City is the only other attractive urban hub that also had one of the lowest crime rates in the country.
Share of Millennials in Population
Of the top 10 best cities for Millennials, Victoria, BC; St. John’s, NL and Waterloo, ON have the highest shares of young people, all of which surpass 20%. Even so, Grande Prairie, AB dominated the overall ranking by recording the highest percentage of Millennials of all the cities in the analysis (27%).
Moderate temperatures, low humidity and many sunny days are just some of the factors that make for a great climate. As such, British Columbia is the place to be in Canada: The best spots for sun-loving Millennials are Victoria, Nanaimo, Vancouver and North Vancouver. On the other hand, for those who prefer the colder climate, Alberta has all the best spots: St. Albert, Grande Prairie and Regina are some of the coldest and most humid cities in the country.
Although this might sound like an elusive concept, life satisfaction encompasses all of the factors above — and more. And the cities where Millennials report the highest level of satisfaction with their lifestyle are Trois-Rivières and Québec City.
On the other hand, the cities that are less desirable for Millennials tend to have fewer affordable housing options or job opportunities than the cities that are higher on the list. However, while these are the main factors people consider when deciding where to move, colder climates, higher crime rates and even lower overall life satisfaction might influence young people’s final decision, as well.
In fact, three of the 10 least desirable cities for Millennials also boast some of the highest home prices of all of the cities included in the analysis: Langley, BC; Vaughan, ON and Caledon, ON all have average prices above $1 million. This could discourage many young people from moving to the area, as they tend to earn less than older generations and have less money to invest in a home.
Similarly, Cape Breton, NS — the seventh least attractive city for young people — has the lowest income for this age group of all the cities in the study. And, at $89,569, it is also the only city on the list with a median Millennial income below $90,000. Abbotsford, BC and Charlottetown, PEI take the second and third spots, with median incomes a little higher than $90,000. However, on the bright side, of the 10 least desirable cities for Millennials, six boast incomes higher than $100,000.
At opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to unemployment rates are Québec City, QC, and Cape Breton, NS. Specifically, Québec’s capital has the lowest unemployment rate of the 85 cities considered for the study, and is the only city with a rate below 3%. Conversely, at 14.7%, Cape Breton has the highest unemployment rate of Canada’s 85 largest urban centres.
The three cities with the lowest shares of residents that have pursued higher education are Kawartha Lakes, ON; Chatham-Kent, ON and Drummondville, QC. Less than 15% of the people living here have bachelor’s degrees. Meanwhile, of the least attractive cities for Millennials, the highest percentage of people who have obtained higher education live in Vaughan, ON, — an impressive 40.7%.
Factors such as the quality of the health care system, health care professionals, equipment, doctors and costs could be vital when deciding where to move to. To that end, Gatineau, QC has the lowest healthcare index of Canada’s largest cities, followed by Charlottetown, PEI and Coquitlam, BC. Alternatively, of the 10 least desirable cities for Millennials, Langley, BC; Chatham-Kent, ON and Chilliwack, BC have the lowest healthcare indexes.
According to Statistics Canada, “all measures of the Crime Severity Index – the overall CSI, the Violent CSI and the Non-violent CSI – increased for the fifth consecutive year.” Prince George, BC; Grande Prairie, AB and Red Deer, AB have the highest rates of offences in the general ranking, while Chilliwack, BC has the highest rate of the 10 least desirable urban centres for Millennials.
Share of Millennials in Population
Of the 10 least desirable cities for Millennials, Caledon, ON has the lowest share of young people, at around 14%. Similarly, Cape Breton, NS; Chatham-Kent, ON; Langley, BC and Chilliwack, BC also have low numbers and shares of people between 25 and 40 years old. However, in the overall ranking, Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, QC takes the lowest spot, with only 11% of its resident in the 25 to 40 age group.
If British Columbia wins over all the sun-loving Millennials, then Alberta should be a magnet for those who appreciate colder climates and lower temperatures: St. Albert, AB has the lowest climate index of all the cities in the analysis, while Sarnia, ON has the lowest index of the 10 least attractive urban centres for Millennials.
Sarnia, ON — the fifth least desirable city for Millennials — also gets the fewest votes when it comes to life satisfaction in the overall ranking and Fredericton, NB follows suit. But the biggest surprise comes in at numbers three and four: two of most attractive cities for Millennials — St. John’s, NL and Victoria, BC — have two of the lowest life satisfaction rates of all the cities in the analysis.
Check out the interactive table below for detailed data on the 85 most populous Canadian cities ranked for Millennials:
- To compile our list we looked at data available for Canada’s 85 largest cities by population.
- For each city we analyzed nine different criteria that are attractive to Millennials: yearly income, benchmark average home selling price, unemployment rate, life satisfaction, crime rate, healthcare, climate, level of education (the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or above) and percentage of Millennials of the total population.
- We graded each criterion from 1 to 85 and then found the total attractiveness score for each city by calculating the sum of these grades. Based on these scores, we determined their position in the ranking.
- The data was sourced from Statistics Canada for unemployment rates, Millennials’ life satisfaction, crime severity, education, the percentage of Millennials of the total population and median income, from Numbeo for healthcare and climate, and from CREA and real estate associations for the average home prices.
Quality employment and affordable housing are two key factors that motivate millennials to settle down in a new city. But this upbeat generation obsessed with life-work balance is looking for more than just a well-paying job and a nice house. They want engaging leisure activities, opportunities to socialize with other like-minded millennials, eco-friendly resources, and a safe but exciting city where they can thrive.
To determine Canada’s up-and-coming millennial hot spots in 2018, we compared 85 of the most populous cities by looking at nine factors, and based on the individual ranking of each factor we measured the cities’ overall attractiveness. Aside from housing affordability, we weighed seven other criteria that we thought are important to millennials: unemployment rate, life satisfaction, low crime rate, healthcare, climate, level of education (the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or above) and the percentage of millennials of the total population.
You may think millennial hot spots such as Vancouver or Toronto took the rest of the competition down. Surprisingly, that’s not the case:
- Quebec City takes the number one spot on our list as Canada’s most attractive city for millennials.
- None of Canada’s largest cities, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa or Calgary, made the top three.
- 7 of the top 10 best cities for millennials have a population of under 500,000.
Best Places for Canadian Millennials in 2018
1. Quebec City, QC
Quebec City is Canada’s best city for millennials. Not only does it rank the highest overall, it also boasts an affordable housing market compared to most of the other surveyed locations. Add this to the fact that the city has the third lowest unemployment rate in Canada and an above average yearly income, and it makes sense why it takes the number one spot on our list. For millennials looking to settle down and start a family, Quebec City also has a low crime severity index.
Did you know? Quebec City might be known for its rich cultural heritage, but millennials are creating a culture of their own, bringing new creative forces outside the city’s walls. Its less polished neighbourhoods are now bursting with trendy boutiques, chic cafes and bistronomy eateries.
2. Victoria, BC
According to the numbers, Victoria is a magnet city for young, educated Canadians, boasting the second highest percentage of millennials in the country, many of whom have a bachelor degree or above. Aside from having a low unemployment rate, this city also holds top position for climate. It comes as no surprise therefore that the BC capital ranks highest in the nation for life satisfaction of millennials.
Did you know? Home to the Biketoria cycling network, Victoria made the top of the list as Canada’s most “bikeable” city in UBC’s Cycling in Cities Research Program.
3. Guelph, ON
Compared to neighbouring Toronto, Guelph presents itself as a great alternative for millennials looking to settle down. While in Toronto the yearly income for millennials is only $67,880 and a home sells for $818,201, in Guelph a house costs less than half that ($406,800), and the yearly income ($82,910) is considerably higher – even higher than the Canadian benchmark of $79,660. Ranking eighth for life satisfaction of millennials, this peaceful city is the ideal destination for those looking to combine the benefits of a strong job market with a thriving living environment.
Did you know: Guelph’s Farmers’ Market offers fresh, local food and artisanal products, supporting the local economy and entrepreneurship, and is also one of the city’s oldest community spaces, having served as a gathering place since 1827.
4. Halifax, NS
With its highly affordable housing market and low crime rate, Halifax ranks as the fourth most attractive city for millennials. As millennials have been powering the housing market, bringing new life into Halifax’s downtown, the city is experiencing a renaissance both in residential and commercial real estate, becoming an attractive destination for young professionals.
Did you know? Halifax currently holds the title of the fifth-largest tech-hub in Canada.
5. Ottawa, ON
As a government town, Ottawa offers a steady job market and an above average income of $88,310. Besides having a good economy and well-paying jobs, Canada’s capital city also boasts a thriving cultural scene. In addition, it also ranks sixth for the highest percentage of Canadians with a bachelor’s degree or above. This makes it a top location for young professionals looking to interact with like-minded individuals.
Did you know? Ottawa is one of the youngest cities in Canada, with nearly half its population under 35.
Least Tempting Millennial Cities
1. Langley (Township), BC
The Township of Langley might have the second lowest unemployment rate in Canada, but it also has a high crime rate and a low percentage of millennials living here. And although a home in Langley sells for less than half the average price of a Vancouver property, its housing market is still severely unaffordable, which puts the township at the bottom of the list.
Did you know? In Langley you can drink some of the best wines in all of British Columbia. In fact, the township prides itself with award-winning wineries which are open to the public for tasting and buying.
2. Kawartha Lakes, ON
In Kawartha Lakes, the yearly income for millennials, $83,630, is way above the national benchmark. But despite enjoying one of highest wages in Canada, millennials are not exactly flocking to live in this Ontario city. Furthermore, Kawartha Lakes has the lowest percentage of Canadians with a bachelor’s degree or above. This being said, not being part of a community which includes like-minded individuals seems to outweigh the benefits of a good salary, making Kawartha Lakes the second least attractive city for millennials in Canada.
Did you know? If you’re looking to explore the cultural scene in Kawartha Lakes, the Kawartha Lakes Cultural Map allows you to locate over 700 points of interest, from live theatre and dance schools to handmade chocolate.
3. Brantford, ON
Ranked third-least attractive city for millennials in Canada, Brantford also draws some attention for the wrong reasons. Not only does Brantford have a high crime index, but it also has one of the lowest ratings in education. The fact that the yearly income for millennials is below the Canadian benchmark of $79,660 adds to the factors which place this city so low in the ranking.
Did you know? Brantford’s Public Library was the first in North America to join the UNESCO model library network.
4. Chilliwack, BC
On the one hand, Chilliwack stands out for having a low unemployment rate and a relatively mild climate. On the other hand, it has an extremely high crime rate and ranks fifth lowest for education, which are serious enough reasons to keep millennials away from this British Columbia city.
Did you know? Chilliwack has an active music scene, centred on rock and classical music, and also offers many community events and classes throughout the year.
5. Sault Ste. Marie, ON
While Sault Ste. Marie might have the sixth most affordable housing market in Canada, it also has the third highest unemployment rate. Aside from this, it also ranks lowest for life satisfaction of millennials. Taking everything into account, Sault Ste. Marie is not an attractive destination for millennials, with its position in the ranking further reinforced by the low percentage of millennials already living in the city.
Did you know? Sault Ste. Marie is the Alternative Energy Capital of North America. Energy projects that operate or are underway in the community include wind energy, hydroelectric energy, cogeneration, solar energy and reverse polymerization.
Check out the interactive table below for detailed data on the 85 most populous Canadian cities ranked for millennials:
|Rank||City||Province||Population||% of Millennials of Total Population||% Millennials of Population Rank||Average Home Price||Home Price Rank||Millennials' Yearly Income||Income Rank||Unemployment Rate (%)||Unemployment Rank||% of Population with Bachelor's Degree or Above||Education Rank||Crime Severity Index||Crime Rank||Healthcare Index||Healthcare Rank||Climate Index||Climate Rank||Life Satisfaction of Millennials||Life Satisfaction Rank|
|11||New Westminster||British Columbia||70,996||23.44%||13||$651,600||62||$72,390||42||6||11||35.6%||24||78.84||50||72.54||21||87.66||6||97.1%||10|
|17||St. John's||Newfoundland and Labrador||111,796||23.81%||11||$308,036||31||$99,390||2||8.9||30||35.6%||23||79.23||51||66.92||32||56.4||27||91.1%||39|
|26||Charlottetown||Prince Edward Island||64,487||21.55%||24||$234,990||11||$74,910||38||10.5||40||34.3%||26||54.72||26||50.00||50||45.13||36||96.9%||11|
|40||Saint John||New Brunswick||67,575||18.88%||52||$168,575||3||$82,110||22||9.6||34||19.9%||65||74.79||45||72.69||20||45.13||36||97.6%||4|
|47||North Vancouver||British Columbia||85,935||14.4%||84||$1,093,900||82||$72,390||42||5.1||4||48.9%||3||81.25||52||72.54||21||91.43||3||97.6%||4|
|66||Prince George||British Columbia||74,003||22.04%||20||$289,580||26||$92,680||9||9.3||32||19.5%||68||154.39||73||75.00||13||36.07||42||91.6%||36|
|75||Cape Breton||Nova Scotia||94,285||15.03%||82||$132,833||1||$70,140||48||17.4||41||18.2%||75||47.48||11||75.99||11||45.13||36||93.2%||31|
|78||Maple Ridge||British Columbia||82,256||17.80%||59||$680,100||66||$72,390||42||5.1||4||18.3%||74||93.24||57||72.54||21||83.54||10||97.1%||10|
|81||Sault Ste. Marie||Ontario||73,368||17.42%||66||$174,913||6||$79,660||28||10.3||39||21.4%||61||77.39||49||71.83||23||38.41||41||88.6%||41|
|85||Langley Township||British Columbia||117,285||17.3%||68||$668,356||63||$72,390||42||4.4||2||23.5%||56||99.22||59||57.87||45||83.54||10||94.3%||26|
For reference, feel free to look over the national average values for each of the nine criteria:
|Average % of Millennials of Total Population||Average Home Price||Millennials' Median Yearly Income||Average Unemployment Rate (%)||Average % of Population with Bachelor's Degree or Above||Average Crime Severity Index||Average Healthcare Index||Average Climate Index||Average Life Satisfaction of Millennials|
- To compile our list we looked at data available for Canada’s 85 largest cities by population.
- For each city we analyzed nine different criteria which are attractive to millennials: yearly income, average home selling price, unemployment rate, life satisfaction, crime rate, healthcare, climate, level of education (the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or above) and percentage of millennials of the total population.
- We graded each criterion from 1 to 85 and then calculated a total attractiveness score for each city by summing these grades up. Based on this score, we determined their position in the ranking.
- The data was researched within the last three months from Statistics Canada for unemployment rates, millennials’ life satisfaction, crime severity, education, the percentage of millennials of the total population and median income, from Numbeo for healthcare and climate, and from CREA and Real Estate Associations for the average home prices.
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