The Most Expensive Cities That You Can Live In The United States

More and more people moving to big cities in the United States to live, work or study, and some prefer a flat in one of these most expensive cities in the country.
December 06, 2021 | 16:57

The vast majority of Americans—84% of us—live in cities. Good jobs, educational opportunities, culture and entertainment, and the promise of a better lifestyle naturally draw more people to big cities, and the cost of living consequently rises. The cost of living in the most expensive cities in America ranges from about 40 to 80% higher than the national average. Factors contributing to the cost of living include housing costs (expressed as home prices and rent) and the cost of various goods and services such as food, utilities, health care, and transportation, according to the Bungalow site. Here are the most expensive cities in the U.S.

1. New York City, New York

Photo: Conde Nast Traveler
Photo: Conde Nast Traveler

New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from New York State, or NYC for short is the most populous city in the United States. With a 2020 population of 8,804,190 distributed over 300.46 square miles (778.2 km2), New York City is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the State of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban area. With over 20 million people in its metropolitan statistical area and 23,582,649 in its combined statistical area as of 2020, New York is one of the world's most populous megacities. New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, significantly influencing commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, dining, art, fashion, and sports, and is the most photographed city in the world. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy and has sometimes been called the capital of the world.

In the 21st century, New York has emerged as a global node of creativity, entrepreneurship, and environmental sustainability, and as a symbol of freedom and cultural diversity. In 2019, New York was voted the greatest city in the world per a survey of over 30,000 people from 48 cities worldwide, citing its cultural diversity.

2. San Francisco, California

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

In 2019, San Francisco was the county with the seventh-highest income in the United States, with a per capita income of $139,405. In the same year, San Francisco proper had a GDP of $203.5 billion, and a GDP per capita of $230,829. The San Jose–San Francisco–Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area, with a GDP of $1.09 trillion as of 2019, is the country's third-largest economy. Of the 105 primary statistical areas in the U.S. with over 500,000 residents, this CSA had the highest GDP per capita in 2019, at $112,348. San Francisco was ranked 12th in the world and second in the United States on the Global Financial Centres Index as of March 2021.

A popular tourist destination, San Francisco is known for its cool summers, fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of architecture, and landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars, the former Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, Fisherman's Wharf, and its Chinatown district. San Francisco is also the headquarters of companies such as Wells Fargo, Twitter, Square, Airbnb, Levi Strauss & Co., Gap Inc., Salesforce, Dropbox, Pacific Gas, and Electric Company, Uber, and Lyft.

3. Honolulu, Hawaii

 Photo: Britannica
Photo: Britannica

Honolulu is the capital and largest city of the U.S. state of Hawaii, which is located in the Pacific Ocean. It is an unincorporated county seat of the consolidated City and County of Honolulu, situated along the southeast coast of the island of Oʻahu, and is the westernmost and southernmost major U.S. city. Honolulu is Hawaii's main gateway to the world. It is also a major hub for international business, finance, hospitality, and military defense in both the state and Oceania. The city is characterized by a mix of various Asian, Western, and Pacific cultures, as reflected in its diverse demography, cuisine, and traditions.

The average salary in Honolulu is only slightly higher than the national average at $57,067, and that money doesn’t go far on the island. In fact, Honolulu is the least affordable city in the US when you divide the local living wage (the wage that allows people to attain a minimum standard of living) by the average wage. Groceries are 39% more expensive in Honolulu than on the mainland, and utilities cost 76% more. As of January 2020, home prices are around $620,000, similar to what you’d pay in Boston, a city with higher salaries. Renting is a less expensive option in Honolulu, with rental housing costing $1,881 on average.

4. Boston, Massachusetts

Photo: Travel + Leisure
Photo: Travel + Leisure

Boston is one of the oldest municipalities in the United States, founded on the Shawmut Peninsula in 1630 by Puritan settlers from the English town of the same name. It was the scene of several key events of the American Revolution, such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, the Battle of Bunker Hill, and the siege of Boston. Upon American independence from Great Britain, the city continued to be an important port and manufacturing hub as well as a center for education and culture. The city has expanded beyond the original peninsula through land reclamation and municipal annexation. Its rich history attracts many tourists, with Faneuil Hall alone drawing more than 20 million visitors per year. Boston's many firsts include the United States' first public park (Boston Common, 1634), first public or state school (Boston Latin School, 1635), and first subway system (Tremont Street subway, 1897).

The city has one of the highest costs of living in the United States as it has undergone gentrification, though it remains high on world livability rankings.

5. Washington, D.C.

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia

Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia, also known as just Washington or just D.C., is the capital city of the United States. It is located on the east bank of the Potomac River which forms its southwestern and southern border with the U.S. state of Virginia and shares a land border with the U.S. state of Maryland on its remaining sides. The city was named after George Washington, the first president of the United States and a Founding Father, and the federal district is named after Columbia, a female personification of the nation. As the seat of the U.S. federal government and several international organizations, the city is an important world political capital. It is one of the most visited cities in the U.S., seeing over 20 million visitors in 2016.

It’s no surprise that the largest employer in the nation’s capitol is the federal government, accounting for one-quarter of jobs in the city. Those in the business and professional services sectors will also have no trouble finding work. As of January 2020, median home prices in the District of Columbia were at $580,000, and $2,233 was the average rent. It may not have a reputation as the most glamorous US city, but the cost of living in Washington, D.C., is solidly affordable on the average metro area income of $72,600.

6. Oakland, California

Photo:  Visit California
Photo: Visit California

Oakland is the largest city and the county seat of Alameda County, California. A major West Coast port city, Oakland is the largest city in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, the third-largest city overall in the San Francisco Bay Area, the eighth-most populated city in California, and the 45th most populated city in the United States. With a population of 440,646 as of 2020, it serves as a trade center for the San Francisco Bay Area; the Port of Oakland is the busiest port in the San Francisco Bay, the entirety of Northern California, and the fifth busiest in the United States of America. An act to incorporate the city was passed on May 4, 1852, and incorporation was later approved on March 25, 1854. Oakland is a charter city.

Boston has a fast-growing job market and great schools, so it’s no wonder that people want to live there. In this competitive housing market, average rents were $3,434 as of early 2020, and median home prices reached $644,000. Food costs, including restaurants and groceries, are high, and the average person should expect to spend about $434 on groceries each month. The average yearly wage is $69,240, but jobs in Boston’s big finance and information technology industries can pay over $100,000 and bridge the cost of living gap.

7. San Jose, California

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

San Jose is notable as a center of innovation, for its affluence, Mediterranean climate, and extremely high cost of living. As of June 2021, the San Jose metropolitan area has the highest percentage of million-dollar (or more) homes in the United States. Its connection to the booming high tech industry phenomenon known as Silicon Valley sparked Mayor Tom McEnery to adopt for the city the motto of "Capital of Silicon Valley" in 1988. San Jose is one of the wealthiest major cities in the United States and the world, and has the third-highest GDP per capita in the world (after Zürich, Switzerland and Oslo, Norway), according to the Brookings Institution.

Located about an hour south of San Francisco, San Jose has become popular among residents who appreciate the shorter commute to Silicon Valley. San Jose’s heavy tech presence drives up the average salary to a cool $83,960. Unfortunately, the housing market has adjusted upwards in response, with home prices hovering near the $1 million mark.

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