America’s Most Expensive Places to Live

America’s Most Expensive Places to Live

Although housing costs predict the cost of living in Americans towns and cities, New York City’s boroughs continue to sit at the top of the list as the most expensive places to live, despite lower home prices. A list of 306 housing markets that indexes the relative cost of living for each city puts the Manhattan at 228.3. With 100 as the mean, or average, the cost to live in the city is 128 percent higher than the average.

The index is compiled and published by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), and has been since 1968. Prior to that time, the government compiled and reported the cost of living figures. Another name for the Cost-of-Living Index is the Consumer Price Index (CPI)

To determine the cost basis, the index determines the prices of sixty consumer good and services in the categories of housing, healthcare, groceries, utilities, transportation and a category for some miscellaneous items. Using a matrix that assigns a value or weight to each item, they compile costs monthly, giving housing more weight than the other categories.

At the top of the list is Manhattan (New York City), New York at an index of 228.3, followed closely by fellow borough, Brooklyn at 181.3. Both boroughs, being densely populated areas, have smaller properties compared to Texas, for instance, so the figures include pro-rated adjustments to compensate.

Moving to the West Coast, San Francisco, California comes in third at 166.5. Housing is more affordable there compared to its East coast counterparts, but the costs of transportation and healthcare are higher. Higher costs in the categories of groceries, transportation, utilities, and healthcare, as well as items in the miscellaneous categories puts Honolulu, Hawaii at number four, with 165.8. Its housing is less than San Francisco, but everything else costs more. Just an hour away to the south of San Francisco is San Jose.  At the center of Silicon Valley, the South Bay city came in at 154.3.

Back on the East Coast, Stamford, Connecticut, considered by most as a suburb to New York City, has more available real estate than the boroughs, so housing is less, but the utilities are higher giving it an index of 147.4. Queens, another of New York City’s boroughs, has lower housing costs than its nearby neighbors, but Brooklyn beats it in the areas of utilities, transportation, healthcare and even groceries.

Rather than just one city, the entire central metropolitan area of Orange County, California, comprises a single entity. That means that the index combines the County Seat of Santa Ana with Anaheim and Irvine in a single score. Housing is higher, on average, in Orange County than in Queens, but utilities and healthcare come in lower. One challenge for the O.C. is its lack of an efficient public transportation system making its score in that area higher than Queens, San Francisco and San Jose’s transportation scores.

Finally, the District of Columbia with Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia comprise the Washington, D.C. index region. The nation’s capital comes in just under Orange County at 144.6.

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