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The cost of living in America's major cities

24/7 Wall St. logo 24/7 Wall St. 1/24/2019 Michael B. Sauter

a large body of water with a city in the background © GCShutter / Getty Images Living in a major metropolitan area has countless benefits. Cities are cultural hubs -- they offer diverse and high-quality options for anything from food, health care, and education to music and art venues and much more. Major cities are hubs of employment, international travel, and shopping.

Of course, these many opportunities come at a price. Major American cities are often the most expensive places to live in the country. In New York City’s Manhattan borough, residents' living expenses are about two and half times the average living expenditure nationwide.

Housing costs are the largest contributors to the higher costs of living in the most expensive major U.S. cities. In Manhattan, the typical home has a value of $870,000, and average monthly housing costs are over four times the average costs nationwide.

While it is true that the nation’s most highly populous cities tend to be more expensive -- all but three of the over a dozen cities with at least 1 million people are more expensive on average than the U.S. average -- this is not the case for all major cities. In fact, most of the roughly 20 cities with a population of between 500,000 and 1 million are less expensive than the United States as a whole. In some major cities, goods and services are considerably cheaper.

In Memphis, for example, the cost of living is just over 80% of the average cost of living nationwide. Housing expenses are, of course, a major contributors to the lower cost of living in these cities as well. In downtown Memphis, the typical home is worth less than $135,000, compared to a national median of $184,700.

To identify the cost of living in America’s major cities, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the index created by The Council for Community and Economic Research of American cities. Based on counts from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 population estimates, we listed the 50 most populous U.S. cities. We also retrieved the relative cost of housing and the average price of a half-gallon of milk from the C2ER. The median household income for each metro area came from the Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey 5-year estimate.

Urban areaCost of livingHousing cost1/2 gallon milkMedian income
Albuquerque, NM4.1% lower than U.S.7.8% lower than U.S.$1.80$49,711
Atlanta, GA0.5% higher than U.S.1.4% higher than U.S.$1.94$59,183
Austin, TX1.5% lower than U.S.1.8% higher than U.S.$1.67$66,093
Baltimore, MD16.4% higher than U.S.46.6% higher than U.S.$2.54$72,801
Boston, MA47.4% higher than U.S.111.2% higher than U.S.$1.93$77,809
Charlotte, NC3.4% lower than U.S.13.4% lower than U.S.$1.83$55,191
Chicago, IL23.8% higher than U.S.58.8% higher than U.S.$2.02$63,327
Cleveland, OH0.6% lower than U.S.13.6% lower than U.S.$1.87$51,001
Colorado, Springs, CO2.2% lower than U.S.0.7% higher than U.S.$1.66$60,335
Columbus, OH9.2% lower than U.S.21.2% lower than U.S.$1.45$57,440
Dallas, TX4.3% higher than U.S.6.8% higher than U.S.$2.25$61,330
Denver, CO11.9% higher than U.S.36.3% higher than U.S.$1.71$68,173
Detroit, MI4.2% lower than U.S.6.3% lower than U.S.$1.51$54,037
El Paso, TX11.7% lower than U.S.20.7% lower than U.S.$1.88$42,023
Fort, Worth, TX1.2% lower than U.S.8.5% lower than U.S.$1.61$61,330
Houston, TX2.5% lower than U.S.2.4% higher than U.S.$1.33$60,902
Indianapolis, IN6.9% lower than U.S.19.8% lower than U.S.$1.40$54,261
Jacksonville, FL6.2% lower than U.S.10.5% lower than U.S.$2.38$53,661
Joliet-Will County, IL0.2% higher than U.S.2.5% higher than U.S.$2.33$63,327
Kansas City, MO-KS5.3% lower than U.S.15.2% lower than U.S.$2.20$59,344
Las Vegas, NV3.3% higher than U.S.10.8% higher than U.S.$1.86$52,629
Los Angeles-Long, Beach, CA48.2% higher than U.S.141.6% higher than U.S.$2.14$62,216
Louisville, KY7.4% lower than U.S.21.4% lower than U.S.$1.71$52,437
Memphis, TN18.6% lower than U.S.33.3% lower than U.S.$1.82$48,545
Miami-Dade, County FL15.3% higher than U.S.46.5% higher than U.S.$2.61$50,064
Milwaukee-Waukesha, WI3.7% lower than U.S.4.6% lower than U.S.$1.77$55,625
Minneapolis, MN5.6% higher than U.S.4.6% higher than U.S.$2.38$70,915
Nashville-Murfreesboro, TN1.4% lower than U.S.7.7% lower than U.S.$1.79$56,152
New Orleans, LA0.6% higher than U.S.13.9% higher than U.S.$2.60$48,319
Brooklyn, NY80.8% higher than U.S.225.7% higher than U.S.$2.82$69,211
Manhattan, NY142.4% higher than U.S.414.1% higher than U.S.$3.04$69,211
Queens, NY49.7% higher than U.S.127.7% higher than U.S.$3.24$69,211
Oakland, CA51.5% higher than U.S.121.6% higher than U.S.$3.15$85,947
Oklahoma City, OK14.7% lower than U.S.27% lower than U.S.$1.99$52,825
Omaha, NE6% lower than U.S.10.4% lower than U.S.$1.68$59,803
Orange County, CA50.5% higher than U.S.152.6% higher than U.S.$2.13$62,216
Philadelphia, PA14.8% higher than U.S.28.1% higher than U.S.$2.06$63,952
Phoenix, AZ3.2% lower than U.S.5.1% lower than U.S.$1.46$55,227
Portland, OR30.7% higher than U.S.81.5% higher than U.S.$1.85$62,772
Raleigh, NC6.2% lower than U.S.14.9% lower than U.S.$1.71$65,834
Sacramento, CA18.9% higher than U.S.37.9% higher than U.S.$2.72$61,686
San Antonio, TX11.7% lower than U.S.20.3% lower than U.S.$1.78$54,638
San Diego, CA46.3% higher than U.S.135.9% higher than U.S.$2.13$66,529
San Francisco, CA94.7% higher than U.S.263.4% higher than U.S.$2.78$85,947
Seattle, WA51.9% higher than U.S.107.5% higher than U.S.$1.94$73,044
Tucson, AZ6.1% lower than U.S.20.7% lower than U.S.$1.48$46,764
Tulsa, OK11.3% lower than U.S.34.6% lower than U.S.$2.18$50,950
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA58.9% higher than U.S.163.4% higher than U.S.$2.43$93,804
Wichita, KS8.3% lower than U.S.28.7% lower than U.S.$1.37$52,068
York County, PA3.3% lower than U.S.9% lower than U.S.$1.98$59,853


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