Cost of living, partly because of its size, is less fluid, with multiple ties common in the top ten.
Oklahoma tied Tennessee for first this year, after tying Arkansas for the honor in 2009. Arkansas was third this year. The three states have dominated the top five. So have Georgia andKansasbut to a slightly lesser extent.
Much in the same way, the bottom 11 are the same each year, with Hawaii, Alaska, New Jersey, California, New York, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Islandand New Hampshire changing spots.
The cost of living category—which covers such items as housing, food and energy—makes for easy comparisons.
Take the cost of a gallon of gasoline, for example. It is $3.27 in Honolulu, $2.77 in Los Angeles vs. $2.38 in Oklahoma City and $2.41 in Nashville—according to a recent spot check on gasbuddy.com.
House prices are also very illustrative. The median price for a single-family home in the Honolulu area in the first quarter of 2010 was $621,000—tops in the nation. California’s Silicon Valley fetched $560,000.
By comparison, the median price was $114.000 in Memphis, Tenn., $125,000 in Tulsa, Okla. and $124,000 in Little Rock, Ark.
These days, not all aspects of the cost of living equation are so transparent and explicit. In many areas of the country, you’d never know inflation was tame, with consumer prices running at a 1-percent annual rate.
Sure, real estate prices are down or flat, but the cost of goods and services is up. In cash-strapped states, there are higher government fees and/or taxes. Your local Little League may even be charging more for registration. Meanwhile, for many Americans wages are flat, for some they’re even down
Some of these changes might be too subtle to be captured by CNBC’s Top States For Business survey in 2010, but the rankings still reflect every day life.