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Kalamazoo Ranks #2 in the Nation for Its Low Cost of Living

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Adam Rossi
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Looking for an affordable place to lay out your “Home, Sweet Home” welcome mat? If so, Southwest Michigan is a great choice.

Kalamazoo continues to hold its place in the top five places in the U.S. with the lowest cost of living, closing out 2020 in the number two spot.

Among the 269 urban areas that participated in the 2020 Cost of Living (COL) Index published by the Council for Community and Economic Research, the after-tax cost for a professional/managerial standard of living ranged from more than twice the national average in downtown Manhattan to 25 percent below in Harlingen, Texas. Southwest Michigan’s geographical center—Kalamazoo, Michigan—continues to rank as one of the most affordable places to live in the nation boasting a cost of living that is 22.2 percent less than the national average.

With the national average on the index calculated at 100.0, here’s how the top five and bottom five places to live compare.

Top 5 Most Affordable Urban Areas   The Most Expensive Places to Be
Rank Place COL Index Rank Place COL Index
1 Harlingen, TX 75.0 265 Washington D.C. 159.0
2 Kalamazoo, MI 77.8 266 New York (Brooklyn), NY 178.8
3 McAllen, TX 78.1 267 San Francisco, CA 194.0
4 Pittsburg, KS 80.6 268 Honolulu, HI 198.6
5 Amarillo, TX 80.7 269 New York (Manhattan), NY 244.7

Cost of living is often top of mind for those considering a relocation for work or family. Employers too gather location intelligence on the communities in which they operate or are considering for investment.

While other communities advertise a low cost of living, Southwest Michigan makes that claim based on fact: the community has the second lowest cost of living in the nation as confirmed by the COL Index. Affordable housing in the Kalamazoo area is the top driver for landing it at the top of the list, as well as low prices at the grocery store and for miscellaneous expenses like hamburgers, pizza, movie tickets and more!

So, how do we stack up? Take a look at how the community’s overall cost of living compares to peer regions across reported categories.

LOCATION OVERALL GROCERY HOUSING UTILITIES TRANSPORTATION HEALTH CARE MISCELLANEOUS
Kalamazoo-Portage, MI 77.8 74.6 50.9 99 96.68 93.3 87.3
Knoxville, TN 83.3 86 68.5 94.3 86.8 92.1 88.9
Fort Wayne, IN 86.8 86.1 61.7 92.5 106 98.6 99
Niles-Benton Harbor, MI 87.4 91.7 68.3 108.8 96.9 95.7 91.7
Springfield, MO 88.6 101.5 72.4 86.6 89.3 101.2 94.9
Peoria, IL 90.1 95.9 79 100.2 103.4 89.5 90.5
Huntsville, AL 91.8 96.9 70.1 96.1 96 97.4 104
Greenville, SC 92.2 101.9 75.5 95.4 96 95.9 99.2
Omaha, NE 93.6 98.5 86.2 95.6 95.1 94.8 94.4
Winston-Salem, NC 94.2 101.1 79.6 93.8 99.6 116.5 98.7
Grand Rapids, MI 94.5 89.1 88.7 100.6 106.9 94.7 96.6
Cleveland, OH 96 103.5 83.3 95.1 99.8 109.7 100.4
Buffalo, NY 96.7 94.2 95 97 97.9 85.5 100.3
Boise, ID 99.3 93.5 99.6 83.1 108.8 98.2 103.3
National Average 100 100 100 100 100 100 100
Austin, TX 101.8 92.2 109.8 95 89.6 108.6 103.2
Detroit, MI 102.7 99.6 98.8 96.4 106.9 95.6 108.7
Minneapolis, MN 105.1 102.6 103.1 97.3 100.5 102.2 111.2
Chicago, IL 123.9 107.2 163 92.7 113.6 98.9 113.9
San Diego, CA 142.9 114.4 212 125.8 136.1 108.3 110.4
Boston, MA 150 113.2 224.4 122.3 108.5 120.6 127.4
San Francisco, CA 194 130.5 357.1 137.9 148.3 124.7 125.9
Manhattan, NY 244.7 148.1 542.3 98.3 131.7 109.8 132.8

Source: The Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) Cost of Living Index — 2020 Annual Average Data, Published February 2021.
Note: Peer communities were selected based on a variety of factors including, but not limited to industry representation, university presence, population, geographic location and index participation.

Get the complete report from Southwest Michigan First here.

Why are rankings like this one important?

As Michigan’s economic recovery continues to build momentum following the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, communities who garner national attention for the strength of their business employment, talent opportunities, and cost of living are poised to be places who will rebound the quickest. And many other rankings draw on data-based arrays like the COL Index. Just last week, PureWow ranked Kalamazoo as the number one coolest city in the U.S. with the lowest cost of living ahead of places like Knoxville, TN, Fayetteville, AR, and Oklahoma City, OK. Kalamazoo also recently came in at #8 in The Ascent’s annual ranking of The 10 Best Cities for High Salaries and Low Cost of Living in the Midwest with a cost of living index 23.2 percent below the national average. The list determines a city’s affordability based on how the typical resident’s income compares to the cost of living. The report also notes the high density of employment in life sciences in Kalamazoo and the surrounding area–not surprising with the Southwest region of Michigan having five times more workers than the U.S. average in the medical device sector.

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