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Where Is the Cheapest Place to Live in California?

Every year, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis announces its “price parity” report comparing living expenses in 389 U.S. metropolitan areas. This report takes into account the cost of services, goods, and housing. A 49% difference between California’s most-affordable area and its priciest is shown in this report.

The cheapest place in the state is El Centro. The index says living in this region is 9.6% cheaper than the typical U.S. metropolitan area. On one hand, El Centro has the state’s cheapest housing. This is because the expenses are 33% below the average in the U.S. On the other hand, most of its jobs are low wage and farm related. Moreover, unemployment was 16.4% by the end of 2020. It is the highest in the state and the nation. These are the principal reasons why El Centro is the cheapest place to live in California.

Metropolitan Areas in California 

Here is how the rest of the 26 California metropolitan areas ranked for cost-of-living.

Cost-of-Living Below National Norms

  1. Madera: Costs run 5.3% than the U.S. average, ranking No. 248 out of 389 metros tracked nationally. Its housing costs are 19% cheaper vs. U.S. norms but second-cheapest among 26 metropolitan areas in state.
  2. Hanford: 4.8% cheaper than U.S. average, No. 254. Housing is 19% cheaper than the U.S. And is the third most-affordable in the state.
  3. Visalia: 4.8% cheaper than U.S. average. No. 254. Housing is 18.6% cheaper vs. U.S., No. 23 in state.
  4. Merced: 3.3% cheaper than U.S. average. No. 282. Housing is 13.5% cheaper vs. U.S., No. 22 in state.
  5. Bakersfield: 3% cheaper than U.S. average. No. 287. Housing is 11.6% cheaper vs. U.S., No. 21 in state.
  6. Yuba City: 2.8% cheaper than U.S. average. No. 292. Housing is 10.7% cheaper vs. U.S., No. 20 in state.
  7. Fresno: 2.5% cheaper than U.S. average. No. 297. Housing is 10.1% cheaper vs. U.S., No. 19 in state.
  8. Redding: 2% cheaper than U.S. average. No. 300. Housing is 7.5% cheaper vs. U.S., No. 18 in state.

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Cost-of-Living Above National Norms

  1. Chico: Costs are 0.6% above U.S. average, ranking No. 327 nationally. Housing is 2.6% pricier vs. U.S. norms, 17th priciest in the state.
  2. Modesto: 1% pricier than U.S. average. No. 331. Housing is 4.8% pricier vs. U.S., No. 16 in state.
  3. Stockton: 2.2% pricier than U.S. average. No. 338. Housing is 9.9% pricier vs. U.S., No. 15 in state.
  4. Sacramento: 5.2% pricier than U.S. average. No. 350. Housing is 26% pricier vs. U.S., No. 13 in state.
  5. Inland Empire: 7.3% pricier than U.S. average. No. 361. Housing is 21% pricier vs. U.S., No. 14 in state.
  6. San Luis Obispo: 10% pricier than U.S. average. No. 365. Housing is 52% pricier vs. U.S., No. 11 in state.
  7. Salinas: 11% pricier than U.S. average. No. 366. Housing is 61% pricier vs. U.S., No. 10 in state.
  8. Santa Barbara: 12% pricier than U.S. average. No. 368. Housing is 69% pricier vs. U.S., No. 7 in state.
  9. Ventura County: 17% pricier than U.S. average, 17th priciest nationwide. Housing is 75% pricier vs. U.S., No. 3 in state.
  10. San Diego: 18% pricier than U.S. average, 15th priciest. Housing is 72% pricier vs. U.S., No. 5 in state.
  11. Vallejo: 18.3% pricier than U.S. average, 14th priciest. Housing is 48% pricier vs. U.S., No. 12 in state.
  12. Los Angeles-Orange County: 19% pricier than U.S. average, 12th priciest. Housing is 70% pricier vs. U.S., No. 6 in state.
  13. Santa Rosa-Petaluma: 20.6% pricier than U.S. average, 11th priciest. Housing is 62% pricier vs. U.S., No. 9 in state.
  14. Napa: 20.8% pricier than U.S. average, 10th priciest. Housing is 66% pricier vs. U.S., No. 8 in state.
  15. Santa Cruz: 23% pricier than U.S. average, ninth priciest. Housing is 75% pricier vs. U.S., No. 4 in state.
  16. San Jose: 27% pricier than U.S. average, sixth-priciest nationally. Housing is 124% pricier of U.S., California’s high.

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