Cost of Living

This is affordability in action: In Kansas City, a household earning the median family income of $54,372 is more than $5,000 above the threshold needed to purchase a median-value home of $252,000. Across the state, housing affordability is even greater; the median home value in St. Louis is $218,500. Compare those numbers with San Francisco, where that same family would need an income of $199,465 to acquire a home. Why? Because the median value of a home there is $1.12 million. You read that right. 

The implications of that for business owners are profound, making Missouri’s cost of living one of its undeniable strong points.

Ranked by Insure.com as having the sixth-lowest cost of living in the nation in the first quarter of 2021–9.43 percent below the national average–Missouri is especially well-positioned in areas that often attract businesses: utilities, housing and other factors that benefit both homeowners and businesses. A separate measure, the C2er ACCRA Cost of Living Index for more than 330 U.S. cities and every state, places Missouri at 11.1 percent below the national average, with a score of 88.9 compared to the U.S. average of 100.

Several recent studies support this positive outlook. The Missouri Economic Research and Information Center in 2019 calculated that Missouri’s affordability trailed only , Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Mississippi. According to the Council for Community and Economic Research, Missouri cities in a recent volunteer survey all ranked below the national average for cost of living for the same period.

Cost of living figures across Missouri cities ranged from Springfield’s reading of 87.2 C2er score up to 91.9 for Columbia. Other Missouri cities included Joplin at 87.2 and Jefferson City at 89.3.

The cost of living figures showed Missouri with ranking metrics below national averages in each of the six categories measured. It had a housing index of 71.6, by far the key driver in lower cost of living here. Groceries came in at 97.6, utilities at 97.5, health care at 97.6, transportation at 93.9 and 94.3 for miscellaneous expenses.

Even in more volatile new-housing markets, Missouri and its communities ranked well. According to the National Association of Realtors, Missouri cities such as St. Louis and Kansas City ranked well down a listing of more than 150 of the nation’s largest cities in terms of actual home sale prices, often considered a better indicator of the prices that transferees would pay.

Missouri’s strength is in its Midwestern location, an area with median home prices well below those around the country. According to the 2019 Census estimates, the median value of an owner-occupied home in Missouri was roughly $157,200.

Overall, the state’s cost of living indicators are largely skewed by the major population centers of St. Louis, Kansas City and Springfield, and, to a lesser extent, the Columbia-Jefferson City corridor and communities like Joplin in the southwest and Cape Girardeau in the southeast.

In areas bordering those communities, some outstanding values can be found across the board. Look at Jasper County as an example of that. Home to Joplin, the commercial hub for a four-corners area that extends into Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas, Jasper County boasts a cost-of-living index of roughly 87.2, compared to the national scale of 100.

As part of the Joplin Metropolitan Statistical Area, the county is promoted as having among the nation’s lowest readings for cost of living, and indeed, the costs there are considerably lower than in the major urban markets. With the average home price at roughly $118,400 in that area, residents benefit considerably by not carrying a note on properties there, compared to the national average price tag of more than $217,500.