The cost of living is often used to compare how expensive it is to live in one location versus another. It is the amount of money needed to sustain a certain standard of living by affording basic expenses such as food, housing, healthcare, and taxes.
Cost of living is one of the big factors people use to determine where they want to be located in addition to cultural attractions, a healthy job market, and good school systems.
The cost of living in the United States varies significantly from one state to the next. The factors affecting the cost of living include the average earning, the average cost of rent or buying property, and the price of essential goods. Unfortunately, many states are unaffordable for middle-class wage earners due to slow wage growth, inflation, and expensive housing in the U.S.
Hawaii is the most expensive state to live in in the United States. Hawaii has a cost index of 192.9. The average home price in Hawaii is $1,158,492 and the average monthly energy bill is $388.65. Basic physical goods, such as a half-gallon of milk, cost more than anywhere on the mainland United States because they need to be shipped to the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
2. District of Columbia
Washington D.C. is the second-most expensive state in the United States. D.C. has expensive housing, with the average two-bedroom apartment costing $2,776 per month and the median home value at $628,914. The living wage in D.C. is $67,867, the highest living wage in the country. Luckily, D.C. has one of the highest median household incomes in the country at $85,203 per year.
California is the third-most-expensive state in the U.S. with notoriously high housing and transportation costs. The average two-bedroom apartment in California runs for about $2,495 per month and is even more expensive in cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles. California has some of the highest gasoline prices in the United States and the average monthly energy bill is about $237.13.
4. New York
New York is the fourth-most expensive state in the United States. New York has the most expensive housing, with the average cost of a home at $1,901,222. Rent in New York is also known to be one of the highest in the country with an average rent of $3,667. The closer one lives to New York City, the more expensive it is to live in the state. The living wage in New York is $59,128 and the median household income is $64,894.
Oregon is the fifth-most expensive state in the country. Oregon’s median home value is $549,358, more than double the U.S. median. Groceries in Oregon are also more expensive than the U.S. average, especially coffee and sugar. Transportation costs in Oregon are the third-highest in the country behind Hawaii and California. Luckily, utility costs are below-average.
The sixth-most expensive state in the U.S. is Massachusetts, which is home to Boston, one of the most expensive cities in the United State. The average home price in Massachusetts is $663,942; almost three times the national average. Massachusetts residents’ monthly energy bill is around $236.62 on average and their gas prices are fairly high as well. Luckily, as the most educated state in the U.S., Massachusetts also has one of the highest median household incomes in the country of $77,378.
Alaska is the U.S.’s seventh most expensive state. Like Hawaii, Alaska also needs to have all of its goods shipped in from the mainland United States and is separated from the mainland by Canada. Additionally, Alaska’s winters are cold and dark, causing energy bills to be very high. Luckily, Alaska’s median household income is $76,715, the sixth-highest in the country, and Alaska residents receive oil dividends to help boost their income.
The eighth-most expensive state in the United States is Maryland. Maryland’s expensiveness can be attributed to its proximity to Washington D.C. The average home price in Maryland is $794,750. Despite the cost, Maryland has the second-lowest poverty rate in the U.S. of 8.2%. Additionally, Maryland has the second-highest median household income of $81,868.
Connecticut is the ninth-most expensive state in the United States. Connecticut has expensive housing, utilities, and alcohol. The average home price in Connecticut is $662,447 and the monthly energy bill for a home is about $215.97. Additionally, a bottle of white table wine in the state will cost about $10.63 on average, which is double the price than in other states. Grocery prices are also above average.
10. New Jersey
New Jersey rounds out the ten most expensive states in the U.S. New Jersey is especially expensive the closer one lives to New York City, specifically in Bergen and Passaic counties. The average home price in New Jersey is $578,386 and the average one-bedroom apartment costs $1,242, higher than the national average. Coupled with high property values, New Jersey also has the highest property tax rate in the country of 2.44%. New Jersey residents help pay for this cost of living with the third-highest median household income in the country of $79,363 per year.
At the opposite end, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Oklahoma are the least expensive states. In general, however, states where it is cheaper to live have lower median incomes. In 2017, the median household income in Mississippi was $43,529 but the US median was $60,336.