WFH is expanding the borders of cities

New report from Upwork found work-from-home arrangements are prompting people to move out of city centers.

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WFH is expanding the borders of cities


Future. A new report from freelance marketplace Upwork found that work-from-home arrangements are prompting a significant amount of people to move out of city centers. Nearly half of movers are moving over two hours away, expanding the boundaries of the traditional metropolitan suburb. If companies don’t plan on bringing their workforce back to the office, employees could find themselves moving further and further from their office in order to get more bang for their buck… but still stay within relative traveling distance to it just in case they want to come in every once in a while.

“Donut effect”
Work-from-home arrangements are sending people out of the city center.

  • Upwork reports that 2.4% of American adults (about 4.9 million people) have moved because of remote work. 9.3% more said that they plan to.
  • Where are people moving to? Most moves were local, but 13% were to places two to four hours away from where they live, and 28% were to places more than four hours away.
  • The conclusion? 41% were no longer concerned about needing to make a commute to work.

The data reflects what Stanford researchers Arjun Ramani and Nicholas Bloom call a “donut effect.” Think of the idea as the modern “suburban sprawl.” That move outward reflects data from Zillow, which found that, while prices dropped in city centers like NYC or San Francisco, they went up in zip codes a little further out — even doubling in some places.

Super suburb
But that donut can be much bigger than many analysts expected. For example, the donut of NYC encapsulates parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey (all the very rich people already took the homes in Connecticut). Does that mean the Poconos are now a suburb of Manhattan?

The one place people really aren’t moving to: outside of their city’s donut, which (as the Upwork report noted) means people still don’t want to totally leave the boundaries of “superstar cities.” That is unless they’re one of the tech or knowledge workers that want to give the heartland a try.

David Vendrell

Born and raised a stone’s-throw away from the Everglades, David left the Florida swamp for the California desert. Over-caffeinated, he stares at his computer too long either writing the TFP newsletter or screenplays. He is repped by Anonymous Content.


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