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ARC Regional Snapshot: Cost of Living in Metro Atlanta is Slightly Below National Average

Posted on: Mar 28, 2018

By Mike Carnathan, Group Manager, Research and Analytics

How does metro Atlanta measure up when it comes to cost of living? For this month’s Regional Snapshot, we compared 25 large U.S. metro areas. Here’s what we found:

Metro Atlanta’s overall cost-of-living is slightly below the national average

If the national average is given a ranking of 100 points, then the Atlanta region has a ranking of 98.8, between Houston (98.1) and Pittsburgh (99.4). Among the 25 largest metro areas, the Atlanta region is 18th most expensive. Metro Atlanta ranks 9th most affordable in terms of rent, and 6th  most affordable when it comes to home prices.

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Start spreading the news: Manhattan is the most expensive place in the country

Cost of living in Manhattan is more than 2.3 times the national average. If someone in metro Atlanta with a $50,000 salary were to move to New York, she would need to make around $120,600 to have the equivalent spending power. To move to San Francisco, she would need about $97,500; to move to Dallas, she would need $51,600.

Health care in metro Atlanta is 7.5% more expensive than the national average

The Health Care Index is determined by looking at the cost of five common items: optometrist visits, doctor visits, dentist visits, prescription drugs, and non-prescription medications. All patient exams are priced without insurance in order to truly compare costs. Here is how Atlanta measures against similar metro areas:


Optometrist Doctor Dentist Non-prescription drug Prescription drug
Atlanta $102.23 $105.10 $114.97 $9.38 $414.55
Dallas $109.38 $106.11 $96.42 $8.87 $428.97
New York $107.00 $105.00 $125.00 $11.99 $435.07
San Francisco $124.14 $142.61 $122.05 $11.97 $421.85
Metro Average $101.93 $108.00 $92.54 $9.29 $426.17

Income and cost of living: It’s all about bang for the buck

The line on this graph represents the relationship between median household income (vertical axis), and cost of living (horizontal axis). In metro areas below the diagonal line, like San Diego and Los Angeles, incomes are stretched to support cost of living.This means that in New York, a median household income of $72,000 has to support the highest cost of living in the nation. Meanwhile, Washington, D.C.’s $96,000 median income easily supports the relatively high cost of living.



Life is pricier on the coasts

A $5 loaf of bread, versus a $2 loaf of bread

Grocery prices vary widely depending on where you live. For example, a can (or “brick”) of coffee (11.5 oz.) costs more than $6 in San Francisco, but less than $4 in Miami. In New York, you will pay more than $12 on average for a six-pack of beer, but head west to Detroit, and you’ll pay only $8.03. Atlanta sits comfortably in the middle with both these products—$4.66 for the coffee, and $9.07 for the beer.

Find more details about this story, complete with graphs and other visuals, at 33°n, our regional data blog, which regularly shares stats and insights about the Atlanta region.