In this new study, LendingTree analyzed eight variables in the largest 50 metros in the U.S. to determine which cities would most likely give someone the boost they need to start a career or build their finances from scratch.
First, the study looked at eight elements to consider when going through a financial recovery, such as the local median income and rents, and if the state has laws to protect debtors from aggressive collections and penalties, in case methods like debt consolidation or refinancing to lower rates aren't enough to manage liabilities.
Next, to determine what opportunities there might be for people seeking a solid job and income, the study looked at the percentage of people in these metros who are between the ages of 35 and 64, single, employed, have health insurance coverage and are currently enrolled in school.
Lastly, to get an idea of how well people in an area are recovering from financial calamity, LendingTree calculated how quickly credit scores are rising after a bankruptcy by using proprietary data on the average credit score, on a geographic basis, of LendingTree customers who declared bankruptcy between three to four years earlier.
To determine the score for each city, the sum of the inverse rankings was divided by eight for a highest possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of zero. The actual highest score was 67.6, and the lowest was 32.9.
1. Buffalo, N.Y. - 67.6
At $738, Buffalo has the lowest median rent among the 50 cities reviewed, and 94 percent of adults over the age of 35 are insured (second highest). Residents who declare bankruptcy have an average credit score of 664 three years on, tied for the second highest score for the cities reviewed, suggesting that conditions are favorable for financial recovery. However, Buffalo ranks poorly in two metrics: at $52,303, median income is the seventh lowest, and only one other city has fewer students over the age the 35.
2. Minneapolis - 62.9
At just 3.7 percent, the exceedingly low unemployment rate for citizens in Minneapolis between the ages of 35 and 64 helps push the city to the No. 2 spot. Not only are most over-35s employed, but they also earn a median salary of $70,915, the eighth highest in the cities reviewed, 94 percent have health insurance and median rents are relatively low at $963.
3. Salt Lake City - 62.6
Only two other cities have more over-35s enrolled in school (Virginia Beach and Washington), and only five have more unmarried over-35s (New Orleans has the most). That could be due to the lowest unemployment rate for over-35s of any city reviewed (3.6%), and higher-than-average median income of $64,564 for that same group. That combines nicely with a moderate median rent of $967.
50. Birmingham, Ala. - 32.9
Among people between the ages of 35 and 64 living in Birmingham, just under a third are unmarried, 5.1 percent are unemployed and 87.3 percent have health insurance. Only 2.3 percent of that same group are enrolled in school (the third fewest of the cities) and median income for everyone is $50,539 (the fifth lowest). Most troublesome, Alabama received an "F" from the NCLC for poor debtor protections, and residents have an average credit score of 633 three years after a bankruptcy.
49. Riverside, Calif - 35.8
The biggest ding against Riverside is the 8.1 percent unemployment rate for people between the ages of 35 and 64, the highest of all the cities. That might explain why only 81.7 percent of that same age group has health insurance. Median income for all groups is in the middle of the pack at $56,295, but median rents are the 10th most expensive at $1,176.
48. Miami - 36.4
Median incomes of $50,064 are the third lowest, median rents of $1,182 are the eighth highest and 6.8 percent unemployment for over-35s is the fourth highest. At just 74.7 percent, Miami has the lowest health insurance coverage for over-35s. One potential bright spot for singles: 36.4 percent of people between the ages of 35 and 64 are unmarried, which is the third highest in the cities examined.
The full report is available here: https://www.lendingtree.com/home/best-places-for-a-fresh-start/.
- The following eight elements were ranked on scale of 100 for the 50 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the United States. The sum of the inverse rankings was divided by eight for a highest possible score of 100 and a lowest possible score of zero. The actual highest score was 67.6 and the lowest was 32.9.
- Percentage of the population between the age ages of 35 and 64 (inclusive) who are not currently married, calculated from the American Community Survey 2016 five-year estimate "Marital Status" table.
- Percentage of the population between the age ages of 35 and 64 (inclusive) who are unemployed, calculated from the American Community Survey 2016 five-year estimate "Employment Status" table.
- Percentage of the population between the age ages of 35 and 64 (inclusive) who have health insurance, calculated from the American Community Survey 2016 five-year estimate "Selected Characteristics of Health Insurance Coverage in the United States" table.
- Percentage of the population between the age ages of 35 and 64 (inclusive) who are enrolled in school, calculated from the American Community Survey 2016 five-year estimate "Sex by School Enrollment by Type of School by Age for the Population 3 Years and Over" table.
- Median income for the total population, reported in the American Community Survey 2016 five-year estimate "Median Income in the Past 12 Months (in 2016 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars)" table.
- Debtor friendly grade, where "A" is scored at 100, "B" is scored at 75, "C" is scored at 50, "D" is scored at 25, and "F" is scored at 0, as reported by "No Fresh Start. How States Let Debt Collectors Push Families Into Poverty", National Consumer Law Center, 2013; available at https://www.nclc.org/images/pdf/pr-reports/report-no-fresh-start-exec-summary.pdf (last accessed February 16, 2018).
- Average credit score 3 years after bankruptcy for all age groups, calculated from proprietary LendingTree customer data.
LendingTree (NASDAQ: TREE) is the nation's leading online loan marketplace, empowering consumers as they comparison-shop across a full suite of loan and credit-based offerings. LendingTree provides an online marketplace which connects consumers with multiple lenders that compete for their business, as well as an array of online tools and information to help consumers find the best loan. Since inception, LendingTree has facilitated more than 65 million loan requests. LendingTree provides free monthly credit scores through My LendingTree and access to its network of over 500 lenders offering home loans, personal loans, credit cards, student loans, business loans, home equity loans/lines of credit, auto loans and more. LendingTree, LLC is a subsidiary of LendingTree, Inc. For more information go to www.lendingtree.com, dial 800-555-TREE, like our Facebook page and/or follow us on Twitter @LendingTree.