• 05.16.16

Big, Expensive Cities Are Forcing Low-Income Families And Millennials Away

People making less than $30,000 a year are moving away as rents get unaffordable–and guess who is replacing them? Rich people who can afford it.

Big, Expensive Cities Are Forcing Low-Income Families And Millennials Away
Photo: Stéphane Ouzou/Getty Images

With cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York seeing yearly rent increases well above inflation, it’s not easy for people on low or moderate incomes to keep up. These places, it seems, are increasingly for the affluent and well-heeled, not for ordinary folk.


Take a look at this analysis from the real estate data company Trulia. Using U.S. Census data from 2010 to 2014, it shows that people making $30,000 or less are leaving the most expensive cities in large numbers, while those on $150,000 or more are moving in.

Well, sort of. Actually, the analysis looks at what we would expect the “out-migration rate” to be for a particular group with the actual rate. So, for example, if 30% of a city’s population speaks French, we would normally expect 30% of the people who move out in a year to be French-speaking.

For the 10 most expensive metros–Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, Orange County, San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Washington, D.C., and Silver Spring–people making $30,000 or less moved away at 51% above the expected rate on average. And in some places, it was higher than that. For the same income group, the rate was 92% in Oakland, 59% in San Francisco and a whopping 104% in Silver Spring, Maryland (a suburb of Washington, D.C.).

By contrast, in San Jose and Washington, D.C., people making more than $150,000 stayed put at about a 50% higher rate than you’d expect

The same analysis also shows higher than expected rates of moving away for millennials and certain types of workers, including those in the retail and agriculture sectors. “Those who earn very little income, those who work in unstable, less urban-based, and low-paying industries, and younger generation households that have not yet established a stable career have moved away from these pricey cities at much greater rates than the rest of the population,” the report says.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.