San Francisco, California

San Francisco, CaliforniaIn 1776, colonists from Spain established a fort and a mission within a few miles of each other, and housing for the workers was built in between the two. Over the following decades, the settlement grew and developed. In 1846, California was claimed for the United States, and this still-humble town along with it.

On January 30, 1847, the town was renamed from Yerba Buena ("Good Herb") to San Francisco. Then, on January 24, 1848, a man named James W. Marshall found gold in a sawmill in California, sparking a gold rush that resulted in - among many other things - San Francisco's population going from roughly 1,000 in 1848 to roughly 25,000 just two years later. During the flurry of activity accompanying this sudden boom in the San Franciscan economy, such companies as Levi Strauss & Co. and Wells Fargo were founded.

Even after a terrible earthquake and fire in 1906, San Francisco strove successfully against the odds, proving itself a tenacious and resilient city. Not a single bank based in the city failed in the Wall Street Crash of 1929, and during the Great Depression the city constructed both the gargantuan San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge. With its financial stability and its ambitious civil engineering projects, San Francisco didn't just recover but rose from the tragic earthquake.

In the mid 19th century, the city became a hub of the counterculture movement and of liberal activism, and the decades have not stripped it of this status. The city was the epicenter of the Summer of Love in 1967, and it continues to be pioneering on such issues as environmental conservation and LGBT rights.

The late '90s dot-com boom saw many tech entrepreneurs and developers move their offices into the city and the surrounding region (including the nearby Silicon Valley). This effect was furthered by the social media boom that began in recent years.

Honorable Mentions

  • Winner of "Best Place to Launch a Career" in Sunset magazine (2014).
  • Number 1 on newgeography's 2013 list of "Best Cities for Job Growth".
  • Number 1 on Businessweek.com's 2012 list of "America's 50 Best Cities".
  • Number 3 on CareerBliss' list of "10 Happiest Cities to Work in 2014".
  • Number 3 on vocativ.com's 2013 list of "The 35 Best U.S. Cities For People 35 and Under".
  • Number 5 on Mercer's 2014 list of the "Quality of Living" in North American cities.
  • Number 5 for "Education" on Forbes' 2013 "Best Places For Business and Careers" list.
  • Number 5 in a 2014 study of "Intergenerational Mobility in the 50 Largest Community Zones".
  • Number 8 on Movoto's list of "America's Smartest Cities".
  • Number 10 on U.S. News & World Report's 2013 list of "10 Best Cities to Find Jobs".
  • Number 10 on GFCI's list of global financial centers.
  • Number 12 on A.T. Kearney's Global City Index, 2010.

Major Industries and Employers

Among the largest industries in San Francisco are financial services, tourism, and high technology. Biotechnology and medical research are growing sectors in the city's economy.

San Francisco receives more venture capital investment than does any other place in the USA. The part played in the city's economy by the tech industry is still growing and shows no sign of stopping, as venture capital heading to San Francisco continues to increase compared to that heading to the neighboring Silicon Valley.

Major employers include the city government, the University of California-San Francisco, the California Pacific Medical Centre, and Wells Fargo. The city is home to eight Fortune 500 companies.

Demographics

As of 2012, there were 825,863 people living in the city, of which 288,346 were born overseas and 31,553 were veterans. 38.5 is the median age of residents, and 7.4% of the population is between 20 and 24 years of age.

Of the people living in the city aged 25 and over, 85.9% have attained at least a high school graduation (or equivalent), 52% have attained at least a bachelor's degree, and 20.3% have attained a graduate or professional degree. The national rate of attainment of bachelor's degrees is 28.7%, so San Francisco is substantially ahead on that point.

The average monthly rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is $2,911, and the home-ownership rate is 56%. The mean salary per capita in city as a whole is $47,278, and the median salary for San Franciscans in the tech industry is $123,497. A Bay Area Council Economic Institute study has found that each job created in the tech industry leads to the creation of an average of 4.3 other jobs in areas such as dentistry and education. However, the rapid growth of the tech industry is also leading to higher costs and competition for housing.

The unemployment rate in the city is 5.9%, somewhat below the national rate of 6.7% and significantly below California's overall rate of 8.1%. 13.2% of the population lives below the poverty level, which is an improvement over the national rate (15%).

Conclusion

San Francisco boasts a strong economic performance, a low unemployment rate and poverty level, a history of reliability as a financial hub, and an ongoing tech boom. In addition, it is home to a famously vibrant and unique local culture and a wealth of worthwhile sights, as evidenced in the high levels of tourism to the city.

However, San Francisco does suffer from its proximity to two fault lines, and the tech boom could actually be a downside for people not in the industry because it leads to a higher cost of living in the city. Thus, whether or not this city is for you depends on several factors, including which industry you plan to work in (since service, tech, and financial industries are very well-represented), your willingness to deal with the risk of earthquakes, and your affinity for the San Franciscan culture scene.