Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Why Workers Without College Degrees Are Fleeing Big Cities

Here is some interesting data via The New York Times on demographic flows:
Last month the Census Bureau confirmed a confounding dynamic taking hold across the American landscape: Superstar cities, the nation’s economic powerhouses, hotbeds of opportunity at the cutting edge of technological progress, are losing people to other parts of the country.

For the first time in at least a decade, 4,868 more people left King County, Wash. — Amazon’s home — than arrived from elsewhere in the country.

Santa Clara County, Calif., home to most of Silicon Valley, lost 24,645 people to domestic migration, its ninth consecutive annual loss.

The trend is becoming widespread. Eight of the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the country, including those around New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami, lost people to other places in 2018. That was up from seven in 2016, five in 2013 and four in 2010. Migration out of the New York area has gotten so intense that its total population shrank in 2018 for the second year in a row...

30 of the 44 largest counties, with populations above one million, recorded more domestic outflows than inflows of people in 2018.
But here is what is going on:
Places like Cupertino and Mountain View in Santa Clara County may still offer the best, most highly paid opportunities for the highly educated — lawyers and programmers seeking jobs at Apple or Google. The median family in that county makes $122,700 a year. In King County it is $105,512, way above the national median of $76,000.
The problem is that workers without a four-year college degree don’t earn anywhere near that much...
Today it makes a lot of sense for a lawyer to move to Silicon Valley from the South. The additional pay will more than compensate for the higher cost of housing. But a janitor moving from, say, somewhere in Alabama to Cupertino could see her household income, after paying rent, fall by more than half.
Bottom line: Major cities are becoming elitist cities where people have college educations in areas that advance careers. These are cities for high earners served by blue collar (possibly undocumented) workers who live on the outskirts with generally long commutes.

For someone with skills between the high earners and the warm body wage earners, it makes sense to move somewhere where the cost-of-living is much lower.



  1. I noticed a similar phenomenon in the 90’s in Rocky Mountain towns like Jackson, Wyoming where real-estate prices were skyrocketing because they were the “in” places to own property by people from California and the East. People who worked in Jackson lived across the Tetons in Idaho where they could afford the rent.

  2. The salaries for engineers and such in Si Valley are considerably higher than most other places but the problem is they are just higher enough to pay the additional interest on the bigger mortgage or higher rent. Maybe the additional taxes as well. Then there is the gamble on real estate in that area if one buys rather than rents. A dip of 7% means a six figure loss. All this while carrying seven figures of debt.

  3. Problems easily solved by mandatory living wages and low income housing.

    1. No mandatory wages or housing, gov't causes enough problems now, besides that's socialism and things only get worse from there. There are many places in America workers are needed, move there and do better than depending on gov't.