Madison was ranked No. 1 by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance today on a new list of the Top 5 best cities for young adults.

The magazine said Madison was an “educated, tech-savvy city” with many recent college graduates who help foster an “entrepreneurial community” for start-up companies.

Its intellectual capital also was bolstered by the presence of UW-Madison and other colleges, along with Epic Systems, a top health care software developer based in Verona.

Both contributed to a wealth of “engineers, computer programmers and other eggheads” in the area, with “no shortage of smart people in town,” the magazine said.

While Downtown rents were seen as high, the wealth of activities for young people made up for that, with cited diversions ranging from the Dane County Farmers’ Market to Badgers football to boating and fishing on Lakes Kegonsa, Mendota, Monona and Waubesa.

Top-city rankings and other outside recognitions are ideal publicity for area communities, Bonnie Dixon of Stark Company Realtors in Sun Prairie told Property Trax. They help sell homes, too.

“We find these lists very encouraging and positive,” Dixon said, noting she created a special flyer a few years ago when Sun Prairie was mentioned on a list put together by a national home-related magazine. “I can tell you it creates a lot of buzz, and when we are working with our re-location buyers especially, it’s super-great.”

Even a list like Kiplinger’s one today — aimed at young people and focused on rental costs, among other things — can be helpful, she said.

“I think it’s fabulous,” she said, about Madison’s latest top ranking. “We do see our fair share of young people getting into the housing market, because the (interest) rates are so great.”

Rounding out the top five cities in the country for young adults, according to Kiplinger’s, was Austin, Texas, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Denver, in that order. (Interesting that Madison actually beat perennially top-ranked Austin on this list.)

The magazine also named Top 5 cities for three other identified “life stages,” with Washington, D.C., ranked first for professionals; Des Moines, Iowa for families; Portland, Maine for so-called “second acts”; and New Orleans for retirees.

Factors considered in ranking cities for each life stage included cost of living, income growth, crime rate, health care, public schools and community services, along with population share for each age group.

Factors could weigh differently for different groups, with health care seen as more important for the retiree stage, for example, while schools were rated higher for families and rental costs for young adults.

You can see the full lists for all the life stages here:

This appears to be the first time Kiplinger has put a Top 5 best-cities list together quite like this, measuring by “life stage,” so it’s not possible to see how Madison ranked in previous years.

The company frequently slices and dices its demographic databases to create all kinds of different best lists, and Madison regularly shows up on many of them.

In January, for example, Kiplinger's rated UW-Madison tops in the Big Ten conference for value.

Last September, Madison also made its “10 great cities for young adults,” a list that focused on high starting salaries for college graduates and other factors.

And in Aug. 2010, named Madison one of the 10 best cities to raise a family. (Though it didn't make the Top 5 in today's list from Kiplinger for the family "life stage.")


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Karen Rivedal is the education beat reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.