From social media magic tricks to no-code apps and Discord servers, Gen Z has grown up tech-savvy. But they aren’t children anymore. The oldest of this generational cohort, born in 1997, are turning 25 this year. They’ve graduated college and are settling into careers, where 80% want to work with groundbreaking technology.
But they face an uncertain economic future. Gen Z’ers who were old enough to start working in the past few years were vulnerable to job loss due to COVID-19. Those who worked felt burnout more acutely than older generations, perhaps because their position on the bottom of the career ladder resigned them to less stability and little control, a toxic combination amid a global crisis.
As they emerge from the pandemic, and as more and more Gen Z students graduate into the work world, they’ll all have to find places to flourish. So where can a young person, tech-literate but starting out broke, make their way in the U.S. today?
*All figures/numbers in this article are drawn from US Census Bureau data, and analyzed by Jotform.
- Miami, Florida is the the place to be for Gen Z techies in 2022 with a 22.7% Gen Z population, an average tech salary of $105,790 per year, and top marks for internet connectivity.
- Though it’s not the most popular for the new wave of techies, San Jose and San Francisco, CA still reflect their time in the tech game by having the highest average tech salaries ($167,420 and $158,320 respectively).
- Technology aside, Tallahassee, Florida has the highest % population of Gen Zers in the top 150 cities in the U.S. This is no surprise being the home to both Florida State University and Florida A&M.
- Cincinnati, Ohio is affordable, with an average monthly rent of $760 and the real value of their $100 a powerful $110.38.
We wanted to see which cities were the best landing pads for today’s young techies—places awash with Gen Z energy, connectivity, technology, and affordability. Here’s what we looked at to determine the top cities:
- Gen Z Population: Because the U.S. census breaks demographic groups into decades, we looked at the percentage of the population in their teens and twenties.
- Internet Connectivity: 5G coverage and the density of free WiFi hotspots
- Tech-friendliness: The percentage of the population with a STEM degree, the city’s average tech salary, and the local density of Bitcoin ATMs
- Affordability: The median monthly cost of rent and the true value of $100
To learn more about the sources and methodology used in this report, jump to the Methodology section.
Blame it on COVID-19: Silicon Valley is no longer the epicenter of the tech world.
Once, the area fed on Stanford graduates and intellectual property developments in the semiconductor industry. Companies looking to grow stayed close to this highly educated labor market, as well as the mentorship and venture capital it spawned.
But the labor market is now global.
Remote workers can learn from one another, source ideas, and build tech products with distributed teams from just about anywhere, and office attendance has plummeted. Smaller hubs have sprung up, allowing in-person camaraderie and networking in tech bubbles outside the Bay Area. Further, these new destinations don’t carry the burden of the nation’s highest housing costs.
The pandemic was especially cruel to northern California as workers and companies alike relocated, leaving the city to deal with the country’s largest decline in median income and the highest proportion of its population lost over the course of the pandemic. Tech employees from the likes of Twitter, AirBnB, Atlassian, and Salesforce went 100% remote, and companies like Tesla and Oracle left California altogether.
That left employees free to make their homes anywhere they wanted, and accelerated the spread of tech work across the country. We uncovered some of the top cities posed to be the next big hubs for the new generation of techies.
Welcome to Silicon Beach: Florida Cities are the Best Gen Z Tech Hubs
#1 Miami, FL
% Population Gen Z: 22.7%
Average Tech Salary: $105,790
Median Monthly Rent: $1,523
Actual Value of $100: $84.18
While Miami may still feel more Golden Girls than Silicon Beach, Florida’s biggest city is attracting more tech giants than ever. It gained a reputation for poaching tech workers in 2021 when the mayor, Francis Suarez, put up a billboard with his Twitter account, asking Bay Area techies “DM me.” It seems like many of them did.
While its Gen Z population is still a weak spot, Miami tops our internet connectivity category and comes in 4th for tech. It’s a crypto industry hotspot where newcomers can mingle with industry execs. That combination of casual beach culture and accessible networking has helped outlets like Crunchbase dub it a “buzzy new hub.”
#2 Orlando, FL
% Population Gen Z: 28.3%
Average Tech Salary: $104,150
Median Monthly Rent: $1,253
Actual Value of $100: $101.01
Miami’s in hot competition with its neighbor to the north, Orlando. True to this theme park center’s roots in entertainment, Orlando’s recently been christened the “center of the Metaverse,” a space where startups focused on artificial intelligence, augmented reality/virtual reality, and gaming come together. Last year, the city added over 2,000 tech jobs, making it a great candidate for new grads to jump into the tech industry.
#3 Cincinnati, OH
% Population Gen Z: 32.8%
Average Tech Salary: $100,700
Median Monthly Rent: $760
Actual Value of $100: $110.38
If affordability tops your list, Cincinnati is your winner among the top ten. But its affordability isn’t a sign the city is down and out. In 2021, it raised four times the amount of venture capital as the previous year, including colossal deals in vertical farming and pharmaceuticals. To join the party, venture to the Innovation District, a tech community hub built around the University of Cincinnati’s startup incubator, the 1819 Innovation Hub. After all, merging university resources with local businesses worked for Silicon Valley.
#4 Richmond, Virginia
% Population Gen Z: 31.1%
Average Tech Salary: $113,580
Median Monthly Rent: $1,070
Actual Value of $100: $104.38
An affordable beacon just south of bustling Washington, D.C., Richmond comes in second to Miami for internet services. It’s got lightning-fast 5G and plenty of hotspots for good coverage whether you’re partnering with Virginia Commonwealth University or checking out the city’s arts and microbrewery scenes. Its tech ranking is also in the top 20, but Richmond really shines as an all-around contender for Gen Z techies looking for good scores in all categories: Richmond is above average for its population of Gen Z residents, overall affordability, and median tech salaries.
#5 Atlanta, GA
% Population Gen Z: 32.6%
Average Tech Salary: $118,100
Median Monthly Rent: $1,227
Actual Value of $100: $102.15
Atlanta’s got a vibrant, young population where almost a third of the population is in its 20s. Atlanta is a diverse hub in the Southeast, supported by multiple universities, Fortune 500 companies, transportation infrastructure, and even a growing television industry. While Atlanta hasn’t gotten its share of venture capital in the past, its enjoyed a pandemic influx that suggests that this southern belle could be a peachy place for Gen Z graduates to get their start.
#6 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
% Population Gen Z: 34.5%
Average Tech Salary: $101,200
Median Monthly Rent: $984
Actual Value of $100: $108.23
With its own nerd podcast and several high-profile startup exits like Duolingo, this top “Geek City” is a sleeping giant in tech. It’s also a hotbed for Gen Z college graduates emerging from local universities like Carnegie Mellon and sticking around in a town that performs well on many job lists. Find AI leaders on “Robotics Row” or check out the self-driving car industry, then put down roots in a city that also shines in affordability. An apartment here will set you back just $984 per month, and you’ll get $108.23 in value for your $100.
#7 Rochester, New York
% Population Gen Z: 33.1%
Average Tech Salary: $102,950
Median Monthly Rent: $875
Actual Value of $100: $102.99
Generations ago, companies like Kodak dominated Rochester. Today, its highly-educated population and affordability position it for a post-manufacturing comeback that’s picture-perfect. There are 19 colleges in the area, likely contributing to its high number of Gen Z residents. The kicker? Rochester is also above average in affordability.
#8 Norfolk, Virginia
% Population Gen Z: 36.4%
Average Tech Salary: $111,140
Median Monthly Rent: $1,077
Actual Value of $100: $103.73
Battleships aren’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think, “Gen Z techies,” but Norfolk’s historic waterfront is teeming with STEM grads, many of them stationed at Naval Station Norfolk. And the city ranks 5th for Gen Z residents in our analysis, losing out only to well-known university towns. With Neon District murals and loads of unspoiled beaches to explore, Norfolk is an easy choice for Gen Z techies wanting to make their mark and enjoy the good life, too.
#9 Tampa, FL
% Population Gen Z: 28.8%
Average Tech Salary: $104,790
Median Monthly Rent: $1,178
Actual Value of $100: $101.21
Like many growing cities in Florida, Tampa’s attracting its share of tech companies and Gen Z workers looking for the perfect balance of lifestyle and opportunity. And as the city grows, infrastructure grows with it: Tampa boasts 5G coverage and plenty of hotspots so newcomers can stream local podcasts dedicated to agile development, space science, or career advancement for developers. It’s got a strong STEM community, a high share of Bitcoin ATMs, below-average prices, and incredible sunsets. What more could a Gen Z techie want?
#10 Newark, New Jersey
% Population Gen Z: 29.1%
Average Tech Salary: $133,620
Median Monthly Rent: $1,116
Actual Value of $100: $79.55
Within pinging distance from startup support and Fortune 500 expertise in New York, Newark boasts high average tech salaries. That’s offset by Newark’s high cost of living: with above-average rents and your $100 only netting you $79.55 worth of value, life in New Jersey’s biggest city can be pricey. The benefit? You’ll be near new accelerator programs, New Jersey’s A+ transportation and WiFi infrastructure, and companies that are netting the nation’s 9th-highest VC investment. That amounts to plenty of places for Gen Z techies to uncover and grow with the next big breakthrough company.
Quality of Life in New, Adopted Cities
For decades, the price of success has been high in Silicon Valley. New grads looking to start careers in tech headed to California, hoping to land high salaries that barely covered their living costs. They expected to work long hours for the reward of working with cutting-edge technology. They donned propeller beanie hats to work for big-name companies and resigned themselves to “co-living” with multiple roommates to get in the door.
Even before the pandemic, the cracks were showing—companies were increasingly unable to attract talent.
The no-code generation no longer needs to make that choice.
The remote work revolution has shifted the country’s talent pool from big, expensive tech hubs to smaller, more affordable cities where quality of life, and work/life balance, reign. And no one benefits as much as Gen Z. New tech employees can increasingly choose cities with everything they need to thrive, from solid internet infrastructure to like-minded Gen-Z residents and bargain price tags.
Sources and Methodology
*Jotform compiled this information from the 2020 U.S. Census American Community Survey, Verizon 5G Coverage Map, Wifimap.io, OEWS, Coinatmradar.com, and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Regional Price Parities.
We limited our analysis to the top 150 most populous cities in the U.S. according to the 2020 American Community Survey 5-year estimates.
Next, we analyzed four categories of data: Gen Z-Friendliness, Internet Connectivity, Tech-Friendliness, and Affordability. For each category, cities were assigned a relative score of 0-10. Final rankings were determined by averaging the scores from all four categories.
Gen Z Friendliness
- % of total population ages 10-29 – 2020 U.S. Census American Community Survey
- % of Population with STEM degree – 2020 U.S. Census American Community Survey
- Average Software Developer Salary – OEWS (Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics) May 2021 by Metro, Annual Mean filtered by Software Developers
- Density of Bitcoin ATMs – Coinatmradar.com
- Median Monthly Rent – 2020 U.S. Census American Community Survey
- Actual Value of $100 – Regional Price Parities by metro area
All data can be found here: Jotform Analysis – Gen Z Tech Cities Ranking.
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