Planet Money
8:43 am
Tue May 20, 2014

How Far Your Paycheck Goes, In 356 U.S. Cities

Originally published on Tue May 20, 2014 12:16 pm

There's this thing people say all the time in New York and other expensive cities: If I could move somewhere cheaper, and keep my income the same, I'd be much better off.

Alas, in places where the cost of living is lower, pay tends to be lower as well.

So what you really want to know is this: How much do workers make in different cities? And how far does that money go in each city?

The government recently released a data set that lets us dive into these questions. In the graph below, the left-hand side shows the annual income for typical, full-time workers in different metro areas. The right-hand side adjusts that figure for the cost of living in each metro area.

Enter a city name in the box below.

A few things to note:

After adjusting for cost of living, Rochester, Minn., has the country's highest median wage. Bloomington, Ind., has the lowest.

When you adjust for the cost of living, the biggest absolute decline is in Washington, D.C.; the biggest rise is in Danville, Ill.

A few wonky details about the data we used for this graph:

What is interesting about this data set is that it accounts for the things that people actually buy in each city. For example, while owning a car may be way more expensive in New York City than it is in Kansas, car ownership is relatively rare in New York City, so it's not going to figure as prominently in a New Yorker's cost of living.

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