Bay Area exodus: Thousands more fleeing region than arriving from other states
Even with its lucrative tech jobs and some of the best weather in the country, thousands more people have fled the Bay Area’s high housing costs and jammed roads than have moved into the region from other parts of the United States in recent years.
According to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the five-county Bay Area lost a net total of nearly 35,400 people between 2013-17, not counting births and new arrivals from other countries.
“It is a troubling sign of the affordability crisis of the region,” said Jeff Bellisario, director of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute.
But, Bellisario said, when factoring in international immigration, there are still more people arriving than leaving. According to the state’s Department of Finance, he noted, some 44,729 people immigrated from other countries to the region between July 2017 and July 2018.
And while Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a business advocacy group, thinks the Bay Area is fortunate to attract talented immigrants, he’s also concerned by the data.
“All too often,” Guardino said, “we’re seeing folks like me, who were born and raised here, who simply want to be able to have a home at least somewhat close to where we work, leave.”
According to the latest Silicon Valley Index, a report from Joint Venture Silicon Valley that examined tech sector migration trends, some 30 percent of tech talent aged 25-44 who moved to Santa Clara County in 2017 came from outside California, with many coming from other countries like India and China.
For Rachel Massaro, vice president and director of research with Joint Venture’s Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies, the data raises concerns about the Bay Area’s education system and untapped potential.
“Not only are we not educating people here well enough to compete for those high-level jobs,” Massaro said, “but we’re also especially not educating women well enough in those particular fields of need in Silicon Valley.”
Alameda County saw the most outward migration, with almost 13,000 more people leaving than arriving, according to the new census data. Santa Clara County came in second, bleeding a total of almost 8,200 people. San Francisco saw the lowest net losses at just 1,385 people over those five years.
As in the past, Texas and Oregon remained popular locations for those leaving the Bay Area, according to the data released this week. A net total of more than 4,000 people moved to the Lone Star State, while more than 3,600 decamped to Oregon. Nevada, Washington and Arizona were popular choices, as were Idaho, Tennessee and North Carolina.
A poll conducted earlier this year for this news organization and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group found that 44 percent of those surveyed said they were likely to move away from the Bay Area within a few years, pointing to housing and living costs as key factors prompting them to leave.
“We are hollowing out our middle class,” Guardino said.
While local home prices began softening in March after seven years of rising prices, the Bay Area remains among the priciest housing markets in the country, with median home prices above $1 million in San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
Still, even as thousands of Bay Area residents pack up and head out, thousands of people move in. New Yorkers, especially, still find the Bay Area attractive, with a net total of more than 3,600 people moving from the Empire State to the Bay Area. People from Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and elsewhere were also still moving to the Bay Area in significant numbers.
When higher-skilled, higher-paid workers from such places move in and lower-wage workers move away, Bellisario said, “that adds to some of the income inequality we have across the region here.”
People also relocated within the Bay Area.
People from San Francisco County were most likely to move to Alameda County, home to Oakland.
Residents of Alameda County were most likely to go to Contra Costa County, with residents of that county unlikely to relocate within the Bay Area and more likely to head for cheaper parts of California or other states like Texas, Nevada and Washington.
Many people, Massaro and Bellisario said, are choosing San Joaquin County and Sacramento.
Residents of San Mateo County were more likely to move to the East Bay than to San Francisco or the South Bay, while Santa Clara County residents moved to all four of the other Bay Area counties.
According to the Silicon Valley Index, many local tech workers are heading to other burgeoning tech centers like Austin and Portland. Seven percent of the new tech talent that moved to Seattle in 2017 came from California, according to the report.
Guardino is not surprised.
While the Bay Area is still attractive to companies because of its talent pool, fed in part by world-class universities, the housing shortage and traffic are its “Achilles’ heel,” he said. Competitor regions, he added “are growing stronger because of these issues.”