Does High Cost Living Offer Enough Value?

July 31, 2009

I’m sure we all have that gut check moment on our commitment to being San Franciscans every month when we pay our mortgages or when we visit friends out of state with really big, nice, cheap houses. Ditto that when you go out to eat or take a taxi. Why does it cost so much to live here, and why are we willing to put up with it? Well, if you believe University of Michigan economist David Albouy, it’s because it’s actually a “good deal.”

Here’s what a recent article in US News & World Report had to say about San Francisco:

“With the fourth-highest quality of life and the highest trade productivity on Albouy’s list, the San Francisco area — which includes Silicon Valley — comes in first on the list of most valuable cities. There are high wages, but even higher housing costs. Albouy found that housing costs are pushed so much above the wage level because San Francisco residents enjoy a premium beyond income, such as great weather, a thriving local arts community, and lively neighborhoods. But the business aspects of San Francisco outshine even the quality of life. Albouy says it’s often thought that small cities where workers earn lower wages, like Boise, Idaho, are where businesses should start because costs like hiring and renting a building are so low there, relative to cities like San Francisco. But low prices also mean low quality. “Boise is a terrible place to do business, and the low wages are a sign of that,” he says. Compared to Boise, “San Francisco has a highly productive workforce,” he says.”

Does this ring true to you? It does to me. I am just not Boise material.  To read the whole article, click here.