15 Cities With the Highest Cost-of-Living Adjusted Salaries

Young woman excited about handful of money
Dean Drobot / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on Smartest Dollar.

The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked a surge in geographic mobility. According to Pew Research Center, 22 percent of adults in the U.S. have relocated during the pandemic or know someone who did.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that prior to COVID-19, Americans were moving a lot less. In 2019, 2.1 percent of Americans moved to a different county within the same state while only 1.5 percent moved to a different state entirely. The share of Americans moving across county lines has remained at a relatively flat, low level since 2010.

As people think about where to move during COVID-19 and beyond, job prospects and earning potential will be top of mind.

The relative cost of living in a given area impacts purchasing power and should be an important factor when weighing employment opportunities.

There is significant regional variation in cost-of-living adjusted earnings across the U.S., with residents in the Northeast and Midwest generally faring better than those in the South or West. For example, median adjusted earnings range from a low of $41,063 in Florida to a high of $58,029 in Massachusetts.

To find which metropolitan areas offer the greatest purchasing power, researchers at Smartest Dollar calculated cost-of-living adjusted earnings using data for full-time workers from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Following are the large metropolitan areas with the highest cost-of-living adjusted earnings.

15. Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio
Randall Vermillion / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $55,530
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $51,032
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 19.2%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -8.1%

14. Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh
esb-professional / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $55,798
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $51,948
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 24.5%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -6.9%

13. Cleveland

Cleveland, Ohio
Rudy Balasko / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $55,892
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $50,359
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 18.8%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -9.9%

12. Denver

Denver, Colorado
f11photo / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $55,894
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $58,633
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 23.6%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +4.9%

11. St. Louis

Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Missouri
photos.us / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $56,624
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $51,528
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 21.8%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -9.0%

10. Raleigh, North Carolina

Raleigh, North Carolina
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $56,934
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $54,998
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 19.7%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -3.4%

9. Cincinnati

Cincinnati
anthony-heflin / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $57,222
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $51,500
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 19.8%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): -10.0%

8. Baltimore

Baltimore
f11photo / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $57,575
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $61,432
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 20.5%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +6.7%

7. San Francisco

San Francisco neighborhood.
Bertl123 / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $58,331
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $76,764
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 31.5%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +31.6%

6. Minneapolis

Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis
Roger Siljander / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $58,512
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $60,033
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 21.3%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +2.6%

5. Seattle

Seattle skyline
Checubus / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $58,573
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $66,129
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 28.2%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +12.9%

4. Boston

Downtown Boston, Massachusetts
Rsphotograph / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $59,046
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $67,430
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 24.3%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +14.2%

3. Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. traffic with Capitol Building in background
Atomazul / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $59,993
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $70,672
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 17.0%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +17.8%

2. Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford, Connecticut
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $60,357
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $61,625
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 18.1%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +2.1%

1. San Jose, California

The skyline of San Jose, which has a lower median rent than median mortgage payment
stellamc / Shutterstock.com
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (adjusted): $63,727
  • Median earnings for full-time workers (unadjusted): $82,463
  • Percentage change since 2010 (unadjusted): 30.7%
  • Cost of living (compared to national average): +29.4%

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