Nearly one-third of SF residents claim they’re likely to leave the city in the next three years

The results of a recent City of San Francisco study reveal that as many as 31 percent of city residents who responded are likely to move out of the city in the next three years.

The study

Conducted by the City of San Francisco Office of the Controller, these “likely to move” data come from a much broader-in-scope survey. This broader survey polled residents on their satisfaction with the city, asking for ratings on everything from city parks and libraries to transportation and safety.

“Every two years, the City of San Francisco surveys its residents to objectively assess their use of and satisfaction with various city services,” says the report’s cover page. For this biennial survey, 2,166 San Francisco residents offered feedback. “This sample size is associated with a margin of sampling error of ±2.10 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval,” per the report’s methodology statement.

Exodus of the young

From these data come the posit that one third of the city’s residents are “likely” or “very likely” to leave the city in the next three years. Of this group, most (46 percent) of those planning to move are less than 35 years of age. Another interesting sub-group: 43 percent of families with young kids– specifically “ages zero to five”– report they’re likely to leave San Francisco.


Though 31 percent sounds like a lot, it’s a consistent number, according to the City of San Francisco. From 2005 to 2017, the percentage of folks reporting themselves likely to leave has been around 30 percent, dropping only twice: to 25 percent and 20 percent in 2011 and 2013, respectively.

However, we may not replace these outgoing folks as quickly as we have in past years. The San Francisco Business Times reported in March that a cooling job market was also causing a cooling effect on population growth in Bay Area cities. “Job growth has slowed, and that leads to a lessening in demand to live in the Bay Area,” Hans Johnson, a senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, told the Times.

Lest we plan to buy a house/rent a better apartment in the next three years, figuring outgoing people means a more amenable real estate market for buyers and tenants, keep in mind that 31 percent of 2,166 people is around 671 people who are “likely” to leave. Though the sample may or may not be representative of a larger number, it’s probably not enough empty apartments to affect rents immediately; nor is it likely to make a dramatic impact on housing costs. Plus, keep in mind the statistic that only “about 35 percent of homes in the county of San Francisco are occupied by their owners, according to census data, compared to 54 percent nationally.”

However, if the trend toward more leaving than moving in continues, eventually, more dramatic shifts could follow.