Cost of living is a surprisingly complex topic. It’s true that the cost of living is usually reflected as a single number, which makes it seem simple. In reality, breaking down the relative cost of living in an area isn’t easy, as there are a lot of factors that go into those calculations.
Many people place a great amount of value on the cost of living metrics. This is especially true if they are considering moving to a new area, planning a lengthy vacation, or trying to determine the best place to open a new business. Of course, there are some quirky cost of living factoids that are simply interesting. For the curious, here are 16 insightful cost of living statistics that might pique your curiosity.
16 Insightful Cost of Living Statistics
1. With a Score of 84.7, Mississippi Has the Lowest Cost of Living in the U.S.
For the cost of living, a score of 100 reflects the national average. When a state has a score below 100, that means it is a less expensive place to live in comparison to the average.
On the cheap end of the spectrum is Mississippi. The state has a cost of living index of just 84.7. When it comes to housing specifically, Mississippi sits at an astonishing 66.1, the lowest in the nation.
2. Hawaii Has the Highest Cost of Living, Coming in at 197.6
While it’s no secret that living in Hawaii isn’t cheap, it’s cost of living score takes many people off guard. The Aloha State has a score of 197.6.
Possibly even more distressing is Hawaii’s housing cost score. That comes in at a shocking 334.2, also the highest in the nation.
In fact, Hawaii doesn’t have a single cost of living score below 100. For groceries, utilities, transportation, and healthcare costs, ever score is above average.
3. 47% of Americans Believe Cost of Living Increases Are a Threat to Financial Security
When it comes to financial security, the cost of living concerns households in the United States the most. Forty-seven percent of Americans label cost of living increases as the biggest threat to their financial security.
Coming in a close second was concern about the rising cost of healthcare, which 44% of survey participants felt was a major threat. In third place, with 34 percent of respondents citing it as a concern, was economic slowdown or recession.
4. Hong Kong, Osaka, and Singapore Tie for 1st, with the Highest Cost of Living in the World
Not one, but three cities have the somewhat dubious distinction of having the highest cost of living. Osaka, Singapore, and Hong Kong all tied for first.
[Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit]
5. New York City Is the 4th on Most Expensive City in the World
When it comes to high-cost living, New York City isn’t just a leader in the United States. When compared to other major metro areas from all across the globe, NYC comes in 4th.
Rounding out the top 5 is Zurich, Switzerland.
[Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit]
6. The Cities with the Lowest Cost of Living in the World are Damascus and Tashkent
Damascus, Syria, and Tashkent, Uzbekistan, tied in 2020, both coming in with the lowest cost scores among major cities. Rounding out the bottom five are Almaty, Kazakhstan, Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Karachi Pakistan.
[Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit]
7. Colorado Springs Has Highest Cost of Living Increase at 35.61%
In just a single year (2017-2018), Colorado Springs, Colorado, saw its cost of living shoot up by 35.61%. That means, to live comfortably, households need nearly $17,600 a year more than they did the previous year.
Not far behind them was Austin, Texas, with a 33.92% rise, followed by Columbus, Ohio, at 31.48%. Rounding at the top five were Fresno, California, and Arlington, Texas, with 31.29 and 30.53%, respectively.
8. The COVID-19 Pandemic Led to Largest Decrease in CPI Since 2008 Market Crash
The coronavirus impacted the U.S. economy in a number of ways, including leading to the largest decline in the consumer price index (CPI) since December 2008, at the height of the last economic recession.
In March 2020, the CPI fell by 0.8%. Then, in April, it dropped another 0.8%.
While the CPI did rebound, rising by 0.6% in June 2020 alone, it is still a clear demonstration of the volatility created by the pandemic.
9. Boise Is the #1 Hottest Housing Market, with Prices Rising 11.1% in a Year
When people think of hot housing markets, they usually turn their attention to major cities on the coast. However, it isn’t Seattle or San Francisco that is seeing prices skyrocket. Instead, Boise, Idaho, is leading that charge.
Last year, home prices rose by 11.1% in Boise. That put the city ahead of other hot markets, including Tucson, Arizona, and Chattanooga, Tennessee.
[Source: Market Watch]
10. Housing Prices Tumble By More Than 15% in Two Years Peoria
On the other side of the housing spectrum, Peoria, Illinois, is seeing some significant declines when it comes to prices. The average two-year price change was -15.9%. Approximately 21% of all mortgaged properties are underwater, and foreclosure a reality for 1 in every 932 homes there.
[Source: Yahoo! Finance]
11. For a Typical American Household, Utilities Cost $4,947 a Year
On average, U.S. families spend $4,947 on their home utilities. That includes water, electricity, garbage, internet, cable, and natural gas bills.
12. But Utility Costs Average Over $7k a Year in Hawaii
On average, households in Hawaii spend over $7,050 a year in utilities. While high electricity bills play a role, natural gas rates really tip the scales. Hawaii residents pay more for natural gas than people living in any other state, with the average cost coming out around $2,676 a year for gas alone.
13. An Average Family of Four Spends $591 to $1,350 on Groceries
On average, a family of four spends between $591 and $1,350 on groceries. Exactly how much they spend can depend on a few factors. For example, food prices differ between cities and states. Additionally, households with older children usually spend more than households with younger children.
Further, whether the family is using a thrifty plan or a higher-cost plan matters. For example, a low-cost approach averages between about $756 and $895, while a moderate-cost plan comes in closer to $933 to $1,114.
[Source: Department of Agriculture]
14. The Real Value of Minimum Wage is 31% Less Than It Was in 1968
The federal minimum wage has remained stagnant in the United States for some time. The last increase was in 2007, bringing it up to $7.25 per hour.
Since inflation slowly erodes the value of a dollar, the minimum wage’s purchasing power has fallen by 17% in the past ten years, even after the values were adjusted to 2019’s using CPI-U-RS.
In comparison to 1968, the minimum wage’s real value has dropped by 31%. That means individuals who work full-time and earn minimum wage are bringing in a salary worth the equivalent of $6,800 less than those who earned minimum wage more than five decades ago.
[Source: Economic Policy Institute]
15. The Federal Minimum Wage Has Only Rise By $7 Since Its Inception
The first federal minimum wage came into existence in 1938, which was over 80 years ago. While it has been increased several times, it only rose $7 in 71 years (between 1938 and 2009, the year the last raise was put in place). That averages out to just $0.09 a year.
16. Washington, D.C. Has the Highest Minimum Wage, Set at $15/hr
While the federal minimum wage is just $7.25, many cities and states have a higher minimum. The U.S. capital city has the highest in the country: starting on July 1, 2020, Washington, D.C. businesses had to start paying their staff at least $15.00 per hour for non-tipped positions. Positions that earn tips have to have a base wage of at least $5.00 per hour, though the employer does have to make up the difference if they don’t reach the equivalent of $15 per hour with their tips.
That means Washington, D.C., leads the minimum wage pack. In second-place is Washington State, which comes in at $13.50. California is third with a minimum wage of $13.00.
Ultimately, the cost of living figures impact every person. It determines how far their income can go, influencing their quality of life and whether they achieve certain goals, like owning a home.
Wages also play a role. If an area has a high cost of living without income levels that align with those cost, households may struggle to make ends meet.
Understanding various aspects of the cost of living can be beneficial, as it allows households to potentially make wiser financial choices. At a minimum, some of the data is helpful, as it highlights areas where costs may be particularly hard to manage.