Migration and Silicon Valley: Who is coming? Who is going?

We see the stories in the press every day: More people are moving away from Silicon Valley. And it’s true. But it’s only half the story.

Many more people left Silicon Valley for other parts of the country than arrived from other states in 2017: 36,180, to be exact, according to the Census Bureau. That’s a threefold increase in just two years, presumably in response to long commutes and high housing prices. It’s not too surprising that rising costs affect the choices people make.

However, traffic and housing haven’t had the same effect on the movement of people from abroad. Immigrants with technology skills continue to come to this region in large numbers – a pattern that has remained largely unchanged over the last four years. With a net of more than 35,000 new international arrivals in 2017, Silicon Valley’s total migration was only slightly negative – a net loss of 1,980 people, which is less than 1/10th of one percent of the region’s population.

Immigration has been Silicon Valley’s lifeblood for years, but now it’s truer than ever. In 2017, sixty percent of the Valley’s STEM workforce was born outside the United States, up three percentage points from 2016 despite the shifting discourse around immigration at the federal level. And we’re much more reliant on immigrants than our competitor tech hubs. The region closest to us on this front is New York City, with just 46 percent of their STEM talent from abroad.

Without question, the outflow of talent to other parts of the US demands a muscular policy response, which is why the Leadership Group is leading the charge on aggressive housing, education and transportation policies. But skilled arrivals from outside the United States are powering the Valley’s economy more than ever before. As proposals to constrain immigration continue to emerge in Washington, we need to continue to push back by clearly articulating just how important immigrants are to our nation’s economy.

– Brian Brennan, Senior Vice President, Investor Relations and State and Federal Coalitions, Silicon Valley Leadership Group | May 21, 2019