Dallas Is Still a Cheap Place to Live, and the Rest of Texas Is Even Cheaper

Stretches pretty far anywhere in our fair state.
Stretches pretty far anywhere in our fair state.
Bureau of Engraving and Printing

"It's so expensive to live here." You hear it with some frequency from young Dallasites, but if you've spent any time in other major metro areas, either in the U.S. or abroad, you know it's a little naive. For being the fourth biggest metro in the country, DFW remains relatively cheap, despite its residents having the least purchasing power of anyone in Texas.

Using new data from the American Cities Survey and the United States Bureau of Economic Analysis and an idea from the web site Vox, we took a look at median incomes and spending power in Dallas, the rest of Texas and the rest of the United States.

Before getting too deeply into any local data, it should be noted that Texas remains an extremely cheap place to live overall. In non-metropolitan Texas the nationwide average $100 will buy you $113.64, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis numbers. Comparatively, that same $100 will get you only $101.94 worth of stuff in non-metropolitan California or $108.34 in non-metropolitan Utah. You can get even more bang for your buck in rural Mississippi ($120.63) but you have to live in rural Mississippi.

In the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington census area, the average Benjamin has a purchasing power of $99.01, the lowest in Texas. You'll get more bang for your buck in Houston ($99.30), Austin ($101.52), San Antonio ($106.50) and El Paso ($110.13). Each of those numbers, Dallas included, is more than you'd realize in places like New York City ($81.83), Los Angeles ($84.60) and Chicago ($93.81) -- the three U.S. metro areas bigger than DFW. Of the top ten metro areas by population, only Houston and Atlanta ($104.60) are cheaper than Dallas.

When you adjust average median incomes for the purchasing power of that income, you get a truer picture of the relative expense of living in a city. So we did.

DFW, according to the American Cities Survey data, has the second highest median household income in the state at $57,389. When you adjust that figure by the buying power number, the Metroplex drops behind Houston in adjusted median income. Austin has the highest incomes, either way you look at it ($61,750 non-adjusted or $62,689 adjusted). San Antonio gains the most from the adjustment. In actual income households make $51,716 per year much less than its bigger rivals. After adjustment, San Antonio households bring in $55,078 leaving them just $2,000 short of Dallas and Houston medians.

The big takeaway here? It's still really cheap to live in Texas, even in its most expensive areas.


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