Most people dream of the perfect place to live, a neighbourhood with the ideal balance of a stable economy, good job market and cultural attractions. However, living in some of these places can be quite pricey, especially considering the effects of rising taxes, sluggish wage growth and inflation. What does it cost to live in the most expensive cities in the US 2019?
The ease of living in a city is measured by its cost of living compared to the national average. For example, cities whose cost of living is below the country’s average are considered cheap to live in. Those with figures above the national average, on the other hand, are considered expensive. The cost of living in the top 20 most expensive cities in the US 2019 is above the US average by 28%-149%.
20. Fairbanks, Alaska
- Cost of living: 28.3% above the national average
- Population: 31,644 residents
- Avg. household income: $60,658
- Avg. home price: $199,000
- Unemployment: 6.7%
Fairbanks is one of three cities in Alaska to make it to he list of top 20 most expensive cities in the US to live in. One of the most significant contributing factors is Alaska’s remote location on the American map. This means that goods and services are pricier because of the distance covered from the source to the market. On the brighter side, the state is among the top ten states in terms of concentration of millionaire households, although it is also among the least-populated.
At 6.7 per cent, the unemployment rate in Fairbanks is relatively high as compared to the country’s average. This has been fuelled by a statewide economic recession which is forecast to end in 2019. Groceries cost more than 25 per cent above the country’s average, while healthcare services are fifty per cent pricier. Daily utilities will set you back more than double what you would pay on average.
19. Anchorage, Alaska
- Cost of living: 28.9% above the national average
- Population: 294,356 residents
- Avg. household income: $82,271
- Avg. home price: $304,500
- Unemployment: 6.3%
Anchorage is the second city from the Last Frontier State to make the top 20 list. Limited local resources in Alaska makes everything cost a premium. Living in Alaska is almost thirty per cent pricier than the country’s average. Groceries cost thirty-four per cent more while housing-related expenses are as high as forty-three per cent above average.
Dwindling oil prices have led to the worst economic recession to hit the state in thirty years. This explains the high unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent.
18. Portland, Oregon
- Cost of living: 31% above the national average
- Population: 647,805 residents
- Avg. household income: $61,532
- Avg. home price: $352,700
- Unemployment: 4.3%
Portland is Oregon’s most populous city. For years, the city has attracted progressive people who love the outdoor life. This has made the city one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country. While this growth has some advantages, it has also pushed prices upwards. The housing sector, in particular, has recorded the biggest changes. Transport and healthcare costs are seventeen and twelve per cent higher, respectively.
17. Juneau, Alaska
- Cost of living: 34% above the national average
- Population: 32,094 residents
- Avg. household income: $90,749
- Avg. home price: $343,100
- Unemployment: 5.6%
What is the most expensive city in North America? The answer is Juneau. Nothing is cheap in the third Alaskan city on the list. Similar to the other two (Anchorage and Fairbanks), the high cost of living in Juneau can be attributed to the remote location of the state of Alaska. Residents pay fifty per cent more for housing-related services. In Juneau, Groceries will also set you back double what you would be paying elsewhere.
On the bright side for Alaskan cities, the state is among the most tax-friendly cities to live in. There is no state-related income tax, and the government pays residents and an annual $1600 remuneration.
16. Stamford, Connecticut
- Cost of living: 44.7 % above the national average
- Population: 130,824 residents
- Avg. household income: $84,893
- Avg. home price: $516,000
- Unemployment: 4.7%
One of the factors that make Stamford relatively expensive is its proximity to New York. Stamford is home to wealthy commuters who work in New York. Additionally, the city has outstanding income levels for those working there. The presence of companies such as Xerox and various prominent hedge funds in the metropolitan area contribute to great salary levels.
On the downside, the high-paying jobs and proximity to the Big Apple have driven up the cost of living in Stamford. Home values are on average 2.7 times the country’s average, while healthcare and transportation costs are twenty per cent higher.
15. Alexandria, Virginia
- Cost of living: 45% above the national average
- Population: 160,035 residents
- Avg. household income: $93,370
- Avg. home price: $537,900
- Unemployment: 3.7%
Alexandria and other suburbs close to Washington DC are a magnet for highly-educated people seeking well-paying jobs. As expected, the region’s high wage levels translate to high prices for virtually everything. While healthcare, transport and miscellaneous goods prices are only slightly higher, housing costs in Alexandria are 138% higher than the country’s average. For the city’s residents though, there is relief in the fact that utility prices in the city are seven per cent lower than the national average.
14. Bethesda, Maryland
- Cost of living: 45.2% above the national average
- Population: 63,168 residents
- Avg. household income: $154,559
- Avg. home price: $877,300
- Unemployment: 3.6%
Similar to Alexandria, Bethesda is another upscale suburb near Washington DC. The city is home to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, National Institutes of Health among other government institutions. Groceries costs are just about the same as the US average and healthcare is 8% cheaper in the city as compared to the rest of the country. So, what makes the cost living so high in Bethesda? Well, housing costs are more than 131% higher than the national average in the region, making it quite expensive to live there.
13. San Diego, California
- Cost of living: 47.0% above the national average
- Population: 1.4 million residents
- Avg. household income: $71,535
- Avg. home price: $523,600
- Unemployment: 3.8%
San Diego, with its seemingly endless beaches and perfect climate, is for outdoor lovers. The city is ideal for biking, surfing, golfing, hiking and exploring. The city is also home to the hugely popular San Diego Zoo, numerous museums, and sports teams. The city houses Qualcomm, University of California and the US Navy. For all these perks, however, residents have to pay 130% more for housing than the national average. Transport costs in the city are also twenty per cent higher.
12. Los Angeles, California
- Cost of living: 48.2% above the country average
- Population: 4.0 million residents
- Avg. household income: $54,501
- Avg. home price: $549,800
- Unemployment: 4.5%
You would think that LA’s high cost of living would discourage people from living there. However, with four million residents, it is among the most populated cities in the US. There are very few cities that could surpass Los Angeles in terms of glamour and culture. While household income in the country’s second largest city is slightly below the national average, the allure of famous locales keeps people in the city. Los Angeles has various museums and is home to the famous Los Angeles Philharmonic. Regarding the high population, well, it is hard to leave a city that is home to Hollywood, Venice Beach and Beverly Hills.
11. Orange County, California
- Cost of living: 49.8% above the country average
- Population: 3.2 million residents
- Avg. household income: $81,851
- Avg.home price: $620,500
- Unemployment: 3.3%
Orange County is not a city by itself but is comprised of several cities. Known as the OC, the region is so much synonymous with wealthy residents that there was an entire television series about it in the 2000s. Municipalities such as Irvine, Newport Beach and Anaheim shelter some of the wealthiest people in Southern California. In Newport Beach, for example, the median value for a home is about $1.7 million. This makes it one of the most expensive cities in the US to buy a house. Average home prices in the entire county are quite high only being surpassed by New York, San Francisco and Honolulu. Besides the high costs of housing, the rest of the living costs in OC are relatively low, averaging just similar to the national average.
What are the 10 most expensive cities to live in?
Here are the country’s top ten most expensive cities.
10. Boston, Massachusetts
- Cost of living: 50.0% above the country average
- Population: 685,094 residents
- Avg. household income: $62,021
- Avg. home price: $455,100
- Unemployment: 3.2%
Boston’s appeal comes from its unrivalled collection of biotech institutes, historical sites, hospitals and universities. However, this appeal comes at a high cost. Groceries in the city cost 9% more than what the country pays on average. The cost of living is not as high as some East Coast cities mentioned in the same breath as Boston. The city’s high concentration of recent graduates, students and newly-employed professionals drives down the living costs significantly.
9. Queens, New York
- Cost of living: 52.6% above the country average
- Population: 2.4 million residents
- Avg. household income: $62,008
- Avg. home price: $481,300
- Unemployment: 4.3%
New York residents who found Manhattan too expensive used to move to Brooklyn. With time, Brooklyn became quite pricey as well, forcing new residents to move to Queens. However, as the city’s population rose, so did the cost of living. House-related prices in Queens are now more than double the national average. Grocery prices in Queens are more than twenty per cent higher than what you would pay on average. Despite the high cost of living, the average household income is only slightly above the national average. Renters in the city might be put off by the average monthly rent of $3050 (more than three times the national average).
8. Arlington, Virginia
- Cost of living: 53.1% above the country average
- Population: 234,965residents
- Avg. household income: $112,138
- Avg. home price: $643,300
- Unemployment: 2.3%
Arlington is the second city in Virginia to make the pricey cities list. The city is home to the Pentagon and sits across the Potomac River from Washington. Like other suburbs close to the country’s capital, Arlington attracts a certain class of high-earning people. The cost of living is high enough to let you know the kind of people that live there. Housing costs are more than double the national average while groceries are twenty-five per cent higher than average. On the brighter side, Arlington residents enjoy lower utility costs by up to eight per cent.
7. Oakland, California
- Cost of living: 54.5% above the country average
- Population: 425,195 residents
- Avg. household income: $63,251
- Avg. home price: $564,500
- Unemployment: 3.1%
By now, you can probably tell that California is not exactly a cheap place to live. Oakland is one among three California regions where affordable prices are unheard of. The others are San Francisco and Silicon Valley. San Francisco is famous for its ridiculously high real estate prices while Silicon Valley companies are famous for their high salaries. Home values in Oakland are almost three times the national average and are expected to rise in the coming years.
- Cost of living: 54.8% above the country average
- Population: 724,745 residents
- Avg. household income: $79,565
- Avg. home price: $537,800
- Unemployment: 3.8%
Renowned for its amazing coffee, Seattle is also among America’s most expensive cities. The city’s economy is also quite robust with continued growth that is putting upward pressure on prices. Seattle is one of the country’s fastest-growing cities and boasts a tech-driven housing market. Some of the great tech companies present in the city are Microsoft and Amazon. House costs for homeowners and tenants are more than double the national average.
5. Washington, DC
- Cost of living: 62.6% above the country average
- Population: 693,972 residents
- Avg. household income: $77,649
- Avg. home price: $537,400
- Unemployment: 5.4%
The country’s capital is a mixed bag when it comes to costs of living. On the one hand, housing expenses are quite high at 2.7 times the national average. On the other hand, Washington’s healthcare costs are way below the national average. Additionally, a great network of metro and bus systems make it very convenient to move around the city. The circulator bus is free to use and reaches all popular spots within the city.
4. Brooklyn, New York
- Cost of living: 81.7% above the country average
- Population: 2.6 million residents
- Avg. household income: $52,782
- Avg. home price: $623,900
- Unemployment: 5.0%
Brooklyn has always been one of the boroughs making up New York City. However, it has recently become a metropolitan on its own with a population at par with that of Chicago. A few years ago, Brooklyn was home to those who could not afford to live in Manhattan. However, housing expenses in the city are now more than four times the country’s average. These include rent, mortgage and house purchase prices. The average household income in Brooklyn is way below the national average.
3. Honolulu, Hawaii
- Cost of living: 89.7% above the country average
- Population: 988,650residents
- Avg. household income: $80,078
- Avg. home price: $626,400
- Unemployment: 2.7%
Hawaii is synonymous with luxury living and wealth. The city of Honolulu in the Pacific state is one of the most expensive cities to live in the US 2019. This is attributable to its somewhat remote location. Most commodities get to Hawaii by water or air, making them quite expensive once they hit the shelves. Of all 270 American urban areas surveyed by the Cost of Living Index, Honolulu has the most expensive groceries. Tuna, for example, costs forty per cent more in Honolulu than it does on average throughout the nation. Energy prices are also significantly higher in the city.
2. San Francisco, California
- Cost of living: 96.3% above the country average
- Population: 884,363 residents
- Avg. household income: $96,265
- Avg. home price: $927,400
- Unemployment: 2.6%
San Francisco has enjoyed years of unrelenting growth driven by well-paid tech workers. It comes second on the list of the 20 most expensive cities in the US 2019. As expected, the costs of living have followed suit. The city is famous for unbelievably high housing costs, which are way out of reach for the average middle-class. The average home in San Francisco costs $1.2 million, and the median value for houses in the city tops the country.
Tenants pay about $3821 per month in rent, a figure representing more than three times the national average. On the plus side, unemployment is way below the national average at only 2.6 per cent.
1. Manhattan, New York
- Cost of living: 148.5% above the country average
- Population: 1.7 million residents
- Avg. household income: $79,781
- Avg. home price: $915,300
- Unemployment: 4.4%
What is the most expensive city in the US? Most people can tell that Manhattan is an expensive place to visit. Well, it is even more expensive to live there. Manhattan tops our top 10 most expensive American cities list. An average apartment in Manhattan will set you back more than $5000 a month to rent. Groceries cost forty per cent more than the national average while transport is about 27% more.
Manhattan also has a significantly high population density with about 69,000 people per square mile. You will have to love crowds to survive in Manhattan. It seems that the 148.5% higher cost of living has not discouraged the 1.7 million residents from living in Manhattan all the same.
Cheapest cities in the US 2019
While costs in the most expensive states to live in the US can be discouraging, there are cities where life is relatively easy. The prices of housing, groceries, healthcare and utilities in these cities are significantly below the national average. Here are the least expensive cities in the US.
10. Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Hattiesburg is home to the University of Southern Mississippi and the William Carey University. The relatively small city is also home to Camp Shelby, the biggest National Guard training facility on the east of the Mississippi River. The city has a wide range of museums and theatres and is only a short drive from beaches on the gulf coast. The cost of living in Hattiesburg is 16.4% below the national average, while housing expenses are thirty per cent cheaper than the country’s average.
9. Sherman, Texas
Texas has so many affordable cities just as California has so many expensive ones. Sherman is about an hour’s drive from Dallas. The city is home to companies such as Texas Instruments, Finisar and Tyson Foods. Finisar manufactures a crucial part of Apple’s iPhone devices. The cost of living in Sherman is seventeen per cent below the national average. Housing, grocery and transport costs are all significantly below average.
8. Joplin, Missouri
Joplin is famous for having been the hiding place for notorious bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde. In 2011, a tornado destroyed more than 30% of the city in Missouri. The city has two large hospitals that serve four states, including Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Tenants and homeowners are attracted by the low housing costs, which are 39% below the national average. Healthcare and grocery prices are also significantly lower in the city. Joplin’s cost of living is 17.7 per cent lower than the US average.
7. Wichita Falls, Texas
Wichita Falls is home to the Sheppard Air Force Base which is the biggest employer in the city. Located around 220 kilometres from Dallas, the city is famous for being home to the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame & Museum. The cost of living is 17.7 per cent cheaper than the US average. You should keep in mind that the small Northern Texas city gets quite hot during the summer with the average temperature approaching triple digits.
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6. Conway, Arkansas
Conway is close to the Arkansas River as well as Lake Conway making it a great fishing destination. Various high-tech companies such as Acxiom and Conway Corp are among the biggest employers in the city. Living in the city costs 18.1% less than the country average. Conway also has a significantly low rate of unemployment coming at below four per cent.
5. Knoxville, Tennessee
Knoxville is renowned for general affordability. Groceries, transport, utilities and healthcare in the city are significantly cheaper than the country average. Cost of living in Knoxville is 18.3% lower than the US average. The city is home to the University of Tennessee and is considered the gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains.
4. Memphis, Tennessee
Memphis City has a cost of living that is 19.4% cheaper than the national average, making it one of the most affordable cities in the country. For less than $100,000, you can get a quality home in the city. Tenants also pay less than the national rent average by more than thirty per cent. The city’s proximity to the Mississippi River makes it a regional shipping hub. AutoZone, FedEx and International Paper all call Memphis home.
3. Kalamazoo, Michigan
It is quite cheap to live in Kalamazoo. The city’s cost of living is 20.4% below the national average. This comes as an advantage for thirty per cent of the residents who live below the poverty line. A significant contributor to the city’s economy is Western Michigan University. A major drug company, Pfizer has substantial operations in Kalamazoo while Stryker –a medical equipment company- is headquartered in the city.
2. McAllen, Texas
McAllen, like other Texas border towns, is known for its low cost of living, which is 22.6% below the national average. However, poverty is also rampant in the area at 25.2%. The city is among the most popular with bird watchers since it sits along a major bird migration route.
1. Harlingen, Texas
Harlingen’s cost of living is 24.2% cheaper than the national average, making it the most affordable city to live in. Almost thirty per cent of the city’s residents live below the poverty line. Home values are on average more than $100,000 cheaper than the national average. Outdoor lovers will appreciate the city’s proximity to the beaches in San Padre.
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What is the most expensive state to live in 2018?
Hawaii was the most expensive US State to live in 2018. Costs of living in the state are significantly above the national average. Hawaiians pay more than $8 for a pound of coffee, which makes it the most expensive in the country. Home prices, healthcare costs and utility costs are all significantly high as compared to the national average. Hawaii is also among the world’s most expensive places to live in.
Most expensive cities to live in the US 2018
Using the RPP (Regional Price Parity) standard, the most expensive cities in the US 2018 were as follows:
- San Jose, California: 127.1
- Santa Cruz, California: 124.8
- San Francisco, California: 124.7
- Honolulu, Hawaii: 124.4
- New York: 122.0
- Napa, California: 121.9
- Santa Rosa, California: 121
- Stamford, Connecticut: 120.1
- Arlington: 119.1
- Los Angeles: 117.7
The RPP standard sets the average costs of goods and services at 100 and evaluates places depending on how their prices compare to the RPP.
This article outlines the most expensive cities in the US 2019 as well as the least expensive ones. There are cultural, economic and social benefits of each as well as downsides of each. Factors such as housing, energy, transport, healthcare and food prices contribute significantly to a city’s cost of living. Which city among the listed ones fascinated you most?
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