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Cost of living in selected cities as compared to San Francisco

As of April 2009, a family of 4 with two adults working full time at San Francisco's minimum wage of $9.79 per hour would earn $40,726 annually, too much for their children to receive free or reduced price school meals. Yet due to the high cost of living in San Francisco, it is nearly impossible to raise a family on $40,726, let alone on the $39,200 per year maximum that a family of 4 with 2 children can earn this year and still qualify for subsidized school meals. In almost every other city in the country, a similar family trying to get by on $39,200 would be far better off. While $39,200 a year for a family of 4 is well above the poverty level in most of the United States, it is well below the poverty level in San Francisco.

The income ceiling for eligibility for free meals is set by Congress and the USDA, and is the same for the 48 contiguous states; rates for Alaska and Hawaii are higher. To understand why the rate for the 48 states may be appropriate for most of the country, but not for San Francisco, imagine two families of 4, each with 2 children and an income of about $39,200. Given an identical income, how much higher is the cost of living for the family in San Francisco than it is for the family in another city? Compare the buying power of these two families.

The 48 contiguous states (selected cities)

Cost of living in SF compared to Portland, Maine +61.9%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 61.9% higher than in Portland, ME. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Portland (who just missed eligibility for subsidized meals for their children in 2008-09) has the buying power of a similar family earning $63,453 in San Francisco. Put another way, the family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning just $24,216 in Portland.

Cost of living in SF compared to Boston, Mass. +16.7%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 16.7% higher than in Boston, MA. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Boston has the buying power of a similar family earning $45,764 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $33,577 in Boston.

Cost of living in SF compared to Philadelphia, Pa. +37.5%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 37.5% higher than in Philadelphia, PA A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Philadelphia has the buying power of a similar family earning $53,897 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $28,510 in Philadelphia.

Cost of living in SF compared to Baltimore, Maryland +52.3%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 52.3% higher than in Baltimore, MD. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Baltimore has the buying power of a similar family earning $59,694 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $25,741 in Baltimore.

Cost of living in SF compared to Atlanta, Georgia +45.2%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 45.2% higher than in Atlanta, GA. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Atlanta has the buying power of a similar family earning $56,903 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $27,004 in Atlanta.

Cost of living in SF compared to Miami, Florida +42.3%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 42.3% higher than in Miami, FL. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Miami has the buying power of a similar family earning $55,790 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $27,542 in Miami.

Cost of living in SF compared to Cleveland, Ohio +61.4%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 61.4% higher than in Cleveland, OH. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Cleveland has the buying power of a similar family earning $63,236 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $24,289 in Cleveland.

Cost of living in SF compared to Detroit, Michigan +55.0%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 55.0% than in Detroit, MI. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Detroit has the buying power of a similar family earning $60,774 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $25,284 in Detroit.

Cost of living in SF compared to Chicago, Illinois +35.4%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 35.4% higher than in Chicago, IL. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Chicago has the buying power of a similar family earning $53,077 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $28,950 in Chicago.

Cost of living in SF compared to St. Louis, Missouri +56.7%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 56.7% higher than in St. Louis, MO. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in St. Louis has the buying power of a similar family earning $61,445 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $25,077 in St. Louis.

Cost of living in SF compared to Lincoln, Nebraska +73.3%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 73.3% higher than in Lincoln, NE. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Lincoln has the buying power of a similar family earning $67,947 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $22,615 in Lincoln.

Cost of living in SF compared to Dallas, Texas +54.6%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 54.6% higher than in Dallas, TX. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Dallas has the buying power of a similar family earning $60,621 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $25,348 in Dallas.

Cost of living in SF compared to Helena, Montana +81.4%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 81.4% higher than in Helena, MT. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Helena has the buying power of a similar family earning $71,103 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $21,611 in Helena.

Cost of living in SF compared to Seattle, Washington +38.8%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 38.8% higher than in Seattle, WA. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Seattle has the buying power of a similar family earning $54,419 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $28,237 in Seattle.

Cost of living in SF compared to Reno, Nevada +62.6%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 62.6% higher than in Reno, NV. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Reno has the buying power of a similar family earning $63,736 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $24,109 in Reno.

Cost of living in SF compared to Phoenix, Arizona +57.5%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 57.5% higher than in Phoenix, AZ. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Phoenix has the buying power of a similar family earning $61,754 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $24,883 in Phoenix.

Cost of living in SF compared to Sacramento, CA +50.4%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 50.4% higher than in Sacramento, CA. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Sacramento has the buying power of a similar family earning $58,953 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $26,065 in Sacramento.

Cost of living in SF compared to Los Angeles, CA +11.7%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 11.7% higher than in Los Angeles, CA. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Los Angeles has the buying power of a similar family earning $43,796 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $35,085 in Los Angeles.

Cost of living in SF compared to San Diego, CA +16.7%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 16.7% higher than in San Diego, CA. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in San Diego has the buying power of a similar family earning $45,747 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $33,589 in San Diego.

The only place with a higher cost of living than San Francisco is New York City.
Cost of living in SF compared to New York, NY -6.2%

The cost of living in San Francisco is 6.2% lower than in New York, NY. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in New York City has the buying power of a similar family earning $36,778 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $41,781 in New York City.

Alaska and Hawaii

Cost of living in SF compared to Anchorage, Alaska +36.7%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 36.7% higher than in Anchorage, AK. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Anchorage has the buying power of a similar family earning $53,594 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $28,671 in Anchorage.

Cost of living in SF compared to Fairbanks, Alaska +46.2%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 46.2% higher than in Fairbanks, AK. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Fairbanks has the buying power of a similar family earning $57,293 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $26,820 in Fairbanks.

Cost of living in SF compared to Juneau, Alaska +22.2%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 22.2% higher than in Juneau, AK. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Juneau has the buying power of a similar family earning $47,889 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $32,087 in Juneau.

Cost of living in SF compared to Honolulu, Hawaii +3.5%
The cost of living in San Francisco is 3.5% higher than in Honolulu, HI. A family of 4 with two working adults earning $39,200 in Honolulu has the buying power of a similar family earning $40,561 in San Francisco. The family of 4 earning $39,200 in San Francisco has the same buying power as a similar family earning $37,883 in Honolulu.

(calculations by Cost of Living Wizard - http://salary.nytimes.com/costoflivingwizard/layoutscripts/coll_start.asp)

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Page last updated Monday November 02, 2009