Hours of Work Needed to Pay Rent in the 10 Largest Cities

Woman looking at her watch while working
GaudiLab / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on SmartAsset.com.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 20 million renters allocate at least 30% of their household income towards rent, indicating that they are housing cost-burdened. This can be especially true in larger cities, where the cost of living is higher.

And if time is money, then many Americans will have to resort to working longer hours to make ends meet without having to use up any existing emergency funds.

SmartAsset measured the hours of work needed to pay rent in the largest cities in the U.S. This is SmartAsset’s fourth-annual study on the hours of work needed to pay monthly rent. Check out the 2020 version here.

To determine our estimates, we considered data on the following metrics: average annual take-home pay, average hours worked per year and median monthly rent. For details on our data sources and how we put all the information together to create our final rankings, check out the Data and Methodology section at the end.

Following are the average hours that workers devote to paying rent in the biggest cities.

1. San Jose, CA

San Jose California
Uladzik Kryhin / Shutterstock.com

In San Jose, California, it takes more than 76 hours of work on average to pay the median monthly rent, which is $2,223 or almost $26,700 per year. The average salary for a worker in San Jose is $41,419 after taxes, with an estimated hourly wage of about $29.

2. San Diego, CA

The skyline of San Diego, where median rent is well below median mortgage payments
Dancestrokes / Shutterstock.com

The average annual take-home pay in San Diego, California, is $34,157, or an hourly wage of less than $25. According to our estimates, the average worker in this city would need to work almost 74 hours to be able to pay the median monthly rent, which is $1,806.

3. Los Angeles, CA

The streets of Los Angeles, where median rent is relatively low
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

In Los Angeles, California, the average worker needs to clock almost 73 hours to cover the median monthly rent, which is $1,554. The average number of hours worked in the city is about 38 hours per week, which means that it would take that worker almost two weeks to earn the money for a month’s rent. The average worker in Los Angeles earns $34,669 before taxes and takes home about $28,815 — or a little more than $21 per hour.

4. Boston, MA

Boston, Massachusetts
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

In Boston, Massachusetts, the average worker earns $35,800 after taxes, or about $25 an hour. The median monthly rent in Boston is $1,735, which means residents there will have to work more than 69 hours to pay for a month’s rent. At an average of about 38 hours worked per week in Boston, it would take nearly 13 days for a worker to cover this amount.

5. New York, NY

New York City coastline
IM_photo / Shutterstock.com

New York City has the fifth-highest number of hours needed to pay rent across the 25 largest cities in this study. With a median monthly rent in the city of $1,483, a person would have to work 62 hours to cover rent. The average worker in New York earns $42,326 and takes home $32,608 after taxes or $23.90 per hour.

6. San Francisco, CA

San Francisco neighborhood.
Bertl123 / Shutterstock.com

In San Francisco, California, the median monthly rent is $1,959. This is the second-highest monthly rent amount across all 25 cities in our study, following only San Jose, California. The average worker in the city earns about $32 per hour or $51,548 after taxes.

This means that worker would have to work an average of 61.2 hours to cover rental costs. At an average of 40.2 hours worked per week in San Francisco, it would take this worker about a week and a half to do so.

7. Denver, CO

Denver, Colorado
f11photo / Shutterstock.com

In order to cover the median cost of a rental apartment or home in Denver, Colorado, the average worker would need to work almost 60 hours. The median monthly rent in Denver is $1,433. The average worker in Denver earns $47,146 before taxes, with take-home pay of $37,922 or $23.92 an hour.

8. Nashville, TN

Nashville, Tennessee
jdross75 / Shutterstock.com

The median monthly rent in Nashville, Tennessee, is $1,191 or $14,292 per year. With the average worker there earning $31,889 after taxes or $20.77 per hour, it would take that person approximately 57 hours of work to cover the cost of rent each month.

9. Austin, TX

Austin, Texas waterscape
Silvio Ligutti / Shutterstock.com

The average worker in Austin, Texas, earns $42,416 and takes home $35,739 or $23.34 per hour. Monthly rents in Austin reach a median cost of $1,334 per month or $16,008 per year. At that rate, it would take that person more than 57 hours of work to cover rental costs.

10. Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, North Carolina
Kevin M. McCarthy / Shutterstock.com

The average salary for a worker in Charlotte, North Carolina, is $38,528. That worker would take home $31,118 or $20.61 an hour. Charlotte has the lowest median monthly rental cost across the 10 cities on this list, at $1,174, resulting in a total annual rent of $14,088.

To be able to pay for a month’s rent in Charlotte, the average worker would have to work 57 hours.

Data and Methodology

Working on computer data analysis on a laptop
Gorodenkoff / Shutterstock.com

To find out how many hours of work are needed to pay rent in the 25 largest cities in the U.S., we looked at data on the following three metrics:

  • Average annual take-home pay. This is the average worker’s earnings after accounting for income taxes. To find out how much each worker would pay in income taxes, we ran median worker’s earnings data through our income tax calculator. We assumed the average worker would contribute nothing to an IRA or 401(k), take the standard deduction and file as a single filer. Earnings data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Average hours worked per year. This is the number of weeks worked per year multiplied by the number of hours worked per week. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.
  • Median monthly rent. Data comes from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 1-year American Community Survey.

First, we found the average hourly wage for each worker by dividing average annual take-home pay by average hours worked per year. Then we divided the median monthly rent by the average hourly wage. This resulted in the average hours of work needed to pay a month’s rent. Finally, we ordered the cities from highest to lowest based on the average number of hours needed to pay rent.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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