More than 45,000 newcomers moved to Seattle each year between 2012 and 2016. And one stereotype certainly holds true: A lot of them are tech workers. But still, 90 percent of newcomers do not work in tech. Who are they?
In this decade, perhaps more than at any other time in the city’s history, newcomers have reshaped the culture of Seattle.
But who are these folks? You may have an image that comes to mind — maybe a 20-something tech worker, fresh out of college, living in a $1,500 per month shoebox apartment on Capitol Hill — but how close is the stereotype to reality?
I looked at census data to see what it can tell us about Seattle’s newest arrivals — folks currently living in the city but who report that, just one year ago, they resided in another state or another country.
The data show that, on average, more than 45,000 newcomers moved to Seattle each year between 2012 and 2016. And one stereotype certainly holds true: A lot of them are tech workers. In 2016 alone, an estimated 2,600 software developers made their home in Seattle — that’s about 50 a week.
That jibes with one of my recent columns, in which I reported that software developers had overtaken retail sales workers as the top occupation in this area — a telling shift if ever there was one.
Four out of five Seattle software developers are men, and with so many in this profession pouring into town, it’s not that surprising that there’s a bit of a gender imbalance among newcomers: Just 48 percent are women.
Tech workers, whether they be software developers, computer scientists, or some other related field, represent one out of 10 work newcomers to Seattle, among those who are employed. That’s a huge percentage, but even so, that still means 90 percent of newcomers are not tech workers.
But most are professionals, and the census data show that there are other high-wage jobs at the top of the list — physician and surgeons are No. 4, for example. And there aren’t any truly low-wage jobs among the top occupations.
So it’s not surprising that many of these folks are affluent. Almost half reported a household income of $100,000 or higher in 2016, among those age 25 and up who are employed full-time. Still, not everybody moving to Seattle is well-off — about 14 percent have a household income below $30,000.
Seattle is known as a magnet for millennials, and the data bears this out. The solid majority of newcomers — 55 percent — are between the ages of 22 and 34. A lot of young people also come to Seattle for school, and college-age kids (18 to 21) make up a substantial 12 percent of newcomers.
But there aren’t a whole lot of families with kids moving here: Just 8 percent of the newly arrived are under the age of 18. And while Forbes ranked Seattle as one of the top five best cities for an active retirement, it’s also a pretty expensive place if you’re on a fix income: Less than 3 percent of the city’s newcomers are seniors.
Newcomers, as a group, are a bit more racially diverse than the existing population of Seattle. About 61 percent are white, a few points below the citywide percentage. They are more likely to be Asian or Latino than the existing population, but less likely to be black.
No surprise here, but newcomers are more likely to come from California than another place. From 2012 to 2016, an average of 7,900 Californians moved to the city each year, more than double the number from Oregon. The No. 3 state is not nearby, though: New York sends us more than 2,000 people a year.
The No. 6 place is even farther away. Sandwiched in the rankings between Colorado and Florida, it sends us an average of 1,550 people a year: China.