Nov 16, 2023 - News

Seattle has 9th-highest cost of living in U.S., study finds

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

Seattleites know that just about everything here — from food to housing to transportation — costs more than the national average.

  • Heading into the holiday season, a new analysis shows just how much more we're paying.

What's happening: Among 269 U.S. urban areas analyzed, Seattle had the ninth-highest cost of living in the third quarter of 2023.

Why it matters: Seattle's shortage of affordable housing regularly grabs headlines. But these figures show how people living here also have to contend with higher costs for food, health care and other services, making life in the Emerald City even less affordable.

Details: An overall cost-of-living index value of 100 represents the average cost of living across 269 cities.

  • Seattle's index was 145.7 — far below the highest-cost area, Manhattan, which had an index of 227.8, but only slightly behind Los Angeles, which had an index of 147.3.
  • Seattle's overall cost of living also trailed Honolulu; San Jose; San Francisco; Brooklyn, New York; Orange County, California; and Boston.

Meanwhile, the Emerald City was deemed slightly more expensive overall than San Diego; Queens, New York; Washington, D.C.; and Oakland.

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

Yes, but: Groceries and transportation costs were higher in Seattle than in Manhattan, Brooklyn and LA, even if our housing prices weren't as steep.

  • The most expensive spending category for Seattleites was housing, with a cost index more than double the national average.
  • The cheapest category in Seattle was utilities, which came in only slightly above average.

Plus: Two other cities in the Puget Sound region — Kent and Everett — also ranked among the country's 25 most expensive places to live, per this report.

Of note: The analysis is based on spending by "professional and managerial households in the top income quintile."

  • 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 that higher prices are certainly sticking around.

The bottom line: If you're a Seattleite whose budget feels strained lately, you can perhaps take solace in knowing you're not alone.

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