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Tech Workers Are Fleeing the Bay Area — Here’s Where They’re Moving

Andrew Lisa
·7 min read
franckreporter / Getty Images/iStockphoto
franckreporter / Getty Images/iStockphoto

In 1971, long before the San Francisco Bay Area became a $2.8 trillion neighborhood, journalist Don Hoefler coined the term “Silicon Valley.” There were no social media networks then, no search engines and no e-commerce, but companies like Atari, Oracle and Apple made their homes there in the 1970s. By the 1980s, the Bay Area was ground zero for all things computers, and the region became a worldwide mecca for tech workers and entrepreneurs of all stripes.

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The region’s unique relationship with tech, however, became a devil’s bargain — particularly in San Francisco. The industry brought the biggest, richest and most innovative companies in the world, and with them came high-paying jobs and the waves of educated professionals they attract. The industry’s dominance, however, stirred intense disdain among many locals who found themselves priced out and sidelined by a never-ending influx of hip, young, rich tech geeks who didn’t mind paying $7 for coffee and seven figures for a mortgage.

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But it appears that those contemplating leaving their beloved San Francisco to escape the relentless onslaught of tech might not have to — thanks to the pandemic, tech is leaving them. The virus triggered a massive exodus of tech workers out of the Bay Area to destinations all over the country. First, we’ll take a look at San Francisco’s data, and then we’ll see where these workers are going now.

Last updated: Feb. 22, 2021

San Francisco Downtown with the major skyscrapers includes Lumina, 181 Fremont, Salesforce Tower and more.
San Francisco Downtown with the major skyscrapers includes Lumina, 181 Fremont, Salesforce Tower and more.

San Francisco

  • Year-over-year increase in inflow/outflow ratio: -35%

  • Median annual income: $112,449

  • Typical monthly rent for a one-bedroom: $1,983

  • Typical home value: $1,480,497

  • Cost-of-living index score: 269.3

  • Estimated population density (sq. mile): 18,128

  • Livability: 63

Like millions of people in all kinds of occupations all over the country, many San Francisco tech workers learned the hard way during the pandemic that they could do their jobs from anywhere. While many chose to stay put in the city that had been synonymous with their industry for years, plenty of others decided that the only reason they were living so close to Apple, Google, Pinterest and the rest was because that’s where the action was. When the pandemic began turning techies into telecommuters, many used the opportunity to head for slower, cheaper, less politically charged cities — and they took their jobs with them.

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Downtown Richmond, Virginia skyline and the James River at twilight.
Downtown Richmond, Virginia skyline and the James River at twilight.

Richmond, Virginia

  • Year-over-year increase in inflow/outflow ratio: 11.6%

  • Median annual income: $47,250

  • Typical monthly rent for a one-bedroom: $1,022

  • Typical home value: $265,986

  • Cost-of-living index score: 95.1

  • Estimated population density (sq. mile): 3,618

  • Livability: 72

The influx of tech workers into Richmond is just one part of a seismic shift that’s been transforming Virginia’s political and demographic structure. In recent years, the reliably conservative state turned blue as Virginia’s power base moved from the state’s declining rural areas to its ever-expanding suburbs and exurbs. Geographically liberated tech workers only reinforced that dynamic by pouring out of San Francisco and into Virginia’s capital city.

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Skyline of downtown Hartford, Connecticut from Founders Bridge.
Skyline of downtown Hartford, Connecticut from Founders Bridge.

Hartford, Connecticut

  • Year-over-year increase in inflow/outflow ratio: 15.1%

  • Median annual income: $36,278

  • Typical monthly rent for a one-bedroom: $875

  • Typical home value: $172,789

  • Cost-of-living index score: 93.9

  • Estimated population density (sq. mile): 7,153

  • Livability: 45

It’s not just Hartford — the whole of Connecticut is experiencing a population boom thanks to pandemic-related relocation, with tens of thousands of newly minted telecommuters flooding the state during the second half of 2020 alone. The fact that many of them are tech workers should be a welcome relief. The state’s job market and economy were hit especially hard by the pandemic, in part because Connecticut spent so many years underinvesting in tech.

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minneapolis,minesota,usa.
minneapolis,minesota,usa.

Minneapolis

  • Year-over-year increase in inflow/outflow ratio: 16.9%

  • Median annual income: $62,583

  • Typical monthly rent for a one-bedroom: $1,032

  • Typical home value: $312,845

  • Cost-of-living index score: 106.5

  • Estimated population density (sq. mile): 7,494

  • Livability: 65

It makes sense that San Francisco expats would feel at home in Minnesota, particularly the major population center of Minneapolis. The state — and the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul in particular — were one of the country’s top emerging tech hotspots even before the pandemic. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, minority tech professionals, in particular, have made the city home.

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Sacramento, California, USA - September 19, 2017: These two women are walking downtown Sacramento on J Street past historic bank and view with a variety of with many different styles, this downtown area is now being know as DOCO for Downtown Commons many new shops and a hotel and Sports arena and unique older structures in the area on this September day the weather was comfortable.
Sacramento, California, USA - September 19, 2017: These two women are walking downtown Sacramento on J Street past historic bank and view with a variety of with many different styles, this downtown area is now being know as DOCO for Downtown Commons many new shops and a hotel and Sports arena and unique older structures in the area on this September day the weather was comfortable.

Sacramento, California

  • Year-over-year increase in inflow/outflow ratio: 17.6%

  • Median annual income: $62,335

  • Typical monthly rent for a one-bedroom: $1,195

  • Typical home value: $399,709

  • Cost-of-living index score: 118.2

  • Estimated population density (sq. mile): 4,963

  • Livability: 58

For many tech professionals looking for greener, cheaper pastures, the exodus out of Silicon Valley only took about two hours to complete and never left California. As California’s population declines, Sacramento remains one of the Golden State’s last major population centers that’s actually adding residents.

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Cleveland, Ohio, USA downtown city skyline and harbor at twilight.
Cleveland, Ohio, USA downtown city skyline and harbor at twilight.

Cleveland

  • Year-over-year increase in inflow/outflow ratio: 19.9%

  • Median annual income: $30,907

  • Typical monthly rent for a one-bedroom: $597

  • Typical home value: $78,070

  • Cost-of-living index score: 72.6

  • Estimated population density (sq. mile): 5,009

  • Livability: 62

Although Cleveland became the destination for many of San Francisco’s wandering tech wizards, that influx likely won’t be enough to fuel positive population growth. Although Cleveland was America’s original tech hub in 1879 when it became the first city illuminated by electricity, today it’s one of the fastest-shrinking major cities in the country.

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Madison is the capital of the U.
Madison is the capital of the U.

Madison, Wisconsin

  • Year-over-year increase in inflow/outflow ratio: 74%

  • Median annual income: $65,332

  • Typical monthly rent for a one-bedroom: $1,109

  • Typical home value: $315,517

  • Cost-of-living index score: 100.6

  • Estimated population density (sq. mile): 3,195

  • Livability: 75

The pandemic only accelerated a trend that was already happening in Wisconsin. In 2019, Wisconsin Public Radio reported that despite steady population declines in Milwaukee, the state as a whole was gaining residents. Much of that gain was coming from Madison, where a booming tech industry was drawing young professionals from all over the world.

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Methodology: GOBankingRates referenced LinkedIn data published by Big Technology to identify the cities that have increased their inflow/outflow ratio of tech workers (the percentage of tech workers moving into the cities compared to the percentage moving out) the most between 2019 and 2020. San Francisco has seen its ratio drop 35.3% as it went from gaining significantly more tech workers than it lost in 2019 with a ratio of 1.48 to a current ratio of 0.96. With the cities that have experienced (1) the biggest year-over-year percentage increase in inflow/outflow ratio identified, GOBankingRates took a closer look at some quality and cost-of-living factors that could be keeping workers away from the Bay Area and attracting them to new cities. GOBankingRates looked at each city’s (2) 2019 median annual household income from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, (3) January 2021 typical monthly rent for a one-bedroom unit from Apartment List, (4) December 2020 typical home value from Zillow, (5) cost-of-living index score from Sperling’s Best Places where 100 indicates the typical cost of living in America, (6) estimated population density from AreaVibes and (7) livability score from AreaVibes. All data was collected on and up to date as of Feb. 8, 2021.

This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: Tech Workers Are Fleeing the Bay Area — Here’s Where They’re Moving