With inflation rates soaring and the cost of living spiraling, more and more people are moving away from their expensive home states to search for the perfect job opportunities and a more stress-free and affordable life.
But which state is the least affordable for its residents? We’ve delved into the data to find out the locations pricing their workers out, comparing the cost of living to the average salary in each state, as well as the cost of groceries, housing, utilities, and transportation to find the most expensive US states.
Difference Between Cost of Living and Average Wage
There’s a high price to pay for living in paradise as Hawaii is the least affordable state overall, as the cost of living is a whopping 20.32% higher than the average wage. The state’s high rates of taxation and the high cost of transporting essential goods to the islands have driven up the cost of living so much it has caused a net loss in migration.
Next up is the Pacific Northwestern state of Oregon. The state has a relatively high average housing cost, caused by shortages and buyers moving from wealthier areas of the West Coast. This means the cost of living has surpassed the average wage by slightly over 7%.
Thanks to its high rate of state and local taxes being 9.33% more than the national average, The Pine Tree State is one of the least affordable in the nation. Workers would need a salary nearly 4% more than the state average of $76,000 to afford the average cost of living.
Difference Between Cost of Living and Average Wage
Virginia takes the top spot as the most affordable state in the US, with the average worker taking home nearly double the cost of living. The Old Dominion State is home to some of the highest-earning counties in The US, thanks to its proximity to Washington, D.C, which attracts high earners in law and policy-making.
Illinois takes second place, with the average worker taking home over 40% more than the average cost of living in The Prairie State. The cost of living in Illinois is slightly cheaper than the US average, thanks to affordable housing. The average salary is also $25,000 higher than the national average as Illinois is the business hub of the Midwest.
The Lone Star State comes next. The cost of living is exceptionally low in Texas as residents don’t have to pay state income tax. Also, housing is cheaper than the national average and the state has a booming economy in the technology and healthcare sectors, driving average salaries up.
The tropical paradise imports most of its food from the mainland (which is over 3,600 miles away!) so its grocery bills are nearly 60% more expensive than the US average thanks to transport costs. This means the average Hawaiian pays $11,500 a year for their food or just under 9% of their average annual salary.
Similar to Hawaii, a lot of food in Alaska is transported over long distances, making prices in the most remote and rural areas exorbitantly high. Thanks to the cost of transportation, groceries are just over a third more expensive than the US average, costing Alaskans nearly $10,000 a year.
Coming next, the Empire State charges its residents nearly 20% more for groceries than the American average, so the average New Yorker pays over $166 a week to stock their fridge. Grocery prices in New York are sky-high thanks to the higher rents for commercial buildings and higher wages for workers.
The Great Lake State has the cheapest groceries in the nation, with the average price being 9% lower than the national average. The state’s large agricultural sector is to thank for these low grocery prices.
Hawaii once again tops the list as one of the most expensive states, being surrounded by water means space comes at a premium, and being such a desirable location is sending house prices soaring. Thanks to these factors, the state has an index score of 313, making housing costs on the islands over three times more expensive than the US average.
With its reputation as being one of the most expensive locations in the world, it’s no surprise that New York has one of the highest index scores for housing, paying more than two and a half times the national average. This is thanks to the very high demand in a market where very few houses and apartments are available, driving prices up.
Many people dream of living in the Golden State, drawn to its year-round sunshine, iconic cities, and beautiful landscapes, and thanks to this demand housing costs are just under twice the national average. The average Californian spends $41,000 yearly on housing costs, with prices driven up by the lack of affordable housing and very low property taxes.
Taking the top spot as the most affordable state for housing is Mississippi. With its low rent prices and high level of land availability, housing in The Magnolia State costs just two-thirds of the national average.
The Aloha State has the highest index score for the price of utilities, with bills setting residents back just under 70% more than the US average. Residents pay an average of $7,500 annually, due to the cost of importing the oil needed to power the state’s generators.
Despite its wealth of energy resources including gas, oil, and coal, Alaska has some of the most expensive utility bills. The state scores 157 in the utility index, with the average Alaskan paying about $626 a month, more than double the cheapest utility bills in the index. The bulk of this cost stems from residents heating their homes in the winter to combat the extremely low temperatures.
Next up is the New England state of Connecticut, with utility prices costing 32% more than the national average, or nearly $6,000 each year. Connecticut relies mostly on natural gas for its energy needs and being at the end of the pipeline means high transit costs, which are passed on to residents so utility prices remain some of the highest in the country.
Utilities in The Gem State cost just $3,678 a year on average, making it the cheapest in the US. This is thanks to their cheap electricity, as the majority is generated by hydropower and a further 20% from other renewable electricity sources.
Hawaii takes the top spot as the state with the most expensive transportation costs, 41% higher than the national average of $9,826. In terms of car ownership, high gas prices and registration fees mean islanders face the highest transport costs in the US.
Next up, Californians pay just over 36% more than average in transport costs, which equates to $1,114 a month. High gas prices and a high rate of car ownership, rather than reliance on public transport make California one of the most expensive states in terms of transportation.
With its biggest city, Portland routinely ranked as having one of the best public transit systems in the country - therefore it's surprising to see Oregon as one of the most expensive states for transport. It costs citizens a quarter more than the national average to make essential journeys.
Transportation in The Volunteer State is the cheapest in the nation 14% less than the national average. The average resident pays just $8,450 annually for transportation, saving $6,000 more than the most expensive state, Hawaii.
We wanted to find the least affordable US states by comparing the overall cost of living in each state according to World Population Review to the average salary in each state, also sourced from World Population Review to find the percentage difference between the two.
Index data for the grocery, housing, utilities, and transportation factors were converted into dollar amounts by multiplying the index score by the national averages for each factor sourced from World Population Review. These figures were then compared to the average costs for each factor in each state to find the percentage difference.