Chapter 6

The Best Places to Live: Comparing Midwest Standard of Living to Coastal Cities

Comparable salaries aren’t always so comparable. What you make as a software engineer in San Francisco might sound like a dream, but when you factor in the extremely high cost of living, your salary doesn’t get you that far. When looking at the best places to live, it’s important to consider every factor. Not just salary. 

In the Midwest, where tech salaries are still competitive and the cost of living is much lower, your tech salary can lead to a way higher standard of living. Just look at the numbers.

In Chicago, the average salary for a software engineer is $82,097.  In San Francisco, your salary might be more like $115,822, but to have the same standard of living as you would have in Chicago as a software engineer, you’d need to make $134,763. In New York, you’d need to be making $171,535, but you’d only be getting about $97,215. Those are huge discrepancies, and that’s in one of the most expensive cities in the Midwest. 

Let’s take Columbus for example—a city so affordable, it’s not even in the top 100 most expensive cities in the U.S. As a software engineer in Columbus, the average salary is about $73,634. Again, in San Francisco you’d be making just under $116 but you’d need $162,629 to have the same standard of living as you would in Columbus with your Columbus salary. In New York, you’d need to be making $207,004, which is over double what you’d actually be making. 

The net-net: your Midwest salary might not seem as competitive as a coastal tech salary, but trust us, it’ll take you a lot farther. 

salary-report-book-cover-v2

Get the Midwest Salary & Cost of Living Handbook

Want to read more? Download the complete guide for full access to charts and data.