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Study: Lehigh Valley Has More Affordable Cost of Living Than Other Northeast Markets

By Colin McEvoy on September 12, 2018

The Lehigh Valley has a much more affordable cost of living than practically every other major market in the Northeast, according to a newly-released national study.

The Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) released its quarterly Cost of Living Index, which compares prices for various goods and services across 259 major markets across the United States.

The index found the Lehigh Valley’s cost of living was much lower than most Northeast markets in most of the categories measured, including housing, transportation, groceries, and overall cost of living.

The Lehigh Valley was found to be 127 percent more affordable than Manhattan, 69 percent more than Brooklyn, 43 percent more than Boston, and 18 percent more affordable than North Jersey, to name a few examples.

The C2ER Cost of Living Index found the Lehigh Valley was far more affordable than most other major markets in the Northeast.

The C2ER Cost of Living Index found the Lehigh Valley was far more affordable than most other major markets in the Northeast.

“The fact that we compare so favorably to other regions in the Northeast continues to show that the Lehigh Valley is the most affordable place to do business in the most desirable market in the United States,” said Don Cunningham, President & CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).

“This information we gather for the Cost of Living Index is critical intelligence in the competition to attract and retain companies, create jobs, and recruit people to the Lehigh Valley,” Cunningham said.

The study found the Lehigh Valley’s overall affordability in the second quarter of 2018 has increased slightly, and remains nearly aligned with the national average for the 259 major urban areas that participated in the index.

The Lehigh Valley is just 4.9 percent more expensive than the national average, a decrease from 5.9 percent in Q1 2018. That’s far lower than Northeast markets like Manhattan (138 percent), Brooklyn (77 percent), Washington, D.C. (57 percent), and Boston (50 percent).

The standard cost of living ranged from more than twice the national average in Manhattan, the most expensive area surveyed, to almost 25 percent below the national average in Harlingen, Texas, according to C2ER.

The Lehigh Valley fared particularly well in the category of housing costs when compared to Northeast markets. Housing in the Lehigh Valley is 335 percent more affordable than in Manhattan, 175 percent more affordable than in Brooklyn, 123 percent more affordable than in Washington D.C.

The main reason the Lehigh Valley became more affordable in Q2 2018 compared to other markets is transportation, with gasoline price increases in other parts of the country bringing the region closer to the national average, according to George Lewis, LVEDC Director of Research and Analysis.

Within the subcategories measured by the index, food in the Lehigh Valley costs 1.2 percent less than the national average, health care costs 2.5 percent more, transportation costs 2.9 percent more, and housing costs 15.5 percent more.

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, according to C2ER.

It is based on more than 90,000 prices covering 60 different items for which prices are collected quarterly by chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, and university-applied economic centers in each participating urban area.

C2ER has been publishing the quarterly index since 1968. The index is based on six component categories: housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services, according to C2ER.

This marks the sixth consecutive quarter that the Lehigh Valley has been included in the Cost of Living Index. Since resuming participation in 2017, when LVEDC began gathering data on prices in the Lehigh Valley and submitting it to C2ER.

Prices for the index for the third quarter of 2018 were submitted on July 27, and the next report is expected to be released in October, Lewis said.

In addition to staff members, LVEDC uses volunteers to gather prices for items measured by the Cost of Living Index. If anyone would like to volunteer, contact Lewis at (610) 266-6852 or [email protected] for more information.

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