Living in the United States is undeniably pricey — an expense that has unfortunately, steadily increased with time. The cost of living in the U.S. increased a whopping 5.4 percent from July 2020 to July 2021, officially marking the largest annual increase since 2008. And Americans were already concerned about that very predicament — before the 5 percent hike, and prior to the pandemic. In February 2020, just as some of the first cases of Covid likely arrived stateside, nearly half of Americans cited the rising cost of living as the largest threat to their financial security.
That said, the cost of living vastly varies from state to state. A single person living in Hawaii, for example must make an absolute minimum of $40,412 per year in order to meet their most basic needs. Similarly, single residents of Washington D.C. must earn $41,850 yearly in order to stay float. Living in South Dakota, however, is practically half of that: Living wage in South Dakota is $26,225.
Data by state. Credit: CNBC Make It. Source: MIT Living Wage Calculator. Map data: Tilegrams/NPR.
These numbers all come from the MIT Living Wage Calculator, a program that estimates the minimum income required for a single person to cover basic living expenses without falling into poverty. Using available data, it approximates how much the average American would need to make to afford housing, food, insurance and other necessities in various states. The calculator recently updated its methodology to account for cell-phone and WiFi expenses, as well as “civic activities” like museums and clubs.
As noted previously the most expensive location is Washington, D.C. Other costly contenders are New York and California, which is to be expected. New York State’s most basic cost of living is $38,719, and California’s is $38,823. Massachusetts, Maryland and Oregon all unexpectedly close runner-ups, however, costing around $36 thousand. Majority of the Midwest and South cost $29 thousand, though Florida is slightly more costly at $30,825.
Click here to see the minimum cost of living in your state.