Cities across the country, and across the Midwest, are scrambling to attract tech businesses. This isn’t surprising: These jobs are attractive. With enough of them, new residents will flock to a city. But when a city becomes a tech hub, can those new workers actually afford to live in them?
RENTCafe recently tackled this question, looking at how difficult it is for tech workers to afford apartment rents in cities that are rich in tech jobs. You might think this issue doesn’t mean much for the Midwest. After all, the big tech cities are on the coasts. But, as the RENTCafe report shows, there are Midwest cities that are emerging as their own tech hubs.
And the good news? Tech cities in the middle of the country remain far more affordable than their cousins on the coasts.
Consider Madison, Wisconsin. RENTCafe says that 6.2 percent of the jobs in the metropolitan Madison area were in IT in 2017, a strong enough percentage to rank it fourth in the country in this category. These jobs, adjusted to 2019 figures, paid an average of $80,800 a year, according to research from RENTCafe and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average apartment rent here in 2019 stood at $1,167, a figure that has risen 4.9 percent in the last three years.
Compare that to the San Jose metropolitan area in California. In 2017, 12.1 percent of the jobs in this area were in IT, the highest percentage in the country. Adjusted for 2019, these jobs paid an average of $126,200 a year. That’s high, but so are rents. RENTCafe reported that the average rent in this area stood at a whopping $2,871 in 2019, a figure that rose 6.9 percent during the last three years.
The Columbus, Ohio, area also ranked high on RENTCafe’s tech hub list. In 2017, 4.2 percent of the jobs here were in IT, according to RENTCafe and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These jobs in 2019 pay an average of $93,600 a year. And in good news for workers, the average apartment rent here stood at $951 in 2019, though this figure is on the rise, jumping 9.9 percent during the last three years.
In the Kansas City, Missouri, area, 4.2 percent of jobs in 2017 were in IT, too. These jobs pay an average of $82,000 a year. Apartment rents are similar to those in Columbus, averaging $955, and have risen 7.1 percent during the last three years. And 4.2 percent of jobs in 2017 were in IT in Omaha, Nebraska, too, paying an average of $81,300 a year. That’s a good figure, considering that the average apartment rent in 2019 here was $918.
Then there is the Minneapolis metro area, where 4.1 percent of all jobs in 2017 were in IT. These jobs paid an average of $91,100, while the average apartment rent here was $1,418. That figure had increased by a significant 13.4 percent in the last three years.
Working in tech, then, might pay off more for those workers who can find a job in the Midwest. Apartment rents are lower here, even in the region’s biggest cities.