Cost of Living Index

The Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce collected data for the national Cost of Living Index that was recently released for third quarter. The Council for Community and Economic Research produces the Cost of Living Index based on more than 90,000 prices, which are collected quarterly by chambers of commerce, economic development organizations and university economic centers in each participating urban area. Flagstaff weighed in with 118.2 or 18.2 % above the national average for a professional/managerial standard of living of all 264 areas in the study. Statewide we ranked the highest cost of living of all eight cities participating.

For over ten years, the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce has conducted the research required to calculate Flagstaff’s Cost of Living Index. The quarterly study measures relative price levels for consumer goods and services. The data requested is set by category and collected by each participating community on exactly the same timeframe nationwide.

This local economy research is provided by the Chamber as a community service. Greater Flagstaff Chamber officials make personal visits to each of the stores that must be visited to collect prices for 60 different items all set ahead of time in six categories. The average for all participating places in each category equals 100, and each participant’s index is read as a percentage of the average for all contributing areas. Categories are then aggregated into a composite index.

The study showed that Flagstaff utility prices are lower than the average price for utilities in the measured areas. Flagstaff numbers for two categories, “Health Care” and “Miscellaneous Goods and Services” were almost equal to the average. The price of grocery items in Flagstaff earned a 116.6 index, while transportation prices were at 112.4. However, a Housing Index of 154.3 was what drove up Flagstaff’s composite index to 118.2.

Among the 264 urban areas that participated in the third quarter 2014 Cost of Living Index, the after-tax cost for a professional/managerial standard of living ranged from more than twice the national average in New York (Manhattan) NY to almost 20 percent below the national average in McAllen, TX.

The Ten Most and Least Expensive Urban Areas
in the Cost of Living Index Third Quarter 2014
National Average for 264 Urban Areas = 100

Most Expensive Least Expensive
Ranking Urban Areas COL Index Ranking Urban Areas COL Index
1 New York (Manhattan) NY 214.5 1 McAllen TX 81.5
2 Honolulu HI 171.2 2 Ashland OH 83.4
3 New York (Brooklyn) NY 168.6 3 Harlingen TX 83.5
4 San Francisco CA 165.5 4 Martinsville-Henry County VA 84.6
5 Hilo HI 156.4 5 Richmond IN 84.6

The Cost of Living Index measures regional differences in the cost of consumer goods and services, excluding taxes and non-consumer expenditures, for professional and managerial households in the top income quintile. Small differences should not be interpreted as showing a measurable difference.

The composite index is based on six component categories – housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services.

The quarterly Cost of Living Index is available by subscription for $165 per year. A copy of the report is available to Chamber members for review at the Chamber offices.

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