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Economy & Business

Pittsburgh's Cost of Living Below the 'Average' City

Flickr user josepha

More young people are moving to Pittsburgh while fewer are leaving, and Doug Heuck, the director of Pittsburgh TODAY, thinks this could be because of the region’s cost of living.

The nonprofit research organization found that in the first quarter of 2014, Pittsburgh’s cost of living was the third lowest among 14 peer cities – St. Louis and Charlotte had the lowest cost of living figures.

“It’s one of the kind of facets and assets of Pittsburgh that’s very attractive to people,” Heuck said. “And it’s part of the reason, I believe, that we’ve been getting during the last five or six years more and more young people moving in because it’s a very livable city in terms of cost.”

The data gathered for Pittsburgh TODAY’s Composite Cost of Living Index was collected from the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) Index, which took into account many metropolitan and non-metropolitan regions around the country.

The index included costs such as groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services. A score of 100 was given to the “average” city.

Pittsburgh’s score of 94.4 compared to the benchmark average of 104.3, meaning the cost of living in the city was about 10 percent cheaper than the mean of the 14 cities and about 6 percent less expensive than C2ER’s index.

“Our wages are typically on the lower side, too, but when you adjust wages as kind of a function of cost of living, then we’re closer to about average,” Heuck said. “In other words, a dollar goes a lot farther in Pittsburgh.”

Heuck said the main reason the cost of living in the city is so low is because of housing.  Pittsburgh was 81.8 – about 26 percent lower than the benchmark average of 107.2 and slightly less than 20 percent lower than C2ER’s index.

“Some of it’s probably [because] we’re not coastal," Heuck said. "If you look at the coastal, cities they’re always more expensive. But generally, this continues a trend that’s been holding in Pittsburgh for many years.”

The city was also ranked the third lowest in expenses of groceries and utilities.

However, Pittsburgh was the fourth most expensive when it came to transportation costs at about 7 percent higher than both the benchmark average and national average.

Heuck said this is because the price of gas is more expensive and cars in general need more maintenance.

“When you have a city where for instance you have roads that have potholes, you tend to have higher auto maintenance costs,” Heuck said. “And I’m sure that that’s traditionally one of the areas which has made automobile maintenance more expensive in Pittsburgh.”

Boston consistently ranked the most expensive in all the categories.

Pittsburgh TODAY’s index can be found on its website.