Seattle Residents are Coming – and Going


It’s not news that the Seattle-area is growing. Though what is apparently newsy is Seattle’s growth is unique among large metro areas across the country. From 2016 to 2017, we had a net gain of 21,000 residents—counting moves to and from Seattle.

Quinn Thomas conducted research that took a deep dive into new and long-term residents of Seattle to learn more about their values and what drives them. Our data shows the bulk of new Seattle-area residents (17%) are actually coming from within Washington State. This migration total is followed closely by California (13%), Oregon (7%), and those coming from out of the country (8%).

These new residents are overwhelmingly young, affluent, and highly educated. They tell us they are drawn to Seattle for the outdoors, the proximity to nature, the culture, and politics. When asked, they put jobs and the economy near the bottom of things they love about the region. But clearly, many new jobs are high-paying and increasing the spending power of new residents.

The story of Seattle’s growth isn’t just about who’s coming here – it’s also about who’s leaving. Research published by Redfin and recent census information seem to show that those tired of rising costs and accompanying change to the city are moving out of the Seattle-area. The top destinations are Snohomish County, Pierce County and … Los Angeles? I guess it’s time we shipped California some of us for once.

Our research sheds some light on what may be driving these residents to leave. By equal margins, new and long-term residents say housing is a reason to leave the area (64% of respondents). For long-term residents, traffic and transportation loom large. 41% say the transportation system is a reason to leave compared to new Seattle residents who by a margin of 61% say it’s a reason to stay. This could be attributed to a worsening of traffic experienced by long-term residents over time that new residents have no past comparison for.

But maybe all this is moot anyway. 48% of new residents say they are likely to move out of the area in the five years – but that seems very unlikely to me.

I’d be interested to hear your experience in Seattle. Are you tempted to leave? Or maybe you just got here. What are some of things that pull you to Seattle and those that would potentially drive you out? And, maybe most important, which side is winning?

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