Workers Are Fleeing Big Cities for Small Ones—and Taking Their Jobs With Them


Article in the WSJ today about how workers who travel a lot in their jobs or work remote are just leaving the big expensive cities and moving to smaller more humane ones. 

"She and her husband, who have two children, bought a house in the Boise area after renting in L.A. It is twice as big as their old place, but the monthly payments are half as much as their L.A. rent."

Kind of an antidote to the 'everyone is moving to the big cities' Kool-Aid often served here. 

Sep 7, 19 1:08 pm

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This is good, but could backfire.  Those small cities are nice because they aren’t congested.  

Sep 7, 19 1:46 pm

I've never understood the willingness of people to work the insane hours and endure the daily hassle to live in what would fit a definition of slum housing just to be in a mega city like New York.  

Sep 7, 19 2:25 pm

I've never understood the willingness of people to endure soul-sucking car commutes between their boring, high tax, isolated suburbs and their depressing, isolated suburban office parks.


Seems like generalizations really won this discussion.

On the fence

I drive ten minutes from my suburban home to my suburban job. You can keep the large cities and most everything that goes with them.


I'm ready to go live in a tent in the mountains. Count me in.

Sep 7, 19 2:38 pm
Chad Miller

I pretty much do that now. The wifi sucks


Boise has done a lot to attract the kinds of people who would be willing to leave a city like LA - they are rapidly expanding their bike infrastructure, improving public transit, and have a good mix of funky local attractions/restaurants, a decent art and music scene, and you're close to some great outdoor resources (hiking, skiing, mountain biking trails).

Moving to a place where I don't need a car for daily life is very appealing, and until recently you could only find that in big cities.  add in access to great running and hiking trails and i'd seriously think about relocating.

I seriously doubt most workers are "fleeing" big cities en masse - but if you are a certain kind of mobile worker with a global network then you can pretty much go wherever you want. 

Sep 7, 19 3:52 pm

"Big city" is obviously a relative term here. Where I grew up people moving to Boise were moving to the big city not away from one. Real estate is really cheap there at the moment compared to other cities. I saw a classmate of mine selling her house and I could have bought it with about a third of what I'm paying for mine in Seattle.

Sep 8, 19 5:23 pm

Would be awesome if this was a real trend. It would make my housing so much cheaper.

What's the data actually say? Are we looking at a universal and noticeable decline in rich folk inner city population or is this just a venn diagram category that happens to sound cool in an article written to entice the rich inner city population to click on a button with an ad tied to it ?

Sep 9, 19 5:24 am
won and done williams

Ironically, people are leaving the cities because demand is so high. Hmmm... are they coming or going?

Sep 9, 19 10:24 am

I'd say we're seeing a confluence of two factors. 1) The next 'prime' generations of Y and Z have pushed off starting families for long enough due to economic pressures. However, biological clocks being what they are, critical decisions need to be made in a rather condensed fashion. Lifestyles adjust, and young families begin to plot out a future that doesn't involve logistical insanity (see NYC childcare/subway/double income). These families are looking to improve their lot and this often means getting the hell out of Dodge, so to speak. The second point is more of a supply question (as opposed to the demand-oriented first). Big, popular cities are starting to sink under their own weight. We see this in increasingly worse service for legacy public transportation, incumbent populations unwilling to change and adapt, a hollowing out of the actual productive sections of the bureaucracy, and the tremendous inequalities derived from poor zoning. I'm sure there are other factors as well, but as a result, the supply of affordable, decent, and therefore desirable housing and communities for young families and for the growing bulk of the 30-40ish year old population, is dwindling. When relatively small cities can be flexible and anticipate the wants and needs of new populations, they can increase said supply of housing/community.

Now clearly, there exist great communities for young people in the larger cities...but there aren't enough and the trend seems to indicate that not many will be growing in the future. 

Sep 9, 19 10:26 am

I live in one of those elite coastal cities and the number of family households with children has increased dramatically over the past decade - the big change is these families are having less kids. So instead of 10 families with 4-5 kids there are now 40 families with 1 kid. The population decline is largely in the more suburban areas of the city and metro where there is a rapidly aging population living in single family houses. We’ve already had a couple suburban school districts combine with neighboring municipalities because they don’t have enough kids.

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Sep 9, 19 11:32 am

So growth is declining in large metro areas but they are still growing faster than smaller areas (at least they were two years ago). Boise's Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) has an estimated population of around 730,000 ... that would be considered a large metropolitan area in the graph above, no? Still a SIGNIFICANTLY smaller city than LA with their MSA population estimated at around 13 million. A significant change for the family in the OP, but overall that type of move wouldn't impact the numbers in the graph above.

thanks Miles. That is cool. 500,000 is not so large in my mind. It is interesting that even a city as small as that is facing declining growth in north america. How crowded can a city that small be? It would be useful to correlate it to population growth and other movement to get a sense of what causes the change.


A lot of it has to do with the City economics. Like Detroit's reliance on automotive... then they leave, along with the jobs. With smaller cities, it's like that too. They might be reliant on a couple industries, and when those companies do bad, so goes the city they support. The big Cities tend to have a lot of economic diversity, so they survive a industry specific downturn like a oil bust.

Economics is everything. Which is precisely what needs to change. It's the wrong value system. Economics needs to serve people, not the other way round.


I would totally move to a smaller city (NOT a suburb of a large city, cuz those are boring, segregated hellholes). The bigger issue is that a lot of those smaller cities tend to be extremely monocultural and lack racial diversity. No, I'm not talking about the token Chinese/Indian/Mexican restaurant, but communities where there is actual racial diversity.

Sep 9, 19 12:52 pm

Sep 10, 19 6:09 pm

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