America's Most and Least Affordable Cities

Cost of living can drastically affect the type of lifestyle your income affords you - in Manhattan residents have redefined what they consider "middle class." Here are the most and least affordable cities in the U.S.

Whether or not you think about it much, cost of living is extremely important. It’s the difference between the lifestyle a $100,000 salary provides in Manhattan compared to Harlingen, Texas.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, Manhattan is so expensive to live in that “middle class” has been redefined for its residents. The article claims that middle class people in New York City make between $45,000 and $134,000 a year. In other parts of the country, the range is $33,000 to $100,000.

It’s unsurprising then that the Council for Community and Economic Research named Manhattan the most expensive urban area in its annual Cost of Living Index. The standard of living is more than twice the national average. Brooklyn took second and Queens ranked sixth.

Compared to New York City, the least expensive urban area had a cost of living that was 19% below the national average.

“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.”

The index is based on six components: housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care and miscellaneous goods and services.

Here are the most and least expensive urban areas, plus its cost of living measure. (The national average is 100.)

Least expensive

10. Ashland, Ohio — 87.6

9. Pueblo, Colo. — 87.1

8. Muskogee, Okla. — 86.9

7. Wichita Falls, Texas — 86.4

5. (tied) Fayetteville, Ark. — 86

5. (tied) Memphis, Tenn. — 86

4. Ardmore, Okla. — 85.9

3. Norman, Okla. — 85.6

2. McAllen, Texas — 85.4

1. Harlingen, Texas — 81.8

This 100-year-old has chosen a unique way of showing its history by covering its walls in murals.

Most expensive

10. Boston, Mass. — 139.9

9. Orange County, Calif. — 140.6

8. Washington, D.C. — 144.7

7. Stamford, Conn. — 146.1

6. Queens, N.Y. — 148.3

5. San Jose, Calif. — 153.4

4. San Francisco, Calif. — 163.4

3. Honolulu, Hawaii — 167

2. Brooklyn, N.Y. — 178.6

1. Manhattan, N.Y. — 225.4

Four of the top 10 most expensive ZIP codes of 2012 were located in Manhattan, so it’s not that surprising that Manhattan topped the list.