Nov 9, 2023 - News

Cost of living in Atlanta cheaper than U.S. average, yet health care among the highest

Cost-of-living index in Atlanta, Q3 2023
Data: Council for Economic and Social Research; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

The cost of living in Atlanta is slightly cheaper than the national average, per a new analysis, Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report.

Why it matters: Atlanta's relatively low cost of living is a selling point for companies and people who want the perks of being in a major U.S. city without a high price tag.

  • As the nation's economy shifts to the South, Atlanta's competition for jobs and talent with regional rivals like North Carolina and Tennessee — places that claim similarly attractive affordability compared to hubs like New York and San Francisco — will only heat up.

Driving the news: Each quarter, the Council for Community and Economic Research assembles a cost-of-living index designed to measure "regional differences in the cost of consumer goods and services."

  • The group's proverbial bucket includes housing, utilities, groceries, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services, and is based on spending by "professional and managerial households in the top income quintile."
  • The result: a snapshot in time that's useful for comparing relative costs across cities.

How it works: An index value of 100 represents the national average cost of living across 269 cities.

  • If a city has a value over 100, its cost of living is higher than average. Under 100, lower than average.
Cost-of-living index, Q3 2023
Data: The Council for Economic and Social Research; Note: Map only shows urban areas with more than 100,000 people; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

By the numbers: Atlanta's cost-of-living index value, as of the third quarter of 2023: a solid 98.

  • Relatively speaking, Atlanta's most expensive category was health care (106.9) followed by transportation (101.6) and groceries (101.1). Its least expensive category was utilities (83.4).

Among cities with more than 100,000 residents, Honolulu (179.2), San Jose (171.3) and San Francisco (169.5) had the country's highest relative cost of living as of Q3 2023.

  • Residents of McAllen, Texas (80.2); Augusta, Georgia (82.8); and Amarillo, Texas (84.4) were enjoying the lowest cost of living.

Of note: Because the list of participating cities changes each quarter, the cost-of-living index can't be used to measure inflation — but other indicators suggest higher prices are sticking around.

The bottom line: Looking to cut costs? Consider a move — especially if you're still working remotely and can carry an Atlanta salary to, say, Amarillo.

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