BOSTON (MainStreet) -- The real world is a scary place right now, especially for recent college graduates just trying to avoid it.
Unemployment is at 9.1% as job growth sputters, existing home sales are down 8.8% as credit tightens and down payments rise and the average cost of just about anything is up 3.7% in the past year, according to the Consumer Price Index. If you were a college student, would you want to do a keg stand of that reality after four years of the good life?
That answer's increasingly and emphatically no. The percentage of people ages 18 to 30 who are working full time dropped from 50% in 2006 to 41% last year, according to a report from the Pew Research Center last year. At the same time, the number who either work part time or are full-time students has increased three percentage points, to 24% and 13% respectively.
Almost 40% of those between 18 and 24 are in college, which is more than any generation before and fueled by those who went to community college or graduate school after giving up on the job hunt. As a result, only 63% of those 18 to 30 are employed, compared with 70% of Generation X and 66% of baby boomers when they were the same age.
Of those 18 to 30 who weathered the recession, 13% moved back home with their parents, another 15% took a roommate to cut costs and only 22% own their own home, less than any other generation before. If this is the battle they face, is facing it in a city with lots of people their own age, tons of bars, restaurants, coffee shops and other spots to hang out and cheap public transit or easy walking and biking paths too much to ask?
At least five cities don't think so. We found a handful of places that are a boon for young college grads and filled with activities and amenities for those not quite ready to let the real world shut down the party or yell "last call" just yet:
Portion of population ages 20 to 34: 27.1%
In the words of Saturday Night Live and Portlandia star Fred Armisen, Portland is the city where young people go to retire.
For the 40% of Portland residents 25 and over with college degrees -- well above the U.S. average of 27.5% -- the city's 8.6% unemployment is only slightly better than the national average despite the presence of companies Nike, Adidas, Intel, Netflix and Columbia Sportswear. Even that's a fairly new development after the city's unemployment hovered around 11% early last year.
There may be some resentment about that under the surface, but generally Portland doesn't seem too bummed about it. The Deschutes Brewing brewpub, Rogue Ale Brewery "meeting rooms" and MacTarnahan's Taproom are still open, Powell's Books is still hosting readings, the coffee is still brewing at the city's myriad cafes and life is still wonderfully weird.
In a town with 250 miles of bike trails where 8% of commuters bike to work and the streetcars downtown are free, few people are going to tell recent grads to grow up and get a car already. With Mount Hood and the Cascades nearby, the Columbia River open for windsurfing and sailing and huge events such as the Rose Festival, beer festivals, Portland Timbers soccer games and MusicfestNW blowing through town every year, nobody's going to prevent post-collegians from going out and playing.
Finally, when the annual to-do list includes naked bike rides, urban Iditarod and grown-up soap-box derbies, there's no indication the party's ending anytime soon.