Photo: Brian Debus/Flickr
If you want the ability to stretch your salary further without it being eaten up by housing costs, living in Detroit and Memphis are good bets. That’s according to a new study by job listing and recruiting site Glassdoor who compiled a list of the top 25 US cities where income goes the furthest.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in August that Americans spent about 33 percent of their average annual income in 2015 on housing costs, which includes rent or mortgage payments as well as utilities. Annual housing costs ranked as the single largest annual expense for Americans — outranking transportation, personal insurance and healthcare according to the Bureau’s data.
Glassdoor compared a city’s median base salary to its median home value to determine the city’s cost of living ratio to compile the list of 25 cities. The higher the ratio, the less you are spending outright on annual housing costs and the further your salary will stretch. While some larger cities, like San Francisco and New York City, offer higher salaries, they also come with higher housing costs.
Detroit, MI had the highest cost of living ratio in the Glassdoor study at 50 percent, making it the top city for stretching your salary the furthest. Detroit has a median annual base salary of $61,500 and median home value of $123,100. Large companies like Quicken Loans have taken up residence in Detroit helping to revitalize its downtown, while organizations like Write a House Project provide free housing in Detroit to writers. Glassdoor reported nearly 55,000 open jobs in Detroit on its site in August 2016.
Memphis, TN, home of blues music and shipping giant FedEx, ranked second in the study with a cost of living ratio of 46 percent, a median base salary of $52,000 and a median home value of $112,000. There were almost 18,000 open jobs according to Glassdoor.
Ranking third in the Glassdoor study was the former famous steel town — Pittsburgh, PA, with a cost of living ratio of 45 percent, a median annual base salary of $56,896 and a median home value of $126,000. The former industrial city is currently seeing growth thanks in part to the presence of major universities like Carnegie-Mellon and a growing community of tech startups like Avere and 4Moms. Glassdoor noted Pittsburgh had just over 46,000 open jobs.
Rounding out the top 5 were Cleveland, OH and Indianapolis, IN with cost of living ratios of 44 and 43 percent. Other cities in the top 10 with with cost of living ratios higher than 40 percent were St. Louis, MI, Cincinnati, OH, and Birmingham, AL.
San Francisco ranked as the worst city in the study, with a cost of living ratio of just 11 percent. The median base annual salary in San Francisco was $88,000 — over $25,000 higher than the salary in Detroit — but the median home value was a staggering $806,000. San Francisco had nearly 104,000 open jobs on Glassdoor.
Your annual salary will only go a little further in New York City, where the cost of living ratio is 18 percent. New York City’s median base annual salary is $70,000 and the median home value is $384,100. Known worldwide for its finance, banking, luxury real estate, and strong arts industries, Glassdoor reported there were over 250,000 open jobs in New York City.
“Though there are certainly other financial factors to consider when taking into account total cost of living, this data reinforces that pay typically goes further in mid-sized cities versus big metropolitan areas where there is often tighter competition for housing,” Dr. Andrew Chamberlain, Glassdoor’s Chief Economist, noted in the report.