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35% of Tech Workers Have Left San Francisco

Written by: Ryan McCready

May 14, 2021

Tech Worker Migration Data Story

With everyone going remote for the past year or more, the need to be in the same city as your employer almost disappeared.

Huge tech companies that had been pushing back on remote employees finally gave in, and it looks like a lot of those employees might never go back to the office full time.

With all of that freedom, some choose to relocate to greener pastures and warmer climates.

But where did they go? And what cities saw the biggest negative migration?

Let’s take a look.


SF has 35% fewer tech workers this year

The San Francisco area has been known as a tech hub for the past few decades. Some of the largest and most recognizable tech brands have offices in that area as well.

But it’s also one of the most expensive cities to live in with an average home costing about $1.4 million dollars.

So when tech workers saw that they didn’t have to live in San Francisco to do their job, they left.

In a big way:

Tech Worker Migration Data Story

Compared to last year, San Francisco has 35% fewer tech workers living there.

This negative migration of tech workers was seen in a lot of other expensive cities that also happen to be tech hubs like NYC, Seattle and Boston.

The cost just to live in those cities is exceptionally high compared to the rest of the country, with all of the cities ranking in the top 10 for highest costs of living:

Tech Worker Migration Data Story

NYC has long been one of the most expensive cities to live in, which is why they use it as the high benchmark for comparing the cost of living and give it a score of 100.

The other cities like Boston and Washington D.C. are not far behind. And if you don’t have to live in those cities to do your job, why would you stay?


Where did these tech workers go?

The high cost of living, along with the likely desire for a less hectic commute, more space and warmer climates led them to move to less traditional tech cities.

Miami, Houston and Dallas saw the most positive migration of tech workers compared to last year:

Tech Worker Migration Data Story

These are definitely not the cities that you think of when someone mentions tech hubs. However, with the lower cost of living and the rise of remote work, they could be in the near future!

Miami and Philadelphia have a somewhat high cost of living but both are still almost 20 points below NYC and San Francisco.

Tech Worker Migration Data Story

On the other hand, Houston and Dallas 30+ points lower, and rank in the bottom third of cities with the highest cost of living.

So on top of it being warmer than the Pacific Northwest and NYC, these tech workers are paying a lot less for everything.


This migration matches overall trends

When looking at all workers, the migration trends are pretty similar to tech workers.

The top cities for negative migration are almost the same, with San Francisco, NYC and Seattle leading the pack:

Tech Worker Migration Data Story

It is interesting to see Los Angeles have such high negative migration rates for all workers, but positive migration for tech workers.

This could be explained by tech workers not wanting to leave California but just to get out of the Bay Area.

The cost of living for Los Angeles is about 15 points lower than San Francisco so that could have attracted a lot of those workers as well.

When you look at the overall positive migration trends, the top cities aren’t as similar:

Tech Worker Migration Data Story

Miami was the only city that saw both high migration rates for tech workers and all other workers.

The top cities for overall migration all have a relatively low cost of living, especially compared to the cities that saw the most negative migration.

Jacksonville has a cost of living that is 30+ points lower than NYC, and it never snows there.

Tech Worker Migration Data Story

If you like snow, Salt Lake City is also extremely cheap compared to the other tech hubs. So there’s something for everyone on this list.

Now, will these trends continue? It is way too early to tell.

But if many companies continue to allow their employees to work remotely, there could be no more expensive tech hub cities.

And the world might be a better place because of that.





About Ryan McCready

Ryan McCready went to the University of Arkansas and graduated with a degree in economics and international business. Now instead of studying the economy he writes about everything and enjoys stirring the pot.