These rising U.S. cities could become the top places to live and work from home

Months after the coronavirus pandemic sent millions of U.S. office workers home, many have taken promises of extended or permanent work-from-home to change their office environment entirely and move to a new location.

But rather than this migration spelling out the "death" of the city, as some are predicting, other experts say mid-size and rising cities could get a boost from residents seeking a lower cost of living, more space to work from home and access to a typical city's cultural offerings once widespread social-distancing restrictions lift.

William Frey, a demographer with Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, says that while population growth in New York, San Francisco and Chicago has slowed in the past five years, cities in Western and Southeastern regions have seen steady growth.

It's possible that moving patterns as a result of the pandemic could accelerate this trend.

People between the ages of 20 to 35, the demographic most likely to move around, may avoid cities with high costs of living that outpace earning power, Frey tells CNBC Make It. "Middle class workers in a variety of industries and occupations are moving to places where it doesn't cost as much to live, and they can still do well because the economy has picked up there."

But with the health threat of the pandemic still causing devastating job losses for many industries, especially those that require in-person work, cities with high populations of residents who support the economy while working from home may fare well in the months and year ahead.

Cities including Raleigh, North Carolina; Denver, Colorado; and Austin, Texas; are among the top cities that already have higher shares of people who regularly work from home, according to a Bloomberg analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's 2018 American Community Survey. Nationally, 5.3% of employees reportedly work from home, though shares are higher in the following 10 cities.

"I do think the expected rejection of cities has never quite panned out over the past 4,000 years," says Mark Muro, a senior fellow with Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. "The fundamental social function of cities remains extremely strong. If anything, it got stronger in the last decade with the supercharging of digital economies relying on intense exchanges among people in these tech industries. All that remains in place."

Here are the top 10 rising cities with higher-than-average shares of residents who work from home, along with cost of living and housing information based on most recent Census data.

1. Raleigh, North Carolina

Share of people who work-from-home: 9.1%

Median household income: $63,891 per year

Median rent: $1,074 per month

Median home value: $263,700

Estimated population: 474,069 people

2. Denver, Colorado

Share of people who work-from-home: 8.7%

Median household income: $63,793 per year

Median rent: $1,217 per month

Median home value: $357,300

Estimated population: 727,211 people

3. Austin, Texas

Share of people who work-from-home: 8.7%

Median household income: $67,462 per year

Median rent: $1,225 per month

Median home value: $312,300

Estimated population: 978,908 people

4. Portland, Oregon

Share of people who work-from-home: 8.1%

Median household income: $65,740 per year

Median rent: $1,187 per month

Median home value: $383,600

Estimated population: 654,741 people

5. Sacramento, California

Share of people who work-from-home: 7.9%

Median household income: $58,456 per year

Median rent: $1,179 per month

Median home value: $313,400

Estimated population: 513,624 people

6. Atlanta, Georgia

Share of people who work-from-home: 7.6%

Median household income: $55,279 per year

Median rent: $1,099 per month

Median home value: $261,400

Estimated population: 506,811 people

7. Phoenix, Arizona

Share of people who work-from-home: 7.4%

Median household income: $54,765 per year

Median rent: $999 per month

Median home value: $217,400

Estimated population: 1,680,992 people

8. Tampa, Florida

Share of people who work-from-home: 7.3%

Median household income: $50,909 per year

Median rent: $1,082 per month

Median home value: $217,400

Estimated population: 399,700 people

9. Charlotte, North Carolina

Share of people who work-from-home: 7.3%

Median household income: $60,886 per year

Median rent: $1,086 per month

Median home value: $200,500

Estimated population: 885,708 people

10. San Francisco, California

Share of people who work-from-home: 7.0%

Median household income: $104,552 per year

Median rent: $1,805 per month

Median home value: $1,009,500

Estimated population: 881,549 people

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