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New York and California Account for Six of the Most Expensive U.S Cities

Manhattan, Brooklyn, and San Francisco are the most expensive urban areas in the entire nation, mainly because of their steep prices for housing, according to the 2012 Cost of Living Index from the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER).

More than 300 urban areas in the U.S participate in the study, which analyzes the prices of items in six different categories including housing, utilities, groceries and transportation. The national average for the index is set at 100, but the New York borough of Manhattan more than doubles the national average with an index of 228.3, making it the only city in the U.S to have a cost of living index over 200. The other top ten cities also tower over the national index with scores over 140.

The official top 10 most expensive cities in the U.S., according to C2ER:

1)    Manhattan

2)    Brooklyn

3)    San Francisco

4)    Honolulu

5)    San Jose, California

6)    Stamford, Connecticut

7)    Queens, New York

8)    Orange Country, California

9)    Washington, D.C

10) Juneau, Alaska


“Especially with the top 10 most expensive cities, housing is a major player in the overall composite index number,” says Dean Frutiger, the Cost of Living Index project manager at the Center for Regional Economic Competiveness. This is especially true for the New York and California cities as well as Washington D.C.

For two of the top ten most expensive cities, Honolulu and Juneau, the problem is the geography. Hawaii and Alaska are so far from the rest of the country that transporting goods becomes quite expensive. This forces the markets in these cities to increase grocery prices in order to compensate for the cost of getting the goods on the shelves. This has pushed Juneau, Alaska’s index to 140.5 and Honolulu, Hawaii’s index to a staggering 165.8.

The newest addition to the top 10 list is Washington D.C, currently ranking at number nine. “Maybe the last year, year and a half, suddenly D.C has been showing up on the top 10, and that is largely due to the housing index number,” Frutiger explained. This has caused D.C.’s index to jump to 144.6.

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