Cambridge: job opportunity and job satisfaction vs housing affordability

Mystifying headline

In Cambridge News, an article was published, titled " 'Priced out' of Cambridge claims as data ranks city best place to work due to housing affordability" (13 July 2016, here).

One reader commented "Totally incomprehensible".

I was surprised Cambridge would top any rating system on the basis of housing affordability. Of course Cambridge has huge strengths as an economic centre and a focus for innovation. But housing affordability?

What does it mean?

The headline makes more sense read as two separate statements:

"Data ranks city best place to work" (despite the fact people are) "Priced out of Cambridge due to housing affordability".

If we take a look at the data being used in the article, we can see clearly how Cambridge compares to the top 20 towns and cities to live in, across the UK, as identified by Glassdoor which is a firm involved in the world of employment and recruitment. 

Each town or city in the UK with a population of more than 150,000 was rated on the basis of:

  • Hiring opportunity: measured using ratio of active Glassdoor job listings to population (from the Office of National Statistics).
  • Job satisfaction: measured by Glassdoor employee ratings.
  • Cost of living: measured using ratio of average house price (from Zoopla) to median income based on salary reports shared by local employees on Glassdoor.

Here is a rough representation of the Glassdoor scores on all three factors (with a health warning that I re-created the scores, they are not precisely as Glassdoor calculated them, but I think the help highlight the "issue" behind the headline. More detail on the methodology is provided at the end of this blog)...

 Hiring opportunity score (low number = more job opportunities)Cost of living score (high number = less affordable)Job satisfaction score (high number = more satisfied)
Top 20 Glassdoor cities
Milton Keynes86.18.13.2


The table shows the effect of using the three factors. It highlights that Cambridge has

  • the best score for hiring opportunities (top score of 69.7)
  • the second best score for job satisfaction (score of 3.5, tied with Bristol and Northampton)
  • one of the worst for cost of living (2nd least affordable at 12.5, with only Oxford worse at 15.7).
  • The cost of living score is outweighed by the other 2 very high scores when they are combined, so on Glassdoor's rating Cambridge comes out as "top city".

Graph showing Glassdoor's three score systemThe graph sets out my score on the three factors for each of Glassdoor's "top 20" highlighting Cambridge's scores in red, to show how the two employment facotrs get great scores (very low numbers) while the cost of living score is very high i.e. very unaffordable.

(For this graph I used a score from 1 to 20 for each of the 3 factors, making them easier to visualise).

Expert view

Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor's Chief Economist was quoted by Cambridge News as saying:

“Cambridge has long had a reputation for one of Britain's most loved cities, but now it's emerged as a prime spot for high-tech companies. This is clearly having an impact on where people decide to live and work. These results are a reminder that although there are more jobs in London and employees are generally pretty satisfied, it is a competitive place to work and an expensive place to live. Towns and cities such as Nottingham, Leeds and Reading offer decent salaries and job prospects combined with a lower cost of living which means your money will go further, you can save, and still have a good quality of life." (source here)

And Neil Darwin, Chief Executive of the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP, commented:

“It is great to see both Cambridge and Peterborough being recognised for the excellent job opportunities and quality of life they have on offer. As two of the fastest growing cities in the country, the overall job satisfaction ratings show that they remain popular places to both live and work. As home to all types of businesses from major international organisations through to unicorn start-ups1, our area remains one of the best places in not just the UK, but the world to do business.” (source here)


It's good to see how Cambridge topped Glassdoor's charts on the basis of employment opportunity and job satisfaction. But housing affordability is still an important and pressing issue locally.


Useful links

  • Cambridge News article here.
  • Glassdoor's best cities for jobs page here.
  • Glassdoor's blog, explaining the methodology used is on this page.
  • Glassdoor's home page.
  • GC-GP LEP article here.
  • Useful housing market in the form of three-monthly bulletins here.
  • Assessment of our housing market including the vital relationship between employment and housing here.
  • Background on the work of the Cambridge housing sub-region here.

Notes on the maths

  • Hiring opportunity is determined by the ratio of active job openings to population. Job openings per city and town represent active job listings on Glassdoor as of 19/6/16. Population data is according to the Office for National Statistics, General Register Office for Scotland and the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency.
  • Cost of living is determined by the ratio of median annual base salary to median average home value. (Median annual base salary per location based on at least 100 salary reports shared by local employees on Glassdoor over the past year (20/6/15-19/6/16). Average home value is according to the Zoopla’s Zed-Index average House Prices, as of 29 June 2016.
  • Overall job satisfaction rating per location is determined by combining local company overall ratings (60%), career opportunities ratings (20%), and work-life balance ratings (20%). Each city or town must have received 100 overall ratings from local employees across each of these three criteria over the past year (20/6/15-19/6/16). Ratings based on a 5-point scale: 5.0=very satisfied, 1.0=very dissatisfied).


Sue Beecroft, Sub-regional housing coordinator