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The 25 most expensive U.S. cities to live in

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

This post has been updated.

The city that never sleeps stood out as the most expensive place in America to live, according to a study by the Council for Community and Economic Research.

The study — which looked at 257 cities over the first quarter of this year and analyzed the cost of housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services — found that the cost of living in New York City’s Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens boroughs were all among the top 25.

Manhattan topped the list and was followed by San Francisco, Honolulu, Brooklyn, Seattle, and Washington D.C.

New York City's Manhattan and San Francisco are the most expensive places to live in the United States (Graphic: David Foster).

The most expensive cities involve high rent

Housing was the biggest expense for those living in the top 5 cities, forming 29.34% of the overall composite index of the cost of living.

An oft-quoted complaint, rent in New York City strains New Yorkers’ finances tremendously — with a one-bedroom apartment rental in Manhattan going for $3,100 a month — according to apartment-search site Naked Apartments.

Everyday living was also more expensive in the city. According to data company Numbeo, a meal at McDonald’s in New York costs $9 and a cappuccino demands $4.54. At the same time, median annual household income was around $75,400, according to Data USA.

On the West Coast, San Francisco’s housing situation has also become brutal for tenants in recent years.

A listing in San Francisco. (Source: Climb Real Estate)

The average rent in San Francisco is around $3,600 for an apartment, according to apartment listing service Rent Cafe, and houses on sale now come with outrageous price tags.

Recently, a $1 million real estate listing in the city (picture above) demonstrated how far owners can go with their asking price, even for a fixer-upper.

Alaska cities also featured prominently on the list: Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage rounded out the top 25.

Old, wooden Gold Rush Era houses in Pioneer Park in Fairbanks, Alaska, USA.

And while Alaska residents don’t pay state income or sales tax, they face significantly high utilities costs.

In 2017, Alaska state residents paid nearly $128 a month for electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). For comparison: New Yorkers in comparison paid around $103, Californians around $101.

But Alaska residents also have an additional income stream to help offset that expense. Since 1982, the state has paid out an annual dividend to every man, woman, and child living in the state, derived from its oil revenue. That payout ranges between $1,000 and $2,000.

The least expensive cities

On the other side of the spectrum are cities like Harlingen, Texas — the lowest cost of living on the list — as well as McAllen, Texas, and Kalamazoo, Michigan.

McAllen is the largest city in Hidalgo County, Texas, United States, and the twenty-second most populous city in Texas.

A small city along the Rio Grande and Mexican border, Harlingen saw an average rent of $713, according to Rent Cafe. A meal at McDonald’s costs $6.50 in the city and a cappuccino $3.67.

Median annual household income was slightly above $38,000.

Rent in neighboring McAllen were a little pricer at an average of $809, while the median household income in the area was $45,057.

Here’s the top 10 for most- and least-expensive:

The most and least expensive U.S. cities. (Source: The Council for Community and Economic Research)

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.

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