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How Affordable is Metro Atlanta?

Posted on: Jun 29, 2016

It’s no secret that New York and San Francisco are very expensive places to live. But how does the cost of living in metro Atlanta compare to these and other regions around the country?

For years, the low cost of living in Atlanta and other Sun Belt regions has been one of the factors that has encouraged people from around the country to migrate south. But is Atlanta still an affordable place to live?

ARC’s latest Regional Snapshot finds that when it comes to affordability, Atlanta today is pretty much in the middle of the pack: We’re no more or less expensive than the average metro area.

Here’s how Atlanta compares to other metro areas around the country:

  • Of the 25 largest U.S. metro areas, Atlanta ranks as the 15th most expensive. New York is the most expensive, while San Antonio is the least expensive.
  • New York’s cost of living is more than double Atlanta’s. If someone in metro Atlanta with a $50,000 salary were to move to New York, she would need a salary of $114,000 to have the equivalent spending power. In San Francisco, she would need $88,000. In San Antonio, she would need only $43,700.
  • Transportation expenses increase the cost of living in Atlanta. Transportation in metro Atlanta is five percent more expensive than in the average metro area.
  • Atlanta’s cost of living is on the rise. In 2006, metro Atlanta was 4.4 percent less expensive than the average metro. Today it is the same as the average metro.

Factors other than cost of living should be considered when evaluating the affordability of any region. One key factor is the availability of jobs paying wages that would enable an adult to afford housing, food, transportation, child care and other basic expenses. This is known as the minimum income needed for a family to be self-sufficient–meaning an income that allows them to live without public assistance or housing and food insecurity.

MIT has developed a Living Wage Calculator that identifies the minimum income needed for a variety of family configurations to be self-sufficient in states and counties across the United States.

In metro Atlanta for example, the Living Wage Calculator indicates that a single parent with two children would need to make $26.68 an hour for the family to be financially self-sufficient. The minimum wage in metro Atlanta is $7.25 an hour. The minimum wage would need to be nearly four times higher for a single parent with two children to meet the living wage with a minimum wage job.

On average across the 25 metros compared in MIT’s calculator, the minimum wage would need to increase 257% to attain the living wage for a single parent, two-child family.