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Cost of Living: New York Is Most Expensive U.S. City

By Stephen Miller  7/9/2010
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New York is the most expensive city in the U.S., followed by Los Angeles, White Plains, N.Y., and Chicago. Winston-Salem, N.C., is ranked as the least expensive U.S. city, according to the 2010 Cost of Living Survey from HR consultancy Mercer.

Vancouver is the most expensive Canadian city, followed by Toronto and Montreal. Ottawa is Canada’s least expensive city.

The survey measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. It is intended to help companies determine compensation allowance for employees. The cost of housing—often the biggest single expense for employees—plays an important part in determining where cities are ranked, according to Mercer.

“Mobility is still an expensive undertaking for companies, so selection of the right candidates and a real understanding of the costs involved in relocating staff" remains essential—especially in a challenging economic environment, commented Nathalie Constantin-Métral, senior researcher at Mercer with responsibility for compiling the annual ranking.

Luanda in Angola is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates, Mercer found. Tokyo is in second position, followed by N’Djamena in Chad, Moscow and Geneva. Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, is ranked as the world’s least expensive. The survey found that Luanda is three times as costly as Karachi. 

2010 Cost of Living Comparisons for Select U.S. Cities
(Chart reflects purchases at medium-priced establishments)


New York


Washington, D.C.


St. Louis


Rent of a luxury two bedroom unfurnished apartment (per month)







Cinema, international release, 1 seat







Music CD







1 cup of coffee, including service







Fast food hamburger meal







One liter of gasoline, unleaded 95 octane







Pasteurized whole milk, above 2.5% fat (1 liter / 33.8 oz)







Spaghetti (1,000 grams / 35.3 oz)







The following U.S. cities were ranked by Mercer from most to least expensive: New York, Los Angeles, White Plains, N.Y., Chicago, San Francisco, Miami, Honolulu, Washington, D.C., Boston, Houston, Dallas, Seattle, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Detroit, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Portland, Ore., Winston-Salem, N.C.

Source: Mercer

Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

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