I live in the North of England, where the cost of living is decidedly less than it is in the south. In Newcastle, my nearest city, you can enjoy a relatively comfortable existence earning the national average wage. In London, you’ll be lucky if that same wage gets you more than a cardboard box in a shop doorway. This disparity is common in all countries, but as bad as it is in London, it’s at its most extreme in the US.
Across the pond your state and city could dictate whether you’re rich or poor, even if you’re working in the same job with the same skills. It will drastically alter how much you spend, now much you earn and how comfortable life is for you, as explained in these examples.
This is obviously where the biggest differences can be seen. In cities such as San Francisco and New York, you’ll need more than $3,000 a month to rent the average one-bedroom apartment, while cities like Los Angeles, Washington, Miami and Seattle are all around $2,000. If you live in Wichita, Kansas, however, then you can get the same property for less than $500 a month.
Cities like Cleveland, El Paso, Detroit, Louisville, Kansas City, Memphis and Omaha will all cost less than $800, roughly 1/3rd the price of a similar rental in Oakland or San Jose, California. In fact, even Las Vegas, one of the most visited cities in the world, has an average monthly rent of $850, which is half of what you will pay in Chicago and Pittsburgh.
A dinner and movie for two is as cheap as $60 in states like Alabama and Mississippi and even cheaper in Nebraska and Iowa, while the average inexpensive restaurant visit is just $8 per person in Kentucky. In New York, you will pay on average about 50% more. This includes everything from staple foods bought at the grocery store, to ticket prices, while the average New York restaurant will cost you two to three times more than one in Alabama and Iowa.
Sunnyvale in California and Honolulu in Hawaii play a close second and third to NYC, but overall California and Washington D.C. are more expensive states.
The median household income in New York is over $72,000, but the highest is Sunnyvale, where the average income is over $105,000 thanks to the tech geniuses in Silicon Valley. The unemployment rate is just 3.8% here (1% less than New York). On a county-by-county basis, Fairfax and Loudoun in Virginia lead the way, with twice the average median household income as those 100 places below them.
If we focus only on the state, then the one with the highest median household income is Maryland, followed by D.C., while Mississippi, Arkansas and West Virginia languish near the bottom. On a per capita basis, Connecticut, New Jersey and Massachusetts and Maryland make up the top four, while Mississippi remains at the bottom.
Maybe I’m appealing to a stereotype here, but I know Americans love their guns. Well, most of them anyway. And because of the law differences from state to state, as well as supply and demand, the price of owning these murder machines also differs greatly depending on where you are.
In some Californian counties you can pay up to $300 just to acquire a license, as well as a further $200 to $250 to renew it every two years. This means that owning a gun for 10 years could cost you around $1,000 to $1,500, while in Florida, land of Disney World and-apparently-wholesale warfare, a seven year license will cost less than $250.
Guns are increasingly becoming a rarity in CA, with prices rising as the local governments tighten their grip. In fact, it’s ranked as one of the worst states for gun owners which, in my view, makes it a great state for everyone else. Florida is number 12, with Arizona top of the list.
The service industry is fairly standard across the United States, dominated by chains that pay the same in one state as they do in the next. But specialized and skilled jobs can range quite sizably from state to state.
If you’re in California, particularly in Los Angeles, you can look forward to an average wage of more than a quarter of a million dollars. If you’re in South Carolina, North Dakota and several other “poorer” states, that can drop to an average of $160,000. The job is the same, as are the skills needed and the work done, but the clients are richer and the demand is greater. CA personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers will earn more than MA employment attorneys, but those MA attorneys will earn a lot more than criminal attorneys in WY.
Gender also plays a big role, even today. Don’t let anyone convince you that the gender gap doesn’t exist in such specialized roles, because it definitely does, with females earning an average of 10% less even in such a highly skilled job.