When I told my parents how much my partner and I would be paying for rent at our new apartment, they quickly pointed out that I could purchase a home for that kind of money in my hometown.
My parents are right, I could literally buy a home for the amount of money I pay in rent every month to live in a large metro area. But the equation that determines where I and many other workers should live, is more complex than salary minus housing.
These areas are cheaper to live in, in part, because they may not offer the kind of job opportunities, and therefore social mobility, you see in larger metro areas. Sure, I could make my money go further in my hometown, but the chances of me finding a job in my industry there are smaller.
Your field of work does matter when considering whether or not the “small-city advantage” could work for you. If you work in tech or finance, two traditionally high-paying fields, then this advantage doesn’t apply.
“Before adjusting for living costs, typical technology salaries are 27% higher in two-million-plus metros than metros with fewer than 250,000 people. Even after adjusting for those costs, tech salaries are still 5% higher in the largest metros than in the smallest ones,” finds Indeed.
If a huge tech company offering thousands of high-paying jobs moved into a smaller city on the map, over time, it would get more expensive to live there. It’s the hamster wheel that is currently driving income inequality in some of America’s largest major metro areas.
Finding the right place to call home is never going to be a single factor decision. Yes, salary is a huge factor, as is the cost of living, but there are also lifestyle factors to consider. What kind of opportunities would you have in this city? How much will it cost to move there? How will this affect the other members of your household?
It’s nice to play the ‘ditch the corporate world and buy a country house’ fantasy after a long day at work, but the reality is far more complex.