Every day, thousands of people commute over Highway 17 to jobs in Silicon Valley and San Francisco. This represents a considerable brain-drain for Santa Cruz, leaving many to wonder what it will take keep highly skilled tech workers homeside and contributing to the local economy. Civinomics, in partnership with South Swell Ventures, conducted a survey of tech commuters to answer this question.
The survey took place between February 21st and March 14th, 2014. Of those interviewed, the average compensation interviewees would accept in order to work locally was ninety one percent of what they are currently making. The average salary of the respondents was $153,000, and sixty one percent of those interviewed stated that they worked in a technical position, with 38 percent identifying themselves as software engineers.
Eighty eight percent of those surveyed spend at least an hour and a half total travel time to get to their jobs over the hill. When asked why they choose to continue living in Santa Cruz, sixty seven percent answered that lifestyle was the most important reason. When asked specifically “Why do you choose to work over the hill”, the most common responses were “salary and stock compensation” (32%) and “specific job availability” (32%).
The survey was conducted in two parts, with half of respondents being randomly selected while boarding company buses at multiple stops, and the other half being referred through a verified link via email. The latter group of respondents are primarily single car commuters who had heard about the survey through local events and co- workers.
Of those interviewed at company bus stops, only 46 percent answered that they would be willing to work for less at a Santa Cruz company, compared to 78 percent of those commuting by car. Bus commuters skewed younger than car commuters, with the average age of bus commuters being 40 and the average age of car commuters being 45. A majority of both groups said they have considered exploring job opportunities in Santa Cruz.
The survey found that tech commuters were primarily in age groups between 25 – 55 (80%), with sixty seven percent owning a home and forty six percent with children age 17 or younger at home.