dollar-share

These Maps Show Where a Dollar Goes Furthest in the U.S.

Go to any large, high-density city like New York or San Francisco, and you’ll notice a difference in costs immediately.

The price you pay for groceries, dinner at the restaurant, filling up your tank, or even your daily coffee goes up substantially. With high-paying jobs, booming economies, limited space, and soaring levels of density, cities can be expensive.

Dollar Disparity

While this effect on costs is most evident in cities, it’s actually present throughout the country.

What you can buy for your paycheck varies wildly depending on where you are, greatly impacting purchasing power and the cost of living. Sometimes even a short one-hour drive can make a difference in some cases.

Today’s two maps come from TaxFoundation.org, and they look at regional differences in purchasing power, based on information from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Bang for Buck, by State

The following map shows the buying power of $100 by state.

If the number is below, such as $90, it means money buys less than the federal average. If a state’s number is higher, such as $110, that means each dollar goes further, giving residents more purchasing power.

Dollar disparity by state

Generally speaking, dollars go furthest in states in the Southeast and Midwest parts of the country. Go to places like Arkansas or South Dakota, and you’ll see higher purchasing power.

Here are the five states that have the most buying power:

RankState or DistrictRelative Value of $100
#1Mississippi$116.01
#2Alabama$115.21
#3Arkansas$114.42
#4South Dakota$113.38
#5Kentucky$112.87

And here are the five with the least buying power:

RankState or DistrictRelative Value of $100
#47New Jersey$88.18
#47California$88.18
#49New York$86.73
#50District of Columbia$85.47
#51Hawaii$84.18

Bang for Buck, by County

The state map does not tell the whole story, however.

The reality is that density makes a big difference for buying power, and large metropolitan areas tend to be more expensive. The following chart breaks it down based on county, creating a much more interesting contrast.

Buying power by metro area

The above rendition makes it clear that the Bay Area, New York City, and Washington D.C. are the places where the relative value of a dollar is lowest.

Meanwhile, it also shows that metropolitan areas in some parts of the country are not too bad for the cost of living. Cities like Atlanta ($104.10), Nashville ($106.50), Phoenix ($102.90), Milwaukee ($104.50), Kansas City ($106.70), Jacksonville ($104.40), and New Orleans ($104.60) buck the trend, being cheaper than the American average.

Here’s another look – this time with an interactive map that allows you to hover over individual metro areas:

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