More than half of Silicon Valley and Bay Area residents are thinking about leaving the region over concerns about housing and the high cost of living, according to a new poll released Tuesday.
The results of the survey by Joint Venture Silicon Valley show increasing pessimism among the region’s residents, which was compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. Sixty percent of survey respondents say their lives have become more stressful since the pandemic, and 56% are thinking of leaving the Bay Area in the next few years.
In an introduction to the poll, Joint Venture Chief Executive Russell Hancock said that’s “a higher percentage than any previous polling we’ve seen.”
Among tech workers who responded, 53% said they are considering leaving the region — home to some of the biggest tech companies in the world, including Apple Inc.
Alphabet Inc.’s Google
Most respondents agreed on some of their biggest concerns about the region, bringing up questions about what policy makers ought to be doing to address them. More than 90% agreed that the cost of housing is an extremely serious or very serious problem, and 90% consider the cost of living to be an extremely serious or very serious problem. Nearly 90% of respondents felt the same about the issue of homelessness in the area.
The sentiment among respondents was mixed depending on their circumstances, including their income levels, age and whether they own their homes. A majority of lower-income earners were more likely to say their situation was worse than before the pandemic, as they lost jobs or took pay cuts. Higher-income earners were less likely to say their situation was worse than before the pandemic, with many saying their work-life balance has improved.
In line with that, 33% of those with annual incomes of $50,000 or below said they “strongly agreed” that they were considering moving out of the Bay Area, compared with 22% of those with annual household incomes of $250,000 or more who felt the same. And 63% of renters said they were likely to leave, compared with 48% of homeowners who said they were likely to do so.
As for differences by age, 64% of those ages 18 to 34 somewhat or strongly agreed that they were likely to move out of the Bay Area in the next few years, while 54% of those ages 35 to 49 felt the same. For respondents ages 50 to 64, that number was 60%, and for those 65 or older it was 41%.
However, journalists who interviewed the respondents said Tuesday during a public presentation of the poll that it is unclear whether some of them will go through with their plans to leave the region.
“Family came up as a major reason that people had ties to the Bay Area,” said Louis Hansen, a reporter for Bay Area News Group, which partnered with Joint Venture on the poll. “They would go on and on about their frustrations, then say they love California.”
Another Bay Area News Group reporter, Marisa Kendall, wrote about how the pandemic highlighted the area’s wide income disparities. She said that for some low-income residents, moving may be out of reach. One single mom she spoke with said she didn’t even know how to begin the process.
“Leaving is hard,” Kendall said. “It’s expensive. You have to find schools for your kids. We might see some people not pulling the trigger.”
Previous polling has shown sentiment doesn’t necessarily translate to action. Last year, a similar Bay Area News Group poll conducted with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group found that 47% of respondents were thinking of leaving. That was an increase from 44% in 2019. But data from Joint Venture’s most recent Silicon Valley Index showed that the region’s population did not actually decline in 2020.
This year’s survey polled 1,610 registered voters in five Bay Area counties — San Francisco, Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo and Santa Clara — which include the counties that comprise Silicon Valley. The poll was conducted online from Sept. 21 to 26 in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Mandarin.