Big cities are the hallmark of American society, each embracing different music, sports teams, and art, culminating in a distinct culture for each metropolis. The way of life these cities offer attract many but can drive others away, as we have seen during COVID-19. Apart from distinct cultures, cities also have distinct economies that can affect significant aspects of life, including cost of living.
Just as their economies are different, the cost of living in U.S. metropolitan areas varies. Thriving metro economies where incomes are high and property values are also high, tend to have higher cost of living. On the other hand, cities that may be losing industries and residents may have lower cost of living. (Here is what it actually costs to live in America’s most expensive cities.)
To determine the most expensive city in every state, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed cost of living from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Metropolitan areas were ranked based on the regional price parity for all goods and services in 2019. Supplemental data on median household income and poverty rate came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 American Community Survey based on five-year averages.
Housing costs play into this calculus and reflect the income levels of the population living there to a degree. Costs tend to be more expensive in wealthier communities. Of the 50 cities on this list, 42 have a higher median household income compared to their home state, and more than half have median household income of at least $68,000, above the national median.
Keep in mind that some states like New York or California have an outsized impact on the national cost of living, and their sheer impact tilts the scales against them. Also, higher household incomes in these states generally offset the higher cost of living in these states and their massive metros.
Just because a city is the most expensive in its state does not necessarily mean its cost of living is that high when compared to the national average cost of living. In 29 states, the most expensive city has a lower cost of living than is typical nationwide, largely because the prices of goods and services statewide fall well below national prices. In all, 34 states have lower cost of living than the national average. (This state has the highest cost of living.)
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