10 Cities Where You’ll Be Broke With a $50,000 Salary

Aerial view of Chicago, one of several cities with an outrageously high cost of living

Aerial view of Chicago, one of several cities with an outrageously high cost of living | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Americans are being pushed out of several cities in the United States for a simple reason: The cost of living is on the rise. Gentrification, income inequality, and slow wage growth are all factors in the equation, and for millions of people, it means having to move out of their homes to find cheaper alternatives. This is on full display in places like the Bay Area, where the tech boom has driven home prices and the cost of living through the roof — while many of the area’s natives have been left behind.

But that’s just one example. The same thing is happening in many other cities as well. The Census Bureau’s data says that the average American household earns roughly $53,000 per year, which is enough to live comfortably in many parts of the country. But in certain cities? An average income means barely scraping by.

Cost of living and an average income

While there are people who earn an average income (and below) and manage to make it work in every city, there are some towns where the numbers of those folks are dwindling every year. Every time costs jump up — be it due to rent increases, food costs, gas prices, etc. — more and more people are sent looking for less expensive dwellings. And it’s no more pronounced than in 10 specific American cities.

Using data from the Worldwide Cost of Living Report 2016, researched and compiled by The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, we’re highlighting 10 American cities where an average income simply won’t cut it anymore. The entire project looks at the most expensive cities in the world — 133 in all. Among the top 49 were 10 American cities, which we highlight on the following pages.

10. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

A passenger car travels down the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

A passenger car travels down the Duquesne Incline in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Not many people would expect to see Pittsburgh show up on this list, but according to the Economist’s team, it’s the 49th most expensive city in the world. Still considered by many to be a blue collar town, Pittsburgh is seeing revitalization in many sectors as the workforce shifts to new industries.

9. Honolulu, Hawaii

A Honolulu beach

A Honolulu beach | Source: Thinkstock

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that life on the island paradise of Hawaii is expensive. According to The Economist’s calculations, Honolulu — the state’s largest and most bustling city — is the 46th most expensive city in the world to live in.

8. Seattle, Washington

Downtown Seattle, Washington

Downtown Seattle, Washington | Dan Callister/Newsmakers

A far cry from the warm, tropical islands of Hawaii, Seattle, Washington is the world’s 42nd most expensive city to live in. The tech boom, leaking out of the Bay Area, has flowed north and is driving real estate and rents up, and a high growth rate means more competition for jobs and space.

7. San Francisco, California

A view of Lombard Street n San Francisco, California

A view of Lombard Street n San Francisco, California | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Speaking of the Bay Area, the largest and most populous city in the region is also one that the average American can no longer afford. San Francisco has become a hotbed of wealth and talent, and as a result, many of the city’s natives are being transplanted as costs rise. San Francisco is the 34th most expensive city in the world.

6. Houston, Texas

Downtown Houston Texas Cityscape

Downtown Houston, Texas | Source: iStock

You may be surprised to learn that, by many measures, Houston is more expensive than Honolulu or San Francisco. But according to The Economist’s research team, it’s true; Houston is the 31st most expensive city in the world by 2016’s figures.

5. Washington, D.C.

Aerial view of Washington D.C.

Aerial view of Washington D.C. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

Washington D.C. — where money and power collide. Naturally, D.C. is going to be a pricey place to try and make ends meet, and a look at the numbers confirms it. All told, D.C. is the 26th most expensive city in the world.

4. Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis, Minnesota skyline

Minneapolis, Minnesota skyline | Source: iStock

Perhaps the list’s most surprising entry, Minneapolis, Minnesota ranks fourth in the U.S. — and 24th in the world — in terms of costs of living. Minneapolis is a budding economic power, but few would expect to see it ranked higher than Washington D.C., San Francisco, or Honolulu.

3. Chicago, Illinois

Downtown Chicago, Illinois

Downtown Chicago, Illinois | Scott Olson/Getty Images

America’s third-largest city and Midwestern hub Chicago ranks third in the U.S. and 21st in the world in costs of living. Compare that to 2015’s list, where Chicago landed at the 39th spot — meaning it’s getting more expensive there, and fast.

2. Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles skyline

Los Angeles skyline | David McNew/Getty Images

If you want to live in southern California, the Los Angeles area can offer tons of opportunity. But if you want to live in the city limits, you’re going to need to shell out some considerable amounts of money. L.A. is the world’s 8th most expensive city.

1. New York City, New York

Aerial photo of New York City at night

New York City | Mario Tama/Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, New York City tops the charts in terms of American costs of living. New York is the world’s 7th most expensive city, and you can expect that it’s only going to get pricier. In 2015, NYC was ranked 22nd in the world, to give you an idea of how fast costs are rising.

Check out the entire Worldwide Cost of Living report to see all 133 cities listed.

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