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A dollar doesn’t always go the same distance in different cities. There are cities in the United States where everyday items cost a lot more than other places. A paycheck goes further where cost of living is lower. Generally, the places with the highest salaries have the highest cost of living. But when you adjust salaries based on the cost of living, salaries tend to be higher in smaller metro areas than the larger ones. For example, the average salary in Honolulu is already not very high, and the cost of goods are high because they have to be shipped long distances. This makes living off of the average salary very difficult.
In order to really understand how much you earn in comparison to what others in different cities are earning for the same position, you need to crunch all of the Cost of Living numbers, Fortunately, Indeed has just released a study that takes all of this information into account and makes it easier to see how high your relative, adjusted salary is. Adjusted salaries are highest in Birmingham, Alabama – Jackson, Mississippi – and Fresno, California. Only three cities in California made the top 20 list for adjusted salaries: Fresno, Bakersfield, and Modesto.
This study was done by calculating the average salary for all jobs with the annual salary information on Indeed between August 2016 and July 2017 in the 104 metropolitan areas with a population of 500,000 or more. The salaries were then adjusted for the cost of living in each metropolitan area.
When the salary is adjusted to the cost of living, the high salaries in large metropolitan areas don’t look like a good deal anymore. There is not one coastal metro that ranked in the top 20. The Central Valley ranked in the top 20 because housing costs are so low compared to any other large city in California.
Even with the extremely high cost of living in San Jose and San Francisco, they don’t make the bottom 20 list. This is a combination of the salaries being very high and the cost of living only accounting for one-third of people’s salaries. The cost of goods are not as high in San Jose and San Francisco as Honolulu because they don’t need to be shipped across the Pacific.
So wouldn’t it make sense to move to one of these cities with the highest adjusted salaries? Maybe for some, but most people are attached to where they currently live. Moving completely uproots your life and a lot of people don’t want to have to start all over. Others think it’s worth the loss of income to live where they want to live. As for Fresno, residents get to live within 1.5 hours of three national parks (Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia), and Pinnacles National Park within 2.5 hours, while living in a big city and enjoying the benefits of low cost of living.