Living and Working in the Same City: A Glimpse at the Live-Work Percentages in the Bay Area

By Justin Shiu, Associate Planner at M-Group

During M-Group’s work on the 2015-2023 Housing Elements, I looked at the percentage of workers who lived and worked in the same community as a potential indicator of additional housing demand from those who worked in the community but lived elsewhere. Living in the same city as one’s workplace can have a number benefits for individuals and municipalities, including shortening commutes for workers, decreasing congestion, minimizing air quality impacts, nurturing greater social and economic diversity, and fostering a greater sense of cohesion within a community. The information below helps show the prevalence of living and working in the same city in the Bay Area (shortened to “live-work” throughout the text). 

While exploring live-work percentages, I gathered some takeaways about living and working in the same city, such as the general range of live-work percentages, comparative percentages between cities, and how this important indicator of community well-being has generally been decreasing.

Data Collection

US Census’ OnTheMap ( is a web-based mapping application that shows where workers are employed and where they live. The data comes from the LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics (LODES) for 2002-2014, and shows the number of workers in each Bay Area city, as well as the percentage of those workers who lived in the same city.

Figure 1 illustrates OnTheMap’s “Inflow/Outflow” analysis option, which determines the number of employees coming into the city (shown in dark green), the number of residents leaving the city to their place of employment (light green), and the number of residents that live and work in the city (medium green). The number of employees and the live-work percentages were collected for each city using this analysis tool.


Figure 1. OnTheMap

Source: “OnTheMap,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2014,

General Distribution across the Region

Figure 2 shows there is little ability to predict the number of workers based solely on live-work percentages; the same is true for live-work percentages based on the number of workers. It is not surprising given the diversity of housing and economic characteristics, as well as the sizes of cities, spread across the Bay Area. Due to the randomness of live-work percentages, the data points do not fit well into a regression line, the best-fitting line through all data points. The coefficient of determination (R2) indicates how well the regression line approximates data points, with a value between zero and one. With a near zero R2 value, the regression line is not likely to be a good predictor of the number of employees based on live-work percent, and vice versa. It works better as an illustration of data point concentrations.

Figure 2 can serve as a comparative look to see how cities stack up compared to others in the region rather than as a predictor. For instance, we can tell that most cities have a live-work percentage lower than 20 percent, and that a larger number of employees does not necessarily correlate with higher live-work percentages – although there are exceptions, as described later.


Figure 2. Live-Work Percent and Number of Employees (for the Bay Area)

Source: “OnTheMap,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2014,

From another view of the data, Figure 3 shows the live-work percentage distribution for all 101 Bay Area cities. The chart shows that live-work percentages across the Bay Area is concentrated towards the lower end of the range meaning that lower percentages are common for cities in the region. In fact, nearly half of them had a value under 10 percent. The median value for the region was in fact 10.3 percent in 2014.

Figure 3. Number of Cities in Live-Work Percentage Ranges

Source: “OnTheMap,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2014,

County Comparisons

Table 1 highlights the highest, median, and average live-work percentages within and between the nine Bay Area counties. The median live-work percentage between counties varies, with values ranging from 7.8 percent to 24.2 percent. Likewise, the highest percentages between counties also differed, with values ranging from 21.2 to 43.1 percent. The average percentages tend to be higher than the median.


Table 1. 2014 Percent Living and Working in the Same City, Shown by County

Source: “OnTheMap,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2014,

Source: “OnTheMap,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2014,

Large Employment Centers

Table 1 shows that the largest employment centers were not necessarily places with the highest live-work percentages within their counties. In four out of the nine counties, the city with the highest live-work percentage was not the one with the largest number of workers. For example, Walnut Creek was Contra Costa County’s largest employment center in 2014. However, its live-work percentage was only 6.7 percent, compared to the county high of 24.7 percent and the county median of 10.5 percent.

Of course, some major centers of commerce had both the largest workforce and the highest live-work percentages within their counties. In 2014, the three largest employment centers in the Bay Area were San Francisco (610,771 workers), San Jose (362,516 workers), and Oakland (179,332 workers). More than 35 percent of those who worked in San Francisco and in San Jose also lived where they worked. More than 20 percent of those who worked in Oakland also lived in Oakland.

Change Over Time

The percentage that lived and worked in the same city generally decreased in the years that were examined. Sixty-seven percent of the cities had a lower live-work percentage in 2014 than in 2009. The average change for all cities was -0.7 percent.

Conclusions and Data

OnTheMap’s data provides a glimpse into the Bay Area’s live-work percentages, and we can see that the region as a whole had fairly low live-work percentages. The majority of cities were under 20 percent and about half of all cities were under 10 percent. Live-work percentage also decreased for most cities between 2009 and 2014. As live-work percentages continue to change, OnTheMap and other resources can provide us insight into figures and trends in the years to come.  

Table 2 shows the percentages for all cities covered in this article. To find more data on a particular city, visit OnTheMap (


Table 2. All Cities Live-Work Percentages for 2009 and 2014

Source: “OnTheMap,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2014,

Source: “OnTheMap,” U.S. Census Bureau, 2014,