The price tag of a big city or a cross-country move may not seem very appealing at first glance. But when you look at the move as a long-term opportunity, the return on initial investment could be huge for both your career and your life. Yes, city living is expensive, but you’re investing in more than new furniture and a fancy apartment—you’re also investing in a place that could positively impact your career for years to come.
There’s a host of data that points to the economic benefits of moving to a large city: People who live in big cities may pay more in rent, but they also tend to have higher incomes. What’s more, upward mobility rates are highest in pricey cities such as San Francisco and New York. So even if your starting salary is low in a big city, chances are you’ll be be able to climb the ladder faster than in a rural or suburban area.
In 2010, psychologists surveyed more than 47,000 residents from 50 of America’s biggest cities to measure each area's character strengths (like kindness and love of learning). They found that cities can be reliably classified into two groups: those of the head, and those of the heart. “Head” cities tend to be more crowded and more expensive, where the worlds of technology and big business tend to dominate. “Heart” cities tend to be less crowded and less expensive, where cultural connections between residents are more important than other factors.Read more
“The move you are making is not only for tomorrow or for the year after. It’s a long-term investment to go to a new place,” Charlotta Mellander, a visiting faculty member at the Martin Prosperity Institute, says. “Everything comes with a cost, so consider carefully where you want to live in terms of where you want to invest.”
Even if a big city isn’t your top destination, moving away from where you grew up or went to college could offer the boost you need to jump-start your career. Our research shows that recent graduates who moved away from the place they went to school make $23,000 per year more than those who stayed near their school after graduation.
Yes, moving to a new place where you know no one is hard to fathom when you’re comfortable where you are, but that’s just your present bias working against you. Falling into this bias could mean losing out on the potential opportunities of a new place.
“With present bias, we want to push cost to the future and benefits to the present,” Linnea Gandhi, managing director at behavioral science consulting firm TGG Group, says. “It’s all fuzzy in the future for us—we don’t have this steep feeling of immediacy, which is why we tend to overvalue the present.”