News & Blog

Low Cost, High Reward: New Report Shows Midwest Tech Jobs Pay Off

When people think about tech jobs, they tend to think of Silicon Valley or New York City. They don’t think about the Midwest, which is better known for rolling farmland and wide-open spaces than a booming tech scene where startups thrive. But it’s time to think again about the Midwest.

This region comprises 19 percent of the entire U.S. GDP. Twenty-five percent of all computer science grads get their degrees in the Midwest. Forty-five percent of Fortune 500 countries are located here, as is 60 percent of all U.S. manufacturing.

And, as icing on the cake, seven of the top 10 most affordable states in the nation are in the Midwest.

What does that have to do with tech jobs? Well, increasingly, startup founders and investors are taking note of all those things the Midwest has to offer, as well as the excellent quality of life and affordable cost of living you can find in so many cities in the Heartland. They’re realizing you don’t have to be based in the Golden State or the Big Apple if you want your startup to succeed. You can be based in the Midwest and find just as much success.

So tech startups are booming in the Midwest. In three of the midwest’s top 10 cities, tech hiring is up more than 100% in the last three years. But on top of hiring, Midwest tech jobs offer high salaries, and a low cost of living here makes those salaries really pay off.

Don’t believe us? The proof is in the numbers.

At, we partnered with our friends on the amazing content team at Optimist to compile all this great data in the new Midwest Salary and Cost of Living Handbook. Why people are moving to the Midwest, the most affordable places to live, average software engineer salaries—we break it all down. You can even find out how much more money you’d need to make in San Francisco or NYC to have the same standard of living you would off a Midwest tech salary.

Perhaps you’re thinking, I know the Midwest is great, that’s why I live here! And we feel that; we love the Midwest and our hometown of Detroit, too. Maybe we don’t need to convince you to move here, but there’s still value in seeing how your city compares.

Startup leaders can use the handbook as a baseline for setting competitive salaries. Entrepreneurs can use it when pitching ideas, backed by data, to VCs. Individuals can use it to see how their salaries compare, or to see where the next big tech boom will be. VCs out on the coasts might want to dive into the data here to explore funding more Midwest businesses. The net-net, if you’re curious about the Midwest startup and tech ecosystem, this handbook can be a trusty guide.

Check out some of the highlights from our research. You can also read through some of the chapters here and download the complete (and free) handbook. See all that the Midwest has to offer when it comes to the best cities to live in, Midwest cost of living, in-demand tech jobs, and competitive tech salaries.

Get The Handbook

Living in the Midwest is affordable

The Midwest is home to seven of the top ten most affordable states in the country. And when it comes to Midwest cities like Detroit, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis, they’re not even in the top 50 most expensive U.S. cities. That means that renting an apartment won’t bust your wallet, owning a home and some property can be a reality, and all that money you save on living can go right back into the bank—or whatever you choose to do with it.

The Midwest’s top 10 cities are experiencing tech booms

Chicago, Detroit, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Omaha and Des Moines have all experienced considerable tech growth within the last decade. Top startup jobs like software engineers, data engineers, product managers and more are highly in demand in these cities due to booming tech growth.

Lower cost of living does not mean salaries are low

Okay, we know what you’re thinking—lower living costs mean low salaries. It is true that tech salaries in the Midwest are slightly lower than what you might make in San Fran. But they are still high. In Milwaukee, the average software engineer’s salary is almost $96,000. And in Minnie, the average product manager is making over $100,000. Those are some pretty high salaries.

You get way more bang for your buck when it comes to standard of living

Here’s some fun math: low cost of living + high tech salaries = more bang for your buck. It makes sense, right? Even with higher salaries out on the coasts, people in tech aren’t actually making more money at the end of the day because so much of it goes to just being able to survive. With lower costs of living and competitive salaries, people in the Midwest enjoy a really high standard of living—whether that’s in a swanky apartment in the city or large home and a backyard.

To view and download a complete, free copy of the Midwest Salary and Cost of Living Handbook from and Optimist, visit

About is the #1 startup community in the Midwest. We connect top talent with purpose-driven startups based on values, experience, and culture contribution. Whether you’re looking to hire the best in the business or looking for a job you love, we can help. Visit to get started.

Written by Let’s Detroit Ambassador Ryan Landau, Founder at Connect with Ryan here!

We use cookies to give you the best experience possible. Read our privacy policy to learn more, and if you’re cool with it, press accept to hide this message.
Read More