Recruiters: Midwest Tech Pros Might be Happiest

Recruiters know that tech pros don’t just care about salary (although that’s a huge factor in job negotiations); they also want work-life balance, a sustainable cost of living, and a good community. But which cities provide all those things?

Spoiler alert: Silicon Valley and New York City, commonly cited as the “centers” of the U.S. tech scene, aren’t at the top of this particular list.

To answer the question, CodeMentor’s ‘Happiest U.S. Cities for Developers’ study leveraged data from a few different sources, including the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Numbeo’s cost of living calculator (for things like food cost and price of internet access), Meetup data to gauge networking opportunities, and Nerdwallet findings. It also chose one city from every state (and Washington D.C.) rather than simply tracking the top 50 cities overall.

We should also note CodeMentor’s study ranks cities by their “potential to influence developer happiness.” There was no feedback from tech pros that directly correlates to actual happiness.

All told, Boulder ranks highest on CodeMentor’s list. Good salary, great networking opportunities, and low-cost internet and beer will make many tech pros happy in that town. Rent is a touch high, but overall cost of living is “relatively low compared to other cities in the West,” says CodeMentor (coffee’s also a touch expensive, so learn to brew your own cold press).

Durham, North Carolina is second on the list. CodeMentor likens Durham to Boulder, with a few southern tweaks such as a slower pace and sweet tea. Here’s the entire top ten list:

Looking closely, we see a familiar trend emerge: Silicon Valley is not atop the list; it slips in at 12th. Seattle, Washington is also outside the top ten, settling in at 14th. Clearly, the rise of remote employment and equal pay for those outside the office, combined with rising tech scenes in other regions, are contributing factors here. The Midwest wins big, with cities like Minneapolis, Columbus, Ann Arbor, and Chicago ranking pretty high.

For recruiters in those cities, the key to attracting top tech talent is to emphasize things like work-life balance and cost of living; for tech pros who don’t want to face the high rents and long hours common in places like Silicon Valley, that kind of approach could prove unbeatable.