Comparative Living Costs

This penultimate blog in this series on where to locate is about how much it is going to cost you to be where you want to be, and conversely, how much money you need to earn in order to be there.  You will find that geographic location can make a dramatic difference on both counts.


The Web is chock-full of sites where you can compare living costs from one community to another, such as,, and  They should be an important component of your due diligence when researching any community.

The following cost of living numbers result from side-by-side comparisons I undertook for my most recent book, Practicing Law in Small-Town America (American Bar Association, 2012).  The figures compare New York City with four small communities around the country.  In each case, I examined what would be needed to match a salary of $150,000 in New York City.  Here are the results:

New York City         $150,000
Crescent City, CA      101,000
Durham, NH                70,000
Canandaigua, NY          69,000
Ada, OK                       52,000

As you see, the differences are startling, and they are countrywide.  But wait, this gets even more interesting when we examine housing costs, by far the largest component of most families’ expenses.  A $1 million residence in New York City would cost $380,000 in Crescent City, $310,000 in Durham, $240,000 in Canandaigua, and only $190,000 in Ada. Factor in that health care, food, transportation, utilities, entertainment and everything else also costs far less in these four focus communities.

I discovered, through my book research, that attorneys in “micropolitan” areas work less and commute much less than their big city and suburban counterparts while suffering very little, if any, drop off in the amenities that enrich life—culture and entertainment included.

Of course, you need to locate yourself and your practice where you need and want to be.  But before settling on a particular community, make sure that you understand enough of your options to make a sound decision.