During the pandemic, many people who moved back with family moved to the Midwest, and if you did that’s not bad news for your career.
Out of the best 15 U.S. cities for launching your career, LinkedIn lists the top 9 as being in the Midwest. Forbes has listed Midwest city Columbus among its top cities for remote workers, based on its low cost of living being 14% below the national average, 370 parks and many museums, walkable neighborhoods, and the fact that Livability ranks Columbus the #1 most “remote-ready” city in the U.S.
Nerdwallet also names a few Midwest gems on their list of best cities for remote working — Cincinnati (#2), Pittsburgh (#3), Minneapolis (#5), St. Louis (#6), Cleveland (#7) all ranked in the top 10 based for their affordability, fast Wi-Fi speeds, access to coworking spaces and public libraries.
Top reasons why remote workers choose to live in the Midwest
1. Cost of Living
It’s no secret that the Midwest cost of living can be radically lower — even a seemingly lower salary brings in extra savings with how affordable the region is. Remote workers often have it even better: a coastal city salary at Midwest cost of living can be life-changing money.
The average salary for a software engineer in San Francisco is about $115,822. That sounds like a lot, right? Truth is, out on the coast, that kind of salary isn’t going to get you that far. In Chicago, the average software engineer is making $82,097, which is still a really competitive salary that allows for a great quality of life. So great actually, that you’d need to make $134,763 to have the same standard of living. Too bad you’d be making about $20k less than that. The net-net: your salary takes you a lot further in the Midwest than it would on the coast.
In New York, the median rent for an apartment in the city is $5,102 a month, while the median cost for a home is $2.2 million. In Indianapolis, the median apartment rent is only $1,072 and the median home price is $264,195. In Cincinnati, home prices are about the same, but the rent is even cheaper with a median cost of $968 a month. A lot more breathing room!
With lower cost of living and more work-life balance comes lower stress. Earlier this year, WalletHub ranked Wisconsin as the 42nd most stressed state, Iowa 47th, and Minnesota 50th. Laid back lifestyles, affordability, and a sense of community could be factors in the relatively low level of stress for Midwesterners. With that lower level of stress comes time to do fun things.
2. Lots to do
The Midwest was long said to be nothing but corn. It’s true there are some cornfields in the Midwest, maybe soybean these days, but that old reputation is not even close to the truth about Midwest cities. Many cities in the Midwest have their own unique culture, sustainability initiatives, walkable neighborhoods, lively restaurant scenes, world-class music and art museums, and more.
Chicago is one of the biggest cities in the U.S. yet still holds that Midwestern sense of close-knit community. They have all the amenities of a giant city—world class art museums, theaters, restaurants, and more. And did you know that Detroit’s theater district is the second largest in the world, only second to New York?
It was these kinds of cultural amenities — and family — that brought Lindsey Kilbride, co-founder of new media startup Shopflix, back to Ann Arbor in 2018.
“You don’t have to live in the city where your company is headquartered,” Lindsey said.
Ann Arbor is known for its world-class music scene, socially conscious culture, and lots of unique community activities for families as well as a restaurant scene so competitive there isn’t a place outside of Manhattan with more densely clustered and diverse restaurants downtown per block.
“I was seeing what was happening in Detroit, looking at all the different opportunities in the Midwest. I knew I wanted Ann Arbor to be my home base,” Lindsey said. “Great food, lots to do, great arts and theater, sports, and you can get anywhere in 15 minutes. It feels like a small town with world class amenities,” Lindsey said.
And of course, being in Ann Arbor, Lindsey is never too far from a Great Lake.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
“Great Lakes, great times! I don’t have to get on a plane. I can get in my car and drive a couple hours to a beautiful lake or go up north. It’s the best place to be in the summer.”
3. Community & liveable neighborhoods
People often list friendliness and a sense of community as a benefit of living in the Midwest. The University of Cambridge released a 2013 study that assessed the personality traits of more than 1.5 million people. They found that the personalities of Midwesterners had "moderately high levels of extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.” Each Midwest city has their own style, but a lot of people who grew up in the Midwest return to raise kids in a tight-knit community among family, or just for the way people treat one another.
Brooke James, Head of People & Culture at Summersalt, is a Midwest boomerang who moved back to her hometown of St. Louis during the pandemic.
“I’m a Midwesterner through and through and culturally identified with my friends in grad school more,” Brooke said.
After moving back to St. Louis during the pandemic, she found an apartment on the 19th floor in Clayton, a metropolitan neighborhood in St. Louis. Unlike common misconceptions some people have that the Midwest is either farmlands or cookie cutter suburbia, Brooke said, there’s actually real optionality in living in city, suburban or rural areas in the Midwest.
“Clayton is a lovely neighborhood,” Brooke said. “I live in a mini downtown. I can walk to the grocery store, I can walk to get my nails done, I can walk almost anywhere. My immediate life needs are met in downtown Clayton.”
“I take an Uber or a Lyft when I need to, or I carpool with friends. There is a metro link, too, and I’ve also been taking the bus in a more exploratory fashion. I get on and see where it takes me. It’s kind of fun! It’s such a great hodgepodge of ways to get around. It’s a much more dynamic way to travel,” Brooke said.
4. Job opportunities
The Midwest is a great place to work remotely, and there are a growing number of local or Midwest-based remote jobs too, including at top startups. The culture of jobs and recruiting in the Midwest is changing as quickly as the availability of remote jobs.
With the rise of successful startups across the Midwest, Midwest cities are growing into vibrant tech hubs. There’s been a lot of job growth in the tech sector. While there may not be as many startups in the Midwest as the Bay Area, that gives talent an opportunity to shine and kick start their careers.
Root Insurance, based in Columbus and hiring remotely
There are plenty of top-tier tech startups hiring for the best jobs in the Midwest. Take autonomous car company Argo AI in Pittsburgh. They’ve been making headlines this year for their partnerships with Ford and Volkswagen. Duo Security in Ann Arbor, Michigan, was acquired by Cisco in 2018 for $2.34 billion.
Mykolas Rambus is co-founder and CEO of PrivacyCheck AI. Mykolas was raised in Detroit and recently moved back, after attending MIT and working everywhere from Boston to D.C., New York and Atlanta. Mykolas launched PrivacyCheck, a pre-seed, venture-backed AI startup, in April of 2021, after taking on the role of Entrepreneur in Residence with Detroit Venture Partners the previous year.
As Mykolas ramps up his company, one thing he’s excited to do is tap into the talent pool in Michigan.
“There are an increasing number of venture-backed successes in the region. As we continue to grow, the talent pool will continue to grow in experience. The reality is that there is talent here in Michigan.”
Thinking about making a switch to a Midwest-based remote job? Check out hiring startups for remote jobs.