Cost of Living Still Stable, Despite Vitality Uptick

Photo by Paul McCarthy


Despite the luxury condos popping up near Bakery Square and the nationally noted restaurants opening downtown, Pittsburgh remains a relatively affordable region compared to its peers.

Pittsburgh has the eighth lowest cost of living out of the 15 Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions, according the Council for Community and Economic Research’s data for the second quarter of 2017.  And Pittsburgh’s composite score of 97.9 falls well below the benchmark average of 107.3.

The cost of groceries and utilities in Pittsburgh tend to drive up the cost of living in the region. Only Seattle, Philadelphia and Boston have more expensive utilities than Pittsburgh. And shopping at your local grocery store in Pittsburgh is only cheaper than those in Cleveland, Philadelphia and Seattle.

But health care costs and a stable housing market help to keep Pittsburgh affordable. Pittsburgh’s relatively low health care costs – the fourth lowest among the benchmark regions – may benefit from the competition driven by two major health care systems in the region, said Chris Briem, regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Social and Urban Research.

The Pittsburgh region’s housing costs are the sixth lowest among the benchmark regions. Housing is weighted heavily in calculating cost of living indices. Housing costs and appreciation remain low in the region, especially compared to Seattle and Boston which have more than twice Pittsburgh’s housing score.

Population trends are a major reason why the cost of living in Pittsburgh has been fairly consistent in recent years.  “There are certainly changes going on in the city and in the region, but overall the population is fairly stable,” Briem said. “Unless you have a large amount of rapid growth, you don’t see the pressures that would lead to rapid cost appreciation across the board. At the end of the day, the overall size of the regional economy and population is pretty stable compared to a lot of places and until that changes, you won’t see the pressures pushing up prices.”