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College graduates are flocking to these cities

What do cities like Charlotte, Denver, San Francisco and Seattle have in common?

They apparently are magnets for college graduates from all over the country.

A recent study from student loan marketplace Credible found that those four cities as well as Dallas, New York, Portland, Oakland and Washington, D.C. — had the most out-of-state graduates relative to in-state graduates among 20 large U.S. cities. The survey looked at 4,500 young Americans who have been out of school for an average of 4.5 years.

Washington, D.C., and Charlotte see about 2.2 out-of state graduates for every one in-state graduate, the highest proportion in the group.

San Francisco is one city favored by college graduates.
Avinash Achar | Getty Images
San Francisco is one city favored by college graduates.

Many of the cities on the list were among the nation's most notoriously expensive.

The median ratio of rent-to-income was about 19 percent among all cities analyzed. But those with many out-of-state graduates had even less affordable housing: Grads living in Seattle spent 22 percent of their income on rent, while those in New York City spent 21 percent, according to Credible's analysis.

The trend of graduates moving to expensive cities is unsurprising, said Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Seattle-based Windermere Real Estate.

"People are going to be attracted to a thriving job market, regardless of cost," he said. "The most important thing on many of their minds is to get a job."

That's true for Fordham college senior Jack Murray, who accepted a job in the Bay Area earlier this year. San Francisco is home to about two out-of-state college graduates for every in-state one.

"I'm worried about the cost of rent the most," said Murray, who will be working in the fashion industry. "As I've been looking for a place to live, it seems like there's both a smaller pool of options and you're getting less for your money than you would even in New York."

College graduates may struggle to strike a balance between finding employment and keeping living costs low, said Gardner.

"Higher real estate costs are likely to be in cities where job markets are very robust, and where housing costs are lower, the job markets are often not as strong," he said.

Indeed, professional and personal development were the top factors Murray said he considered when choosing a job and place to live.

"I know I won't be able to have as nice of an apartment as I would in a less expensive city to live in, but it is worth the trade-off to have a job I want," he said.

While the nine cities described might be particularly popular among young transplants today, that could always change tomorrow, said Credible's CEO Stephen Dash.

"It's simple supply and demand," he said. "As more graduates move to these cities they will become more expensive, and it's likely that new cities will become more attractive."