Amazon will pay HQ2 employees an average of $150,000—here's how much further that goes in Nashville vs. NYC and Virginia

A view of the waterfront of Long Island City in the Queens borough of New York, along the East River, on November 7, 2018.
Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images

Amazon announced on Tuesday that it is splitting its new headquarters, "HQ2," between New York City and northern Virginia. Specifically, the company chose the Long Island City neighborhood in Queens and the National Landing neighborhood of Arlington, and it expects to bring 25,000 new jobs to each location.

The retail giant also announced a smaller, third investment in Nashville, Tennessee, where it will build an east coast operations hub and create 5,000 jobs.

In all three locations, the average salary for new employees will exceed $150,000 per year, Amazon announced. That six-figure salary looks very different in Nashville, though, where $150,000 will stretch much further than in New York City or Arlington.

According to NerdWallet's cost of living calculator, which factors in expenses like housing, transportation, food, entertainment and health care, the cost of living is 53 percent higher in Queens than it is in Nashville. That means, for employees to maintain the same standard of living in Queens, they'd have to earn significantly more: $230,030.

If you choose to live in New York City's priciest borough, Manhattan, where the cost of living is 142 percent higher than in Nashville, you'd have to earn $363,262 to maintain the same standard of living you could get for $150,000 in Tennessee.

Amazon confirms New York City, North Virginia for HQ2 sites

The discrepancy is largely due to the cost of New York City housing, which is some of the most expensive in the world: As NerdWallet's calculator shows, renting a two-bedroom apartment in Queens will set you back about $3,000 per month. In Manhattan, you'll pay close to $5,000 a month. In Nashville, on the other hand, renting a two bedroom costs only about $1,000 per month.

Nashville is also more affordable, overall, than Arlington: The cost of living is 34 percent lower, NerdWallet finds, so a $150,000 salary in Arlington would be equivalent to a $98,662 salary in Nashville. If you flip things around, to maintain the same standard of living as someone earning $150,000 in Nashville, you'd have to earn $228,049 in Arlington.

The cost of living in Queens is only slightly higher than the cost of living in Arlington. If you live in Manhattan, though, the cost of living goes up 59 percent.

Nonetheless, if you land a job at any of Amazon's new offices, your six-figure salary will be far higher than most people's: The median household income in the U.S. is only $61,372.

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