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AP: Alabama makes top ten Most Challenging States for Gen Z Success


Graduates from Gen Z looking for their first job can expect to earn an average of $37,000 per year, just $4000 ahead of their undereducated peers. But many Gen Z respondents say the debt is worth it to them in the long run. And it could be - depending on where they intend to ply their trade. Here in Alabama, a recent survey shows the cost of living is lower, but then so is the average income.

Every state in the US has its advantages and disadvantages regarding its job market and liveability. Still, some states are noticeably less affordable for those entering the workforce. A study conducted by Hostinger analyzed age-related data on average salaries and factored in the current regional living wage. The results revealed the states where Gen Zers can expect the least spending power from a primary job. Side hustles and other forms of additional income are more likely to be necessary in those states.

Here are the ten most challenging states for Gen Zers during their start-up years:


Gen Zers who call Alabama home typically earn $27,950 during their first years of employment, while the estimated living wage is $33,093. This leaves an imbalance of $6,043 for the average Gen Z household.

New York

A typical New York resident under 25 earns $39,366 a year from their primary employer. This is

14% less than the estimated living wage of $45,739 calculated by researchers at MIT. A substantial secondary source of income will be required to afford basic expenses.


Gen Zers in Mississippi can expect to earn $27,906 in their first years of employment, while the average cost of living is $32,573. The difference of $4,667 can be a challenge to recover without a steady secondary income.


Gen Z residents of Louisiana earn an average of $29,032 during their first years on the job. Still, the average cost of living is $33,592. This leaves a shortfall of $4,560 per household.

West Virginia

This economically challenged state offers an average starting salary of $27,814, with an estimated living wage of $32,136. This creates a shortfall of $4,322 per year.

South Carolina

South Carolina offers an average starting wage of $32,671 but an estimated living salary of $36,338. The remaining $3,667 balance demonstrates a need for a side hustle or passive income.


The estimated starting salary in Illinois is $34, 424. Still, the living wage is calculated to be $37,773, even higher in major cities such as Chicago. The $3,349 difference may be even more significant in more affluent areas.

New Mexico

Gen Zers seeking employment and residency in New Mexico can expect an average starting salary of $30,939 but a living wage estimated to be $33,800. However, the difference of $2,861 can be made up through a part-time side hustle or passive income.


While cities such as Portland, Oregon have become popular destinations for Gen Zers, there are still some economic realities to face. Average starting salaries are an impressive $37,990, but the living wage is $40,581. Fortunately, there are a significant number of side hustles available to make up the $2,591 shortfall.


Montana rounds out the list of challenging states for Gen Zers, with an average starting wage of $32,413 and a living wage of $33,946. The $1,533 difference may seem negligible, but the cost of living in Montana's larger cities can be higher than expected.

Side Hustles Gen Zers Should Consider

In states where the cost of living far outweighs average starting salaries, many Gen Z households seek out at least one side hustle or passive income opportunity. Some side hustles require little to no financial investment or specific skillset. Others require at least working knowledge in a particular field.

Here are some common ways Gen Z households can earn the supplemental income needed to meet ends.

Writing and Editing

The Internet has created a tremendous need for original content, whether in the form of blog entries, listicles or product reviews. Many content creation sites only require basic competency in English, and the work can be very steady. Other services include freelance proofreading or content editing.

Graphic Design

While a graphic designer position often requires a strong background in visual art, interested Gen Zers can enroll in online courses to acquire at least marketable skills. Jobs could include designing logos, editing photos, and website design.


Obviously, fluency in at least one other language is a prerequisite for translation work, but Gen Zers from bilingual backgrounds can turn this skill into a lucrative side hustle. Many companies seek out skilled translators to mirror their content in other countries.

Food Delivery

Gen Zerswith access to a car or even a bicycle can earn good money by making local food deliveries. These side hustles often feature flexible hours and only require minimal investment in fuel, insurance, and maintenance. The work can sometimes be physically demanding, but delivery drivers with strong people skills can earn significant cash tips.

Pet or House Sitting

Many households find themselves in need of a pet or housesitting service to take extended trips. Duties may include caring for and feeding pets, basic housekeeping chores, mail retrieval, and other assigned tasks. For Gen Zers who work remotely, this is an ideal arrangement for setting up a temporary workstation.

The Way Forward For Gen Z Households

Fortunately, the study includes some positive news for the future of entry-level Gen Z workers. The economic picture improves after 25, with the average person surpassing the living wage by at least $39,800 by age 44. The most challenging states often offer the most employment opportunities in a preferred field.

Many websites have suggestions for good side hustles, along with apps that can generate passive income. Female Gen Zers can also benefit from these focused money-making apps for women. There are even apps that pay participants to play online games.

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.
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