To outsiders the technology industry is often perceived as a massive wealth-generating engine, where 20-somethings lounge around, munch avocado toast and cash in stock options. But insiders know that more people today are discontent living and working in the traditional tech hubs — New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area and Boston — than ever before.
Unfortunately many workers would love to leave the cities behind but need to keep their job. So they’re effectively anchored to these areas and strapped to their desks.
Although internet-powered communications has enabled workers to perform their duties from any location, the fact is, too many companies still require staff to be based on one of the country’s two coasts.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, it shouldn’t be this way.
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Not only has this outmoded way of thinking helped to create an economic imbalance, where vast amounts of wealth are concentrated in a tiny handful of cities, it is also responsible for a fundamental imbalance between where people want to live and where the jobs are located.
A recent Gallup poll found that while 80% of Americans live in urban areas, only 12% said they want to live there. Asked where they would live if they had their choice, the top response was a rural area.
Freelancing in America 2019, a survey commissioned by Upwork and the Freelancers Union, revealed that 7 out of 10 freelancers polled said they would consider moving someplace other than a large city.
And incentives could drive that number even higher, with just under half saying they would be willing to move to a city that offered tax breaks to freelancers.
Industry leaders have indicated they want to increase ties to America’s Heartland, yet there are few signs this is happening in any significant way.
In December The Brookings Institute reported that their study of job creation in key digital segments found “that while employment in tech is growing all over America,” the sector has “continued to concentrate in a shortlist of metros,” such as San Francisco, Seattle and Los Angeles.