For millions of middle- and working-class Americans, the "American Dream" is all but dead. Far from being able to afford their own homes, the Fed’s latest survey on the wellbeing of US households revealed that nearly a quarter of Americans are unable to pay their monthly bills on time, and nearly half have less than $400 in the bank…
But in what’s perhaps the most comprehensive analysis of the financial security of American workers, a study published by HowMuch.net explores the true cost of living for working-class Americans in dozens of US cities.
What they found is hardly surprising. In most areas of the country, the average working-class household would be running a spending deficit. According to HowMuch’s methodology, the best place to live from a financial perspective on an Average Joe’s salary is Fort Worth, Texas, which would leave a working-class family with a $10,447 surplus at the end of the year. On the flip side, that same family would need an additional $91,184 just to break even in New York City.
To arrive at these scores, the researchers used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for income levels, the National Bureau of Economic Research for tax data, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the cost of food.
Newark, NJ, Chesapeake, VA and Jacksonville, FL are the only coastal cities where a worker can adequately support his family without accumulating debt. Notice there are exactly zero affordable cities on the west coast.
Likewise, San Antonio is the only one of the top 10 most populated cities where a working-class family can afford a decent living. Out of the top 50 cities, only a dozen qualify.
HowMuch illustrates its data in the map below. The darker the shade of red, the worse off the typical working-class family is. The darker the shade of green, the better off they would be. The size of the bubble also fits on a sliding scale—large and dark red means the city is totally unaffordable. Bigger dark green bubbles likewise indicate a city where the working class can get by.
And as you can see, the red is much more prominent than the green.
So where are the best places for working-class families to live? Here are the top five cities with the net surplus wokers are left with after living expenses.
1. Fort Worth, TX ($10,447)
2. Newark, NJ (($10,154)
3. Glendale, AZ ($10,120)
4. Gilbert, AZ ($9,760)
5. Mesa, AZ ($7,780)
And here are the five worst cities, with their associated cost-of-living deficits.
1. New York, NY (-$91,184)
2. San Francisco, CA (-$83,272)
3. Boston, MA (-$61,900)
4. Washington, DC (-$50,535)
5. Philadelphia, PA (-$37,850)
Readers can take a more in-depth look at the data using HowMuch’s True Cost of Living tool, which is available here.