Does Houston have the highest standard of living in the world?Last week New Geography/Forbes ranked Houston the #1 city where paychecks stretch the farthest, based on cost-of-living adjusted average wages.
In first place is Houston, where the average annual wage in 2011 was $59,838, eighth highest in the nation. What puts Houston at the top of the list is the region’s relatively low cost of living, which includes such things as consumer prices and services, utilities and transportation costs and, most importantly, housing prices: The ratio of the median home price to median annual household income in Houston is only 2.9, remarkably low for such a dynamic urban region; in San Francisco a house goes for 6.7 times the median local household income. Adjusted for cost of living, the average Houston wage of $59,838 is worth $66,933, tops in the nation.Furthermore, #2 Silicon Valley, even with all those high-paying high-tech jobs, was a pretty distant second at $61,581. Nobody else on the list cracked $57k, a whopping $10k below us. We didn't just barely win - we crushed it. If that doesn't speak to the incredible power of no-zoning to minimize the cost of living, I don't know what will. It's also a major endorsement for the city philosophy of Opportunity Urbanism (TEDx video), where we had similar data (see chart).
Based on that ranking table, I think Houston has a pretty strong case for the highest standard of living in the United States, at least among major metros (we're not looking at Greenwich or Malibu here folks). In turn, I think that makes a pretty strong case for the highest big city standard of living in the world, given that most other countries/cities have similar or lower GDP/capita and much higher costs of living, especially housing. If you can think of one that might best us, I'd love to hear about it in the comments along with any data you might have. Without comparative hard data, it's impossible to make an airtight case, but I think it's pretty solid.
Given this new accolade, I'm thinking we might have to add another nickname to Houston's list:
"Middle Class Mecca"UPDATE: more evidence/data at the bottom of this post.