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Visualizing the Footprint of Highways in American Cities

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Footprint of Highways in American Cities

Visualizing the Footprint of Highways in American Cities

Driving on the open road is a defining feature of the American experience, made possible by coast-to-coast highways. It defined a generation of life and ingrained the automobile into the urban fabric of American cities, for better and worse.

Today’s animations show how highways reshaped the downtown cores of six American cities and created new patterns of urban life. But first, some background information on the creation of the interstate system.

The Interstate Highway System

The U.S. Interstate System was created on June 29, 1956, when Dwight Eisenhower signed the Federal-Aid Highway Act. It would eventually run 46,876 miles, cost $521 billion and take 36 years to complete.

Map of the US Interstate System

From San Diego to Bangor, the interstate highway system connected Americans and opened up the country to commerce and geographic mobility like never before, but for all its benefits, this new transportation network ripped through established patterns of urban and town life, creating a new era of urban development.

The Legacy of Highways: The Suburbs and Inner Cities

The vast geography of continental America helped to entrench personal mobility and freedom into American society. Highways and automobiles accelerated this lifestyle and even changed the shape of entire cities.

According to Prof. Nathaniel Baum-Snow of the University of Toronto, between 1950 and 1990, the population of central cities in the U.S. declined by 17% despite a population growth of 72% in larger metropolitan areas during the same period. Baum-Snow posits that, had the interstate highway system not been built, central cities’ populations would have increased 8%.

Firms followed the workers to the suburbs, but the highways system also created additional benefits for these firms. Cross-country road access freed manufacturing from ports and downtown rail hubs, while allowing economies to operate across larger distances, altering the dynamics of typical urban economies.

Faced with this new reality, inner cities struggled in years to come.

Inner Cities

The introduction of highways created an increase in the supply of land for development through faster commutes to outlying areas. In 1950, half of all jobs were located in central cities. By 1990, less than one-third of urban jobs were located in the core of American cities.

“Not TV or illegal drugs but the automobile has been the chief destroyer of American communities.” Jane Jacobs, Author The Death and Life of Great American Cities

Benefits of new development accrued to the outer areas while the construction of the highways in inner cities displaced largely low-income communities, segregated neighborhoods, increased the amount of air and noise pollution, devalued surrounding properties, and removed access to jobs for those without a car, further concentrating poverty.

Before and After: Six American Cities

A bird’s eye view of six American cities reveals what was and what is now. By overlaying existing highways over the neighborhoods they replaced, it becomes clear how much interstate construction drastically altered America’s urban landscape.

Oakland
Public opposition to the construction of I-980 was so strong that developers abandoned the project in 1971, only to complete it over a decade later.

Miami Highway
The I-95 carved through Miami’s largely black Overtown neighborhood. The construction of a single highway cloverleaf resulted in 20 square blocks being demolished, displacing over 10,000 people in that community.

Providence Highway
The I-95 comprised unconnected segments between 1957 and 1965 through the densest urban areas in a deliberate effort to prevent premature suburbanization and to revitalize the downtown core.

Cincinnati Highway
The I-71 cuts downtown Cincinnati off from its waterfront and a massive freeway interchange forced the destruction of dozens of blocks west of downtown.

Detroit highway construction
Freeway construction transformed Detroit between 1951 and 2010. Previously, its downtown had been surrounded by a high-density street grid. Today, it’s totally encircled by freeways.

Rochester Highway
Rochester is one of many cities opting to undertake freeway removal projects.

As the dotted line above shows, the “moat” surrounding downtown is slowly being removed. The city used reclaimed land from the Inner Loop freeway to construct three mixed-use developments that include below-market-rate units.

The Future of Urban Living: Do Highways Matter?

A new era of living is reconsidering the impacts of these highways on urban centers. As property values rise and existing housing stock is pressured, there are growing concerns over the environmental impacts of suburban life. As a result, urban planners and residents are looking to revitalize city cores and re-purpose land occupied by burdensome slabs of highway concrete.

Since 1987, there have been more than 20 urban highway segments removed from downtown cores, neighborhoods and waterfronts, mostly in North America. The pace of removals has picked up significantly and an additional 10 highways are now planned for removal in the United States.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, American cities have seen their traffic plummet. Rush-hour trips into cities are taking nearly half the time while some are not even commuting at all.

While this situation is likely temporary, it is offering a moment for reflection of how cities operate and whether the car should be at the center of urban planning.

*Hat tip to Shane Hampton, whose 60 Years of Urban Change compilation served as inspiration for this article. Visit that page for many more examples of highway impact on cities.

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Misc

Comparing the Cost of Living Around the World

This graphic compares the cost of living and purchasing power of 578 cities worldwide, using New York City as a benchmark for comparison.

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This graphic compares the cost of living and purchasing power of 578 cities worldwide, using New York City as a benchmark for comparison.

Comparing The Cost of Living Around the World

The amount of money that’s needed to pay for day-to-day expenses like housing and food varies greatly from city to city. And some cities, like New York City, are known as especially expensive places to live.

So how do everyday expenses in New York City truly compare in costs to places like Beirut, Lebanon, or Bangalore, India?

This graphic by Victor Dépré (hypntic.data) uses 2022 data from Numbeo to compare the cost of living and purchasing power in 578 different cities around the world, using New York City as a benchmark for comparison.

The Cost of Living Index

Though New York City is widely recognized as one of the most expensive cities in the world, according to Numbeo—the world’s largest database of user-contributed data on cities and countries—there are a number of cities that are actually more expensive than the Big Apple.

Here’s a look at the comparative cost of living in 578 cities. For context, if a city has a cost of living index of 121, that means day-to-day expenses in it are 21% higher than New York’s, on average:

CityCountryCost of Living Index
HamiltonBermuda149.0
ZurichSwitzerland131.2
BaselSwitzerland130.9
ZugSwitzerland128.1
LuganoSwitzerland124.0
LausanneSwitzerland122.0
BeirutLebanon120.5
BernSwitzerland118.2
GenevaSwitzerland114.1
StavangerNorway104.6
Honolulu, HIUnited States103.7
OsloNorway102.3
BergenNorway100.4
New York, NYUnited States100.0
TrondheimNorway99.4
TromsoNorway99.0
ReykjavikIceland97.6
Saint HelierJersey96.5
Santa Barbara, CAUnited States95.0
Tel Aviv-YafoIsrael94.5
Berkeley, CAUnited States94.4
San Francisco, CAUnited States93.9
Oakland, CAUnited States92.9
Anchorage, AKUnited States91.2
Santa Clara, CAUnited States89.4
Petah TikvaIsrael88.9
BeershebaIsrael88.8
Seattle, WAUnited States88.5
CopenhagenDenmark88.3
ArhusDenmark88.2
HaifaIsrael87.4
JerusalemIsrael86.3
NassauBahamas86.0
LondonUnited Kingdom85.6
TokyoJapan85.6
Boston, MAUnited States85.5
NiceFrance84.6
ParisFrance84.4
Queens, NYUnited States84.0
SingaporeSingapore84.0
Washington, DCUnited States83.7
SydneyAustralia83.2
LuxembourgLuxembourg83.0
EspooFinland82.5
AalborgDenmark82.4
Pittsburgh, PAUnited States82.4
DarwinAustralia82.1
AmsterdamNetherlands80.8
Jersey City, NJUnited States80.8
Hong KongHong Kong80.7
BredaNetherlands80.6
Nanaimo, BCCanada80.3
AucklandNew Zealand80.2
HaarlemNetherlands79.8
UtrechtNetherlands79.8
BrightonUnited Kingdom79.6
BrisbaneAustralia79.4
Philadelphia, PAUnited States79.2
Los Angeles, CAUnited States79.2
Minneapolis, MNUnited States79.1
TurkuFinland79.1
DublinIreland79.1
StockholmSweden78.9
Birmingham, ALUnited States78.8
SeoulSouth Korea78.7
EindhovenNetherlands78.2
OdenseDenmark78.2
Miami, FLUnited States78.0
GroningenNetherlands77.9
Sacramento, CAUnited States77.9
NijmegenNetherlands77.8
MunichGermany77.5
GalwayIreland77.4
St. John's, Newfoundland and LabradorCanada77.4
InnsbruckAustria77.3
PerthAustralia77.3
Charleston, SCUnited States77.3
Asheville, NCUnited States77.3
LyonFrance77.2
LeidenNetherlands77.2
HelsinkiFinland77.2
Chicago, ILUnited States77.1
Fort Lauderdale, FLUnited States76.9
Portland, ORUnited States76.8
MelbourneAustralia76.8
OsakaJapan76.7
WellingtonNew Zealand76.7
VictoriaCanada76.7
VancouverCanada76.6
Atlanta, GAUnited States76.6
AdelaideAustralia76.6
LundSweden76.6
ToulouseFrance76.6
GuelphCanada76.4
RotterdamNetherlands76.2
Saint Paul, MNUnited States76.2
CorkIreland76.2
GuildfordUnited Kingdom76.0
Plano, TXUnited States75.9
CanberraAustralia75.9
Tampa, FLUnited States75.8
Gold CoastAustralia75.8
OxfordUnited Kingdom75.7
NagoyaJapan75.6
LincolnUnited Kingdom75.6
YorkUnited Kingdom75.5
San Diego, CAUnited States75.5
Cleveland, OHUnited States75.4
Omaha, NEUnited States75.3
LeuvenBelgium75.3
ReadingUnited Kingdom75.3
HamiltonNew Zealand75.2
Denver, COUnited States75.2
UppsalaSweden75.1
NewcastleAustralia75.0
HalifaxCanada74.9
MilanItaly74.8
SliemaMalta74.8
GrazAustria74.6
BrusselsBelgium74.4
Buffalo, NYUnited States74.3
TorontoCanada74.3
Colorado Springs, COUnited States74.3
Fremont, CAUnited States74.1
LimerickIreland74.1
Salem, ORUnited States74.0
The Hague (Den Haag)Netherlands73.9
HobartAustralia73.9
ChristchurchNew Zealand73.9
MalmoSweden73.8
San Jose, CAUnited States73.7
Nashville, TNUnited States73.6
EnschedeNetherlands73.6
Olympia, WAUnited States73.6
MaastrichtNetherlands73.6
Baltimore, MDUnited States73.6
New Orleans, LAUnited States73.6
LinzAustria73.6
CalgaryCanada73.4
EdinburghUnited Kingdom73.2
OttawaCanada73.2
Milton KeynesUnited Kingdom73.1
ManchesterUnited Kingdom73.1
MississaugaCanada73.1
CambridgeUnited Kingdom73.1
GothenburgSweden73.0
EdmontonCanada72.9
ParmaItaly72.8
GenoaItaly72.8
FrankfurtGermany72.8
Fort Collins, COUnited States72.8
GrenobleFrance72.7
BergamoItaly72.6
DerbyUnited Kingdom72.6
Iowa City, IAUnited States72.5
DelftNetherlands72.5
Syracuse, NYUnited States72.5
Everett, WAUnited States72.4
SaskatoonCanada72.3
HeidelbergGermany72.1
MarkhamCanada72.1
HamburgGermany72.0
Red DeerCanada71.7
SurreyCanada71.7
TriesteItaly71.7
Rochester, NYUnited States71.6
Milwaukee, WIUnited States71.6
Albany, NYUnited States71.5
LiverpoolUnited Kingdom71.4
NottinghamUnited Kingdom71.3
AntwerpBelgium71.3
BristolUnited Kingdom71.3
TampereFinland71.2
PortsmouthUnited Kingdom71.2
BonnGermany71.1
MarseilleFrance71.1
RomeItaly71.0
TaurangaNew Zealand70.9
FlorenceItaly70.8
PlymouthUnited Kingdom70.7
Detroit, MIUnited States70.7
Reno, NVUnited States70.7
OuluFinland70.6
MontrealCanada70.6
SalzburgAustria70.5
LondonCanada70.5
BramptonCanada70.4
Fort Worth, TXUnited States70.4
Durham, NCUnited States70.4
WinnipegCanada70.3
Ann Arbor, MIUnited States70.3
Greensboro, NCUnited States70.3
San JuanPuerto Rico70.1
Charlotte, NCUnited States70.1
NorwichUnited Kingdom70.1
GentBelgium70.0
ExeterUnited Kingdom69.9
DortmundGermany69.9
Long Beach, CAUnited States69.9
BolognaItaly69.8
North VancouverCanada69.8
KelownaCanada69.7
Columbus, OHUnited States69.7
BresciaItaly69.6
Eugene, ORUnited States69.6
MacaoMacao69.6
CologneGermany69.6
Jacksonville, FLUnited States69.5
ReginaCanada69.4
Phoenix, AZUnited States69.4
Des Moines, IAUnited States69.3
Quebec CityCanada69.0
Fresno, CAUnited States69.0
BerlinGermany68.9
CardiffUnited Kingdom68.9
WindsorCanada68.9
GlasgowUnited Kingdom68.8
KitchenerCanada68.7
Vancouver, WAUnited States68.6
KingstonCanada68.6
AugsburgGermany68.5
StuttgartGermany68.4
ViennaAustria68.4
MannheimGermany68.4
Las Vegas, NVUnited States68.3
Boise, IDUnited States68.3
DusseldorfGermany68.3
Raleigh, NCUnited States68.2
PisaItaly68.2
Spokane, WAUnited States68.1
Orlando, FLUnited States68.1
Dayton, OHUnited States68.0
VeronaItaly68.0
Dallas, TXUnited States67.9
Richmond, VAUnited States67.8
Louisville, KYUnited States67.7
SouthamptonUnited Kingdom67.6
LeedsUnited Kingdom67.6
TrevisoItaly67.5
Madison, WIUnited States67.3
BirminghamUnited Kingdom67.3
Indianapolis, INUnited States67.1
HanoverGermany67.0
NurembergGermany67.0
HamiltonCanada67.0
CoventryUnited Kingdom66.9
Newcastle upon TyneUnited Kingdom66.9
Saint Louis, MOUnited States66.8
UlmGermany66.7
Stoke-on-TrentUnited Kingdom66.6
Austin, TXUnited States66.5
DundeeUnited Kingdom66.5
SaarbruckenGermany66.3
Kansas City, MOUnited States66.1
CagliariItaly66.1
KarlsruheGermany65.9
SheffieldUnited Kingdom65.9
TaipeiTaiwan65.8
BelfastUnited Kingdom65.7
Chattanooga, TNUnited States65.7
DarmstadtGermany65.5
LimassolCyprus65.3
TurinItaly65.2
St.CatharinesCanada65.2
BestNetherlands65.1
Toledo, OHUnited States65.0
Salt Lake City, UTUnited States65.0
Oklahoma City, OKUnited States64.9
PadovaItaly64.9
LeicesterUnited Kingdom64.9
Freiburg im BreisgauGermany64.7
ErlangenGermany64.5
NicosiaCyprus64.5
Cincinnati, OHUnited States64.4
Tucson, AZUnited States64.3
DubaiUnited Arab Emirates64.3
Houston, TXUnited States63.9
BilbaoSpain63.8
BournemouthUnited Kingdom63.7
Mesa, AZUnited States63.7
EssenGermany63.6
Albuquerque, NMUnited States63.4
AberdeenUnited Kingdom63.4
Lexington, KYUnited States62.9
DohaQatar62.9
LeipzigGermany62.8
San Antonio, TXUnited States62.6
BariItaly62.6
DresdenGermany62.5
Tulsa, OKUnited States62.4
NaplesItaly62.4
Memphis, TNUnited States62.3
BremenGermany62.2
Akron, OHUnited States62.2
Kingston upon HullUnited Kingdom62.1
AachenGermany61.8
KaohsiungTaiwan61.4
RegensburgGermany61.4
BarcelonaSpain61.2
Little Rock, ARUnited States59.3
Port of SpainTrinidad And Tobago59.2
MadridSpain59.0
Palma de MallorcaSpain59.0
AthensGreece59.0
Wichita, KSUnited States58.9
PatrasGreece58.7
ThessalonikiGreece58.4
PalermoItaly58.0
Abu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates57.9
LarnacaCyprus57.4
CataniaItaly57.4
MaleMaldives57.3
LjubljanaSlovenia57.2
HeraklionGreece57.1
El Paso, TXUnited States55.9
HavanaCuba55.9
TallinnEstonia55.8
Zaragoza (Saragossa)Spain54.8
Panama CityPanama54.5
ManamaBahrain54.3
ShanghaiChina53.9
RiyadhSaudi Arabia53.9
TartuEstonia53.8
VigoSpain53.4
Seville (Sevilla)Spain53.3
ValenciaSpain53.0
PaphosCyprus52.9
MakatiPhilippines52.7
AjmanUnited Arab Emirates52.6
Jeddah (Jiddah)Saudi Arabia52.6
MalagaSpain52.5
AmmanJordan52.2
GranadaSpain52.0
MontevideoUruguay52.0
PragueCzech Republic51.8
MurciaSpain51.7
LisbonPortugal51.7
MariborSlovenia51.6
SplitCroatia51.6
KingstonJamaica51.6
RigaLatvia51.5
AlicanteSpain51.5
MuscatOman51.2
ShenzhenChina51.1
Santa Cruz de TenerifeSpain50.9
DakarSenegal50.9
CascaisPortugal50.9
Las Palmas de Gran CanariaSpain50.5
Addis AbabaEthiopia50.5
BangkokThailand50.4
RijekaCroatia50.1
Phnom PenhCambodia50.1
ZagrebCroatia49.9
BeijingChina49.5
BratislavaSlovakia49.4
PortoPortugal49.4
BrnoCzech Republic49.3
HangzhouChina49.2
ParamariboSuriname49.2
FunchalPortugal49.2
SharjahUnited Arab Emirates49.0
Ad DammamSaudi Arabia48.5
OlomoucCzech Republic48.2
KosiceSlovakia48.2
Kuwait CityKuwait48.0
San JoseCosta Rica47.7
CoimbraPortugal47.4
AbidjanIvory Coast47.1
BragaPortugal47.0
VilniusLithuania46.9
OstravaCzech Republic46.5
AveiroPortugal46.5
BudapestHungary46.1
SuzhouChina45.9
HarareZimbabwe45.7
LeiriaPortugal45.7
SantiagoChile45.6
San SalvadorEl Salvador45.3
CaracasVenezuela45.3
JohannesburgSouth Africa44.9
KaunasLithuania44.7
Santo DomingoDominican Republic44.7
Guatemala CityGuatemala44.6
PhuketThailand44.3
WarsawPoland43.9
ChengduChina43.8
OsijekCroatia43.6
Quezon CityPhilippines43.3
GdyniaPoland42.9
BaliIndonesia42.9
PretoriaSouth Africa42.8
GaboroneBotswana42.7
NanjingChina42.3
SofiaBulgaria42.2
Chiang MaiThailand42.2
MoscowRussia42.2
PattayaThailand42.1
GdanskPoland41.3
Krakow (Cracow)Poland41.3
WroclawPoland41.1
GuangzhouChina41.1
Cape TownSouth Africa41.0
JakartaIndonesia40.9
PecsHungary40.8
ManilaPhilippines40.8
PoznanPoland40.7
QuitoEcuador40.5
DurbanSouth Africa40.3
KatowicePoland40.3
Cluj-NapocaRomania40.2
BucharestRomania40.1
SzegedHungary40.1
BelgradeSerbia40.1
DebrecenHungary40.0
Petaling JayaMalaysia40.0
MarrakechMorocco39.9
PodgoricaMontenegro39.3
SzczecinPoland39.3
Kota KinabaluMalaysia39.3
Kuala LumpurMalaysia39.3
VarnaBulgaria39.1
SuvaFiji39.0
CebuPhilippines39.0
Ho Chi Minh CityVietnam39.0
CancunMexico38.9
AccraGhana38.7
TiranaAlbania38.7
GuayaquilEcuador38.6
MonterreyMexico38.5
PlovdivBulgaria38.4
SarajevoBosnia And Herzegovina38.4
LublinPoland38.0
Erbil (Irbil)Iraq38.0
Santa CruzBolivia38.0
Isfahan (Esfahan)Iran38.0
LodzPoland37.9
Saint PetersburgRussia37.8
Banja LukaBosnia And Herzegovina37.6
PenangMalaysia37.6
La PazBolivia37.5
Sao PauloBrazil37.5
Novi SadSerbia37.4
Mexico CityMexico37.4
LagosNigeria37.3
ConstantaRomania37.3
IasiRomania37.1
HanoiVietnam36.9
TangierMorocco36.9
BrasiliaBrazil36.8
BurgasBulgaria36.8
BaguioPhilippines36.7
Rio de JaneiroBrazil36.7
BrasovRomania36.6
CasablancaMorocco36.6
DamascusSyria36.4
SibiuRomania36.2
TimisoaraRomania36.2
KampalaUganda36.0
NairobiKenya35.9
MeridaMexico35.7
RabatMorocco35.7
Qingdao, ShandongChina35.5
QueretaroMexico35.4
BandungIndonesia35.4
OradeaRomania35.4
Buenos AiresArgentina35.3
DhakaBangladesh35.1
SkopjeNorth Macedonia34.9
UlaanbaatarMongolia34.9
CraiovaRomania34.9
AgadirMorocco34.8
BaghdadIraq34.8
SurabayaIndonesia34.7
LimaPeru34.6
AradRomania34.5
FlorianopolisBrazil34.4
CuencaEcuador34.2
Kiev (Kyiv)Ukraine34.1
GurgaonIndia34.1
GuadalajaraMexico34.1
KazanRussia34.0
YerevanArmenia34.0
Dar es SalaamTanzania34.0
Nizhny NovgorodRussia33.9
ColomboSri Lanka33.6
LusakaZambia33.6
NisSerbia33.4
YekaterinburgRussia33.2
MinskBelarus32.8
KrasnodarRussia32.7
MashhadIran32.5
Belo HorizonteBrazil32.5
CairoEgypt32.4
Porto AlegreBrazil32.3
KigaliRwanda32.3
NovosibirskRussia32.3
Rostov-na-donuRussia32.1
Odessa (Odesa)Ukraine31.9
ChisinauMoldova31.8
CuritibaBrazil31.8
BakuAzerbaijan31.6
TehranIran31.5
IstanbulTurkey31.1
TbilisiGeorgia31.0
YogyakartaIndonesia30.8
AsuncionParaguay30.6
KharkivUkraine30.5
Astana (Nur-Sultan)Kazakhstan30.3
ChandigarhIndia30.3
AlmatyKazakhstan30.2
TunisTunisia29.9
KathmanduNepal29.9
AlgiersAlgeria29.8
LvivUkraine29.7
TashkentUzbekistan29.4
MumbaiIndia29.3
DniproUkraine29.3
NoidaIndia29.2
MedellinColombia28.8
AlexandriaEgypt28.4
BarranquillaColombia28.4
Navi MumbaiIndia28.4
IzmirTurkey28.4
DelhiIndia28.2
BangaloreIndia28.2
BogotaColombia27.9
GoaIndia27.7
PuneIndia27.6
GhaziabadIndia27.6
ThaneIndia27.5
RanchiIndia27.3
AnkaraTurkey27.2
HyderabadIndia26.6
FaridabadIndia26.6
BishkekKyrgyzstan26.6
PristinaKosovo (Disputed Territory)26.2
ChennaiIndia26.1
AhmedabadIndia26.0
KolkataIndia26.0
CaliColombia25.8
GuwahatiIndia25.6
Lucknow (Lakhnau)India25.4
MaduraiIndia25.4
SuratIndia25.3
VadodaraIndia25.3
VijayawadaIndia25.0
LudhianaIndia24.9
Cyberjaya, SelangorMalaysia24.9
RaipurIndia24.8
DehradunIndia24.8
NashikIndia24.6
IndoreIndia24.5
RajkotIndia24.5
NagpurIndia24.4
ErnakulamIndia24.0
VisakhapatnamIndia24.0
JaipurIndia24.0
PatnaIndia24.0
MangaloreIndia23.7
BucaramangaColombia23.7
CoimbatoreIndia23.5
BhopalIndia23.4
BhubaneswarIndia23.3
MysoreIndia23.2
KochiIndia22.9
AgraIndia22.8
JammuIndia22.0
ThiruvananthapuramIndia21.8
Kozhikode (Calicut)India21.6
LahorePakistan21.5
IslamabadPakistan21.5
KabulAfghanistan21.4
ThrissurIndia21.3
KanpurIndia20.8
KarachiPakistan20.8
RawalpindiPakistan20.5
MultanPakistan18.7
PeshawarPakistan18.6

Bermuda’s capital city Hamilton ranks first on the list, with a cost of living that’s nearly 50% higher than New York’s.

Why is Hamilton so expensive? One reason is that nearly everything needs to be imported onto the tiny British archipelago—things like gas, groceries, and clothes—so it’s likely that prices in the territory are steep as a result.

Second on the list is Zurich, Switzerland, where expenses are roughly 30% higher than New York City. Food and beverages are particularly expensive in the region—according to the dataset, groceries are 58% more expensive than groceries in NYC, and restaurant prices are 55% higher.

However, it’s worth noting that while Zurich ranks high on the cost of living index, the city’s purchasing power is also strong, which we will dive into in the next section.

The Local Purchasing Power Index

Purchasing power is a metric that’s used to gauge the number of goods and services someone on an average salary can buy in that specific city.

Taking a look again at Zurich, consumers in the city have about 30% more purchasing power than New York City residents on average, despite having higher costs.

CityCountryLocal Purchasing Power Index
Houston, TXUnited States173.0
Dallas, TXUnited States170.7
Ann Arbor, MIUnited States160.0
Austin, TXUnited States158.2
Fremont, CAUnited States157.4
San Jose, CAUnited States157.4
Jersey City, NJUnited States155.9
Santa Clara, CAUnited States155.4
Columbus, OHUnited States151.3
Seattle, WAUnited States145.4
Charlotte, NCUnited States144.9
Jacksonville, FLUnited States144.3
Raleigh, NCUnited States144.1
ZugSwitzerland143.4
Salt Lake City, UTUnited States140.6
San Antonio, TXUnited States137.7
Colorado Springs, COUnited States137.6
Baltimore, MDUnited States136.1
Phoenix, AZUnited States135.9
Chicago, ILUnited States135.3
San Francisco, CAUnited States133.2
Madison, WIUnited States132.1
Tulsa, OKUnited States132.1
ErlangenGermany131.8
Little Rock, ARUnited States131.1
Richmond, VAUnited States130.9
Atlanta, GAUnited States130.7
Denver, COUnited States130.0
ZurichSwitzerland129.8
Albany, NYUnited States129.8
Cyberjaya, SelangorMalaysia128.5
Oklahoma City, OKUnited States128.0
San Diego, CAUnited States127.9
Kansas City, MOUnited States127.2
LausanneSwitzerland127.0
Los Angeles, CAUnited States126.1
Vancouver, WAUnited States126.1
Cleveland, OHUnited States125.3
Cincinnati, OHUnited States125.2
Las Vegas, NVUnited States124.8
Buffalo, NYUnited States124.4
Red DeerCanada123.9
Orlando, FLUnited States123.3
HamiltonNew Zealand123.2
Saint Louis, MOUnited States123.2
Albuquerque, NMUnited States122.4
Washington, DCUnited States121.8
Indianapolis, INUnited States121.5
Charleston, SCUnited States121.3
GenevaSwitzerland120.6
DerbyUnited Kingdom119.8
Wichita, KSUnited States119.2
NewcastleAustralia118.9
El Paso, TXUnited States118.8
Anchorage, AKUnited States118.6
AachenGermany116.5
Fresno, CAUnited States116.4
Boston, MAUnited States115.7
NurembergGermany115.7
Philadelphia, PAUnited States115.6
Pittsburgh, PAUnited States115.5
Minneapolis, MNUnited States114.7
CalgaryCanada114.2
Fort Worth, TXUnited States112.6
BernSwitzerland112.5
Spokane, WAUnited States112.4
LuganoSwitzerland112.0
Oakland, CAUnited States111.7
BaselSwitzerland111.5
Nashville, TNUnited States111.5
Detroit, MIUnited States110.1
North VancouverCanada110.1
PerthAustralia110.0
Long Beach, CAUnited States110.0
DusseldorfGermany110.0
Memphis, TNUnited States110.0
Louisville, KYUnited States109.7
EdmontonCanada109.5
DarwinAustralia109.4
Milwaukee, WIUnited States109.2
DresdenGermany109.1
StuttgartGermany109.0
Olympia, WAUnited States108.8
MarkhamCanada108.7
CoventryUnited Kingdom108.7
DarmstadtGermany108.5
Des Moines, IAUnited States108.4
Portland, ORUnited States108.1
UlmGermany107.4
FrankfurtGermany106.9
Saint Paul, MNUnited States106.6
CardiffUnited Kingdom106.2
Omaha, NEUnited States106.0
BerlinGermany105.9
Queens, NYUnited States105.7
DortmundGermany105.6
Plano, TXUnited States105.4
CanberraAustralia105.1
LundSweden104.9
Durham, NCUnited States104.8
SydneyAustralia104.5
AdelaideAustralia104.2
OxfordUnited Kingdom104.0
ReginaCanada104.0
BrisbaneAustralia103.8
BramptonCanada103.5
Mesa, AZUnited States103.4
RegensburgGermany103.3
KarlsruheGermany103.0
Akron, OHUnited States102.9
BangaloreIndia102.6
Lexington, KYUnited States102.4
MelbourneAustralia102.2
HeidelbergGermany102.2
AberdeenUnited Kingdom102.0
Everett, WAUnited States101.8
HobartAustralia101.6
WinnipegCanada101.6
Sacramento, CAUnited States101.4
Fort Lauderdale, FLUnited States101.3
TorontoCanada101.3
Gold CoastAustralia101.2
GothenburgSweden101.2
HamburgGermany101.1
OuluFinland101.1
DubaiUnited Arab Emirates101.1
AalborgDenmark100.9
ReadingUnited Kingdom100.9
LondonCanada100.4
Fort Collins, COUnited States100.3
LuxembourgLuxembourg100.2
Rochester, NYUnited States100.1
New York, NYUnited States100.0
MississaugaCanada99.7
SouthamptonUnited Kingdom98.4
Tampa, FLUnited States98.3
SurreyCanada98.1
Stoke-on-TrentUnited Kingdom97.9
Newcastle upon TyneUnited Kingdom97.7
BestNetherlands97.2
Reno, NVUnited States96.9
TurkuFinland96.8
LimerickIreland96.5
GlasgowUnited Kingdom96.4
BonnGermany95.7
HanoverGermany95.6
ArhusDenmark95.5
StockholmSweden95.4
MarseilleFrance95.3
MunichGermany95.2
MannheimGermany95.1
OdenseDenmark94.8
AmsterdamNetherlands94.5
Freiburg im BreisgauGermany94.5
OttawaCanada94.3
Asheville, NCUnited States94.2
Santa Barbara, CAUnited States93.9
ExeterUnited Kingdom93.9
EnschedeNetherlands93.8
Miami, FLUnited States93.7
Ad DammamSaudi Arabia93.6
New Orleans, LAUnited States92.9
CambridgeUnited Kingdom92.9
Greensboro, NCUnited States92.7
RiyadhSaudi Arabia92.7
LeicesterUnited Kingdom92.6
DelftNetherlands91.7
Chattanooga, TNUnited States91.7
NottinghamUnited Kingdom91.6
BelfastUnited Kingdom91.6
RotterdamNetherlands91.4
TampereFinland91.4
SingaporeSingapore91.3
ManchesterUnited Kingdom91.3
CopenhagenDenmark90.7
Toledo, OHUnited States90.5
EspooFinland90.3
AntwerpBelgium90.3
ChristchurchNew Zealand90.2
ToulouseFrance90.1
LiverpoolUnited Kingdom90.1
MontrealCanada89.9
DohaQatar89.9
TromsoNorway89.5
Honolulu, HIUnited States89.2
Salem, ORUnited States89.2
VictoriaCanada89.1
CologneGermany89.1
SheffieldUnited Kingdom89.1
LincolnUnited Kingdom89.0
LondonUnited Kingdom88.8
TokyoJapan88.6
The Hague (Den Haag)Netherlands88.5
LeedsUnited Kingdom88.5
SaskatoonCanada88.2
Eugene, ORUnited States88.2
TrondheimNorway88.0
EdinburghUnited Kingdom88.0
HalifaxCanada87.9
VancouverCanada87.7
PretoriaSouth Africa87.3
Quebec CityCanada87.2
BergenNorway87.0
BrusselsBelgium87.0
EindhovenNetherlands86.9
Kingston upon HullUnited Kingdom86.6
NijmegenNetherlands86.5
MaastrichtNetherlands86.5
MuscatOman86.5
HamiltonCanada86.4
StavangerNorway85.9
Berkeley, CAUnited States85.8
WellingtonNew Zealand85.5
SaarbruckenGermany85.4
OsloNorway85.2
Iowa City, IAUnited States85.0
PortsmouthUnited Kingdom85.0
Birmingham, ALUnited States84.9
MalmoSweden84.9
BristolUnited Kingdom84.8
CorkIreland84.5
TaurangaNew Zealand84.4
BredaNetherlands84.3
PlymouthUnited Kingdom84.0
UppsalaSweden83.9
Tucson, AZUnited States83.7
LeuvenBelgium83.6
HelsinkiFinland83.5
LyonFrance82.7
Boise, IDUnited States82.6
DundeeUnited Kingdom82.4
EssenGermany81.9
DublinIreland81.8
BirminghamUnited Kingdom81.8
OsakaJapan81.6
GrenobleFrance81.6
GranadaSpain81.6
Saint HelierJersey80.4
ParisFrance80.2
BeershebaIsrael80.1
AugsburgGermany79.9
AlicanteSpain79.9
LeipzigGermany79.8
NorwichUnited Kingdom79.7
JerusalemIsrael79.6
GuelphCanada79.6
ViennaAustria79.6
HamiltonBermuda79.4
AucklandNew Zealand79.2
Dayton, OHUnited States79.2
GrazAustria79.0
GuildfordUnited Kingdom78.8
Navi MumbaiIndia78.7
MurciaSpain78.5
LinzAustria78.4
Syracuse, NYUnited States78.4
GroningenNetherlands78.3
UtrechtNetherlands77.9
SalzburgAustria77.8
HaifaIsrael77.6
KelownaCanada77.5
GentBelgium77.4
LeidenNetherlands77.2
HaarlemNetherlands77.1
BremenGermany77.1
BournemouthUnited Kingdom76.5
Jeddah (Jiddah)Saudi Arabia76.1
Cape TownSouth Africa75.8
KingstonCanada75.4
Abu DhabiUnited Arab Emirates75.2
VigoSpain75.0
GurgaonIndia74.9
ReykjavikIceland74.8
BrightonUnited Kingdom74.8
MadridSpain74.8
SeoulSouth Korea74.5
Qingdao, ShandongChina74.0
Milton KeynesUnited Kingdom73.9
KitchenerCanada73.9
DurbanSouth Africa73.9
ThiruvananthapuramIndia73.7
YorkUnited Kingdom73.5
Petah TikvaIsrael72.9
NanjingChina72.9
JohannesburgSouth Africa72.2
PragueCzech Republic72.0
GalwayIreland71.9
St.CatharinesCanada71.2
Seville (Sevilla)Spain71.0
BarcelonaSpain70.8
Tel Aviv-YafoIsrael70.2
GuangzhouChina70.1
ValenciaSpain70.0
Zaragoza (Saragossa)Spain69.3
BresciaItaly69.1
ShenzhenChina69.0
Kuwait CityKuwait68.8
InnsbruckAustria68.0
MariborSlovenia68.0
MacaoMacao67.3
TurinItaly67.2
Krakow (Cracow)Poland67.1
San JuanPuerto Rico66.7
PadovaItaly66.6
ThaneIndia66.1
WarsawPoland66.0
PenangMalaysia65.9
MalagaSpain65.8
Hong KongHong Kong65.7
BilbaoSpain65.5
OstravaCzech Republic65.2
BrnoCzech Republic65.1
BariItaly65.0
HangzhouChina65.0
TallinnEstonia64.9
KaunasLithuania64.9
GdanskPoland64.4
NiceFrance64.2
KatowicePoland64.0
Kuala LumpurMalaysia64.0
Santa Cruz de TenerifeSpain63.8
BergamoItaly63.3
Palma de MallorcaSpain63.2
RaipurIndia63.2
VeronaItaly63.1
TriesteItaly63.0
St. John's, Newfoundland and LabradorCanada62.8
ManamaBahrain62.6
BratislavaSlovakia62.6
NoidaIndia62.6
VilniusLithuania62.1
TrevisoItaly62.0
OlomoucCzech Republic61.3
PaphosCyprus61.2
Petaling JayaMalaysia60.9
ParmaItaly60.7
TartuEstonia60.5
DelhiIndia60.4
NicosiaCyprus60.3
LjubljanaSlovenia60.2
LublinPoland60.2
WroclawPoland59.9
KochiIndia59.5
TaipeiTaiwan59.3
BolognaItaly58.9
PalermoItaly58.9
SuzhouChina58.8
JammuIndia58.4
PoznanPoland58.3
WindsorCanada58.0
LodzPoland57.8
YekaterinburgRussia57.8
CagliariItaly57.7
Nanaimo, BCCanada57.5
NagoyaJapan57.4
Las Palmas de Gran CanariaSpain56.7
SharjahUnited Arab Emirates56.7
OsijekCroatia56.4
NaplesItaly56.2
ChengduChina56.0
LimassolCyprus55.8
KaohsiungTaiwan55.5
LarnacaCyprus55.3
SofiaBulgaria55.3
ZagrebCroatia55.1
CataniaItaly54.6
GhaziabadIndia54.6
ThrissurIndia54.4
TimisoaraRomania54.3
BhubaneswarIndia54.2
MilanItaly54.0
PuneIndia53.7
FlorenceItaly53.4
BucharestRomania53.2
BeijingChina53.1
Cluj-NapocaRomania53.1
ShanghaiChina53.0
CoimbraPortugal53.0
CraiovaRomania52.9
RigaLatvia52.8
BudapestHungary52.7
PisaItaly52.1
GenoaItaly51.6
JaipurIndia51.5
GaboroneBotswana51.4
RomeItaly51.3
KosiceSlovakia51.2
HyderabadIndia51.2
SzczecinPoland51.1
FaridabadIndia51.1
QueretaroMexico51.0
AradRomania51.0
GdyniaPoland50.6
Kozhikode (Calicut)India50.0
DebrecenHungary49.9
LeiriaPortugal49.7
MoscowRussia49.6
SzegedHungary49.5
OradeaRomania49.5
AjmanUnited Arab Emirates48.3
LisbonPortugal48.3
SibiuRomania48.3
Kiev (Kyiv)Ukraine48.2
Lucknow (Lakhnau)India48.2
SliemaMalta48.0
MumbaiIndia48.0
MangaloreIndia47.9
PristinaKosovo (Disputed Territory)47.5
PecsHungary47.2
NassauBahamas46.7
FunchalPortugal46.5
ChandigarhIndia46.5
ErnakulamIndia46.5
MysoreIndia46.5
BragaPortugal46.3
VarnaBulgaria46.3
ChennaiIndia46.3
VadodaraIndia46.1
BhopalIndia45.8
PlovdivBulgaria45.6
ConstantaRomania45.4
PortoPortugal44.9
RajkotIndia44.8
SuvaFiji44.7
BrasovRomania44.7
KolkataIndia44.7
IasiRomania44.1
AveiroPortugal43.9
SarajevoBosnia And Herzegovina43.7
RijekaCroatia43.6
BrasiliaBrazil43.5
MonterreyMexico43.0
San JoseCosta Rica42.9
Novi SadSerbia42.7
VisakhapatnamIndia42.7
SplitCroatia42.5
NagpurIndia42.5
BurgasBulgaria42.4
SuratIndia42.0
CascaisPortugal41.2
Astana (Nur-Sultan)Kazakhstan41.0
Saint PetersburgRussia40.8
Port of SpainTrinidad And Tobago40.7
CoimbatoreIndia40.7
NisSerbia40.4
DehradunIndia40.4
AthensGreece40.0
IndoreIndia40.0
Erbil (Irbil)Iraq39.9
GuwahatiIndia39.6
Kota KinabaluMalaysia39.4
AnkaraTurkey39.1
AhmedabadIndia39.1
BaghdadIraq39.0
KanpurIndia38.8
RanchiIndia38.6
NovosibirskRussia38.4
Banja LukaBosnia And Herzegovina38.3
LvivUkraine38.3
CancunMexico38.2
ThessalonikiGreece37.9
LusakaZambia37.5
PatrasGreece37.4
VijayawadaIndia37.2
SkopjeNorth Macedonia37.0
Rostov-na-donuRussia36.9
PatnaIndia36.8
Mexico CityMexico36.7
KrasnodarRussia36.6
GoaIndia36.3
BelgradeSerbia36.1
HeraklionGreece36.0
PodgoricaMontenegro36.0
GuadalajaraMexico36.0
LudhianaIndia35.8
NashikIndia35.3
IzmirTurkey35.2
Nizhny NovgorodRussia35.0
RabatMorocco34.7
La PazBolivia34.6
ChisinauMoldova34.4
CasablancaMorocco34.1
KharkivUkraine34.0
AlmatyKazakhstan33.6
MeridaMexico33.5
KazanRussia33.5
TangierMorocco33.2
Santa CruzBolivia32.9
MedellinColombia32.8
MaduraiIndia32.8
Odessa (Odesa)Ukraine32.7
DniproUkraine32.7
Panama CityPanama32.3
CuritibaBrazil32.3
SantiagoChile32.1
GuayaquilEcuador31.4
AgadirMorocco31.4
TiranaAlbania31.2
MinskBelarus31.2
Porto AlegreBrazil31.2
CaliColombia31.1
Ho Chi Minh CityVietnam30.9
MontevideoUruguay30.8
CuencaEcuador30.8
HanoiVietnam30.7
BucaramangaColombia30.4
MarrakechMorocco30.0
Chiang MaiThailand29.9
BangkokThailand29.8
QuitoEcuador29.7
YerevanArmenia29.7
AmmanJordan29.5
TbilisiGeorgia29.5
IslamabadPakistan29.5
FlorianopolisBrazil29.3
Sao PauloBrazil29.2
NairobiKenya29.2
KarachiPakistan29.2
LimaPeru28.9
IstanbulTurkey28.7
MaleMaldives28.5
BakuAzerbaijan28.0
AgraIndia27.9
AsuncionParaguay27.4
PhuketThailand27.3
BarranquillaColombia27.0
Buenos AiresArgentina26.9
KigaliRwanda26.4
KingstonJamaica26.1
BogotaColombia26.1
PeshawarPakistan26.0
JakartaIndonesia25.3
MultanPakistan25.1
UlaanbaatarMongolia25.0
Guatemala CityGuatemala24.4
CairoEgypt24.4
LahorePakistan24.4
TunisTunisia24.2
DhakaBangladesh23.8
SurabayaIndonesia23.6
PattayaThailand23.3
KathmanduNepal23.2
DakarSenegal23.1
BishkekKyrgyzstan23.1
RawalpindiPakistan22.9
Isfahan (Esfahan)Iran22.8
KabulAfghanistan22.8
MashhadIran22.7
TashkentUzbekistan22.6
Santo DomingoDominican Republic22.2
ManilaPhilippines22.2
San SalvadorEl Salvador21.8
BandungIndonesia21.8
AlgiersAlgeria21.8
AccraGhana21.1
Belo HorizonteBrazil21.0
MakatiPhilippines20.6
AlexandriaEgypt20.3
Quezon CityPhilippines19.7
Rio de JaneiroBrazil18.9
BaguioPhilippines18.7
ColomboSri Lanka18.6
HarareZimbabwe17.6
CebuPhilippines17.6
ParamariboSuriname16.4
CaracasVenezuela15.9
BeirutLebanon15.4
Phnom PenhCambodia14.8
TehranIran14.6
BaliIndonesia14.1
Dar es SalaamTanzania13.5
YogyakartaIndonesia12.2
Addis AbabaEthiopia9.8
KampalaUganda9.8
LagosNigeria8.3
AbidjanIvory Coast6.3
DamascusSyria5.0
HavanaCuba1.6

In contrast, the average consumer in Hamilton, Bermuda has a relatively low purchasing power. Based on the average net salary in the city, consumers can afford about 30% less than people in New York City.

Inflation Continues to Drive Prices Up

Amidst rising inflation and increased prices for consumer goods, cost of living has become top of mind for many people around the world.

Since late 2021, the world has been experiencing a cost of living crisis, largely because of pent-up demand following the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with supply chain issues and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

But according to UBS Chief Economist Paul Donovan, we’ve likely seen the worst of it, and inflation is likely to decrease across the globe in the second half of the year.

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Money

Household Income Distribution in the U.S. Visualized as 100 Homes

This visual breaks down U.S. household income categories as 100 homes, based on the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Household Income Distribution in the U.S. Visualized as 100 Homes

Income inequality and wealth disparity have been frequent topics of conversation, even before the pandemic upended the economy.

Now, rising inflation and interest rates, and a possible recession on the horizon are bringing these societal divides into sharp focus.

In the above visualization, U.S. households are parsed out into a neighborhood of 100 homes and then grouped by income brackets, using recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Neighborhood Breakdown

American households vary widely on their respective incomes. The largest cluster of homes, representing nearly 20% of all American households, are in the $25-$49.9k income bracket.

Here’s a look at the share of households in each income bracket and the number of homes they represent.

Household IncomeShare of TotalNumber of Homes
Under $25K18.1%18
$25K-$49.9K19.7%20
$50K-$74.9K16.5%17
$75K-99.9K12.2%12
$100K-$149.9K15.3%15
$150k-$199.9K8.0%8
Over $200K10.3%10

In our hypothetical neighborhood, 18 of the households are in the lowest income bracket. People in this category have a wide variety of jobs, but personal care aides, cashiers, food and beverage positions are some of the most common. As a point of reference, the poverty line for a family of four currently sits at $26,496.

On the flip side, in this small community of 100 houses, 33 earn six figures and typically have at least one family member in a corporate or medical role.

The American Middle Class

The middle class in America has shrunk significantly in the past 50 years, going from 61% of adults being middle income in 1971 to 50% in 2021.

Here’s a look at the economic class breakdowns by annual household income, based on households with three people (Note: the average U.S. household has 2.6 people):

  • Upper class: >$156,000
  • Middle class:  $52,000-$156,000
  • Lower class: <$52,000

Although these definitions and conditions don’t align exactly with the buckets we use in the main houses visualization, they come pretty close.

In the neighborhood of 100 homes, 38 homes could be considered low income, while 18 are high income. Meanwhile, sitting in the $50-149.9k middle range of household income are 44 homes.

The Larger Trends

The pandemic had an extremely adverse impact on earnings and income worldwide, and the U.S. was no exception.

Median household income decreased 2.9% to $67.5k between 2019 and 2020, the first decrease since 2014. Additionally, the number of people who worked full-time jobs, year-round decreased by around 13.7 million.

That said, when looking at the longer-term trend, the median income for those considered middle class has jumped by 50% over the last five decades. Here’s a look at the median incomes in each economic class in 1970 vs. 2020:

 1970 Median Household Income (in 2020 $)2020 Median Household Income% Change
Low Income$20,604$29,96345%
Middle Income$59,934$90,13150%
Upper Income$130,008$219,57269%

With a recession⁠ highly likely to occur in the U.S., and rising inflation causing increases in the cost of basic, everyday goods, budgets may get tighter for many households in America, and incomes are likely to be impacted as well.

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