Cost of living in selected cities as compared to San Francisco

As of September 2009, a family of 4 with two adults working full time at San Francisco's minimum wage of $9.79 per hour would earn $40,726 annually, barely qualifying for their children to receive reduced price school meals. If the family receives just $70 additional income for the entire year, the children will lose their meal eligibility. Yet due to the high cost of living in San Francisco, it is nearly impossible to raise a family on the $40,793 maximum that a family of 4 with 2 children can earn this year and still qualify for subsidized school meals. In almost every other city in the country, a similar family trying to get by on about $40,800 would be far better off. While $40,800 a year for a family of 4 is well above the poverty level in most of the United States, it is well below the poverty level in San Francisco.

The income ceiling for eligibility for free meals is set by Congress and the USDA, and is the same for the 48 contiguous states; rates for Alaska and Hawaii are higher. To understand why the rate for the 48 states may be appropriate for most of the country, but not for San Francisco, imagine two families of 4, each with 2 children and an income of about $40,800. Given an identical income, how much higher is the cost of living for the family in San Francisco than it is for the family in another city? Compare the buying power of these two families.

The 48 contiguous states (selected cities)

Cost of living in SF compared to Portland, Maine +61.1%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 61.1% higher than in Portland, ME. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Portland (who just missed eligibility for subsidized meals for their children in 2009-10) has the buying power of a similar family earning $65,718 in San Francisco. Put another way, the family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning just $25,329 in Portland.

Cost of living in SF compared to Boston, Mass. +18.3%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 18.3% higher than in Boston, MA. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Boston has the buying power of a similar family earning $48,266 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $34,488 in Boston.

Cost of living in SF compared to Philadelphia, Pa. +38%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 38% higher than in Philadelphia, PA A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Philadelphia has the buying power of a similar family earning $56,320 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $29,556 in Philadelphia.

Cost of living in SF compared to Baltimore, Maryland +67.1%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 67.1% higher than in Baltimore, MD. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Baltimore has the buying power of a similar family earning $68,185 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $24,413 in Baltimore.

Cost of living in SF compared to Atlanta, Georgia +60.2%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 60.2% higher than in Atlanta, GA. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Atlanta has the buying power of a similar family earning $65,375 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $25,462 in Atlanta.

Cost of living in SF compared to Miami, Florida +49.4%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 49.4% higher than in Miami, FL. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Miami has the buying power of a similar family earning $60,955 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $27,308 in Miami.

Cost of living in SF compared to Cleveland, Ohio +68.7%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 68.7% higher than in Cleveland, OH. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Cleveland has the buying power of a similar family earning $68,836 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $24,182 in Cleveland.

Cost of living in SF compared to Detroit, Michigan +74.7%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 74.7% than in Detroit, MI. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Detroit has the buying power of a similar family earning $71,281 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $23,352 in Detroit.

Cost of living in SF compared to Chicago, Illinois +36.6%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 36.6% higher than in Chicago, IL. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Chicago has the buying power of a similar family earning $55,734 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $29,867 in Chicago.

Cost of living in SF compared to St. Louis, Missouri +72.5%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 72.5% higher than in St. Louis, MO. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in St. Louis has the buying power of a similar family earning $70,378 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $23,652 in St. Louis.

Cost of living in SF compared to Lincoln, Nebraska +90%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 90% higher than in Lincoln, NE. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Lincoln has the buying power of a similar family earning $77,506 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $21,477 in Lincoln.

Cost of living in SF compared to Dallas, Texas +59.6%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 59.6% higher than in Dallas, TX. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Dallas has the buying power of a similar family earning $65,104 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $25,568 in Dallas.

Cost of living in SF compared to Helena, Montana +90.8%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 90.8% higher than in Helena, MT. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Helena has the buying power of a similar family earning $77,841 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $21,385 in Helena.

Cost of living in SF compared to Seattle, Washington +44.8%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 44.8% higher than in Seattle, WA. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Seattle has the buying power of a similar family earning $59,059 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $28,185 in Seattle.

Cost of living in SF compared to Reno, Nevada +62%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 62.6% higher than in Reno, NV. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Reno has the buying power of a similar family earning $66,112 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $25,178 in Reno.

Cost of living in SF compared to Phoenix, Arizona +70%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 70% higher than in Phoenix, AZ. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Phoenix has the buying power of a similar family earning $69,353 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $24,002 in Phoenix.

Cost of living in SF compared to Sacramento, CA +54%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 54% higher than in Sacramento, CA. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Sacramento has the buying power of a similar family earning $62,833 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $26,492 in Sacramento.

Cost of living in SF compared to Los Angeles, CA +11.7%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 11.7% higher than in Los Angeles, CA. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Los Angeles has the buying power of a similar family earning $45,585 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $36,517 in Los Angeles.

Cost of living in SF compared to San Diego, CA +22.6%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 22.6% higher than in San Diego, CA. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in San Diego has the buying power of a similar family earning $50,035 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $33,268 in San Diego.

The only place with a higher cost of living than San Francisco is New York City.
Cost of living in SF compared to New York, NY -3.2%

The cost of living in San Francisco is 3.2% lower than in New York, NY. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in New York City has the buying power of a similar family earning $39,490 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $42,152 in New York City.

Alaska and Hawaii

Cost of living in SF compared to Anchorage, Alaska +44.3%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 44.3% higher than in Anchorage, AK. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Anchorage has the buying power of a similar family earning $58,857 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $28,282 in Anchorage.

Cost of living in SF compared to Fairbanks, Alaska +51.1%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 51.1% higher than in Fairbanks, AK. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Fairbanks has the buying power of a similar family earning $61,632 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $27,009 in Fairbanks.

Cost of living in SF compared to Juneau, Alaska +25.9%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 25.9% higher than in Juneau, AK. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Juneau has the buying power of a similar family earning $51,379 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $32,398 in Juneau.

Cost of living in SF compared to Honolulu, Hawaii +3.8%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 3.5% higher than in Honolulu, HI. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $40,800 in Honolulu has the buying power of a similar family earning $42,331 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $40,800 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $39,323 in Honolulu.

(calculations by Cost of Living Wizard - http://salary.nytimes.com/costoflivingwizard/layoutscripts/coll_start.asp)



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Page last updated Tuesday June 21, 2011