New York and San Francisco are more expensive than the rest of the U.S., and the Bureau of Economic Analysis has made it much easier to see just how much more expensive they are.
The Consumer Price Index, the most commonly used measure of price inflation, measures changes in prices over time. The Bureau of Economic Analysis has created a spatial analogue of the index, comparing prices between different places at a given point in time. These are called Regional Price Parities (RPPs), and they make it possible to compare the cost of living in different places.
RPPs are an index based on comparing local prices to national price levels. For example, the New York metropolitan area has an RPP of about 122. This means that prices in New York are about 22% higher than national average prices. Meanwhile, the part of Minnesota that falls outside of a metropolitan area has an RPP of 86, indicating that prices are 14% lower than the national average there.
Here’s a map showing the 2012 RPPs for the country’s major metropolitan areas, and the nonmetropolitan parts of each state. Blue areas have prices lower than the national average and red areas are more expensive:
The most expensive place was Honolulu, with an RPP of 122.9. The big coastal cities also had prices much higher than the national average. The least expensive metro area in the country was Danville, IL, with an RPP of 79.4. Nonmetropolitan areas of states, that is, rural areas and smaller towns, tended to have lower prices than the U.S. as a whole, especially in the South and Midwest.
Here are the ten most expensive metro areas:
And the ten least expensive:
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