By Grace Donnelly
August 24, 2017

It’s not surprising that coastal cities, while offering some of the highest salaries, are some of the most expensive places to live in the United States. If you want to make the most of your paycheck, cities like Birmingham, Alabama, Jackson, Mississippi, or Fresno, California are your best bets.

But there’s one important thing to consider before making plans to move to one of those cities, said Jeb Kolko, chief economist at Indeed. Places where it’s easier to stretch your salary to cover basic needs are the same ones at greater risk of seeing the local job market contract due to automation.

“There might be job security reasons for staying in a place where adjusted salaries are relatively low,” Kolko said. “In metros where adjusted salaries are higher, a larger share of local jobs are what economists call ‘routine,’ which means they are at greater risk of being automated and disappearing.”

The Indeed study used salary data from postings in cities with populations of 50,000 or more and calculated the relative worth of those wages using cost of living data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That’s why salaries in Honolulu, for example, are technically some of the lowest in the U.S.. Once you factor in the high living costs associated with being on a popular island destination, a workers’ paycheck doesn’t get you very far.

Not a single coastal city — think New York, Boston, San Francisco or Los Angeles — made it into the top 20 areas with the highest adjusted salaries. Most of the more affordable options are in smaller metro areas in the South and Midwest.

If living in a big city is a must, Dallas and Atlanta are the large metro areas where the average paycheck goes the farthest, followed by Dallas, San Francisco, and Chicago.

Automation fears aside, it’s become increasingly more difficult for workers to move to job markets with more opportunities as Americans face the record-low rates of mobility.

 

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