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The 10 US cities where residents must work the most hours to pay rent

Despite high costs, California is still among the best at attracting educated adults.
Matthew Gush | Stock / 360 | Getty Images
Despite high costs, California is still among the best at attracting educated adults.

Rents have increased for Americans nationwide. A report put average monthly rent for January at $1,420, a year-over-year increase of over 3 percent, and noted that, in 93 percent of the country's 250 largest cities, rents have gone up since 2018. Over the past 10 years, the average rent for a new apartment has gone up by 28 percent.

Meanwhile, wages have mostly remained stagnant: From 1999 to 2014, middle-class incomes shrunk in nearly every U.S. state.

So, in many places, residents must work long hours to keep up on rent.

To find where workers must put in the most hours to pay for housing, financial website SmartAsset used data from the U.S. Census Bureau to analyze median rent in the U.S.'s 25 biggest cities, as well as residents' post-tax median annual income and the number of hours worked per year.

To get the average number of work hours needed to pay rent, "we divided average annual take-home pay by average hours worked per year," says SmartAsset. "We then divided the monthly median rent by the average hourly wage."

Based on that data, here are the top 10 cities where residents must work the largest number of hours each month just to pay rent:

San Jose, California

Median monthly gross rent: $2,109
Estimated hourly wage: $21.70
Hours of work needed to pay rent: 97.2

Los Angeles, California

Median monthly gross rent: $1,397
Estimated hourly wage: $15.47
Hours of work needed to pay rent: 90.3

San Diego, California

Median monthly gross rent: $1,642
Estimated hourly wage: $18.97
Hours of work needed to pay rent: 86.6

New York, New York

Median monthly gross rent: $1,379
Estimated hourly wage: $17.65
Hours of work needed to pay rent: 78.1

Boston, Massachusetts

Median monthly gross rent: $1,541
Estimated hourly wage: $20.64
Hours of work needed to pay rent: 74.7

San Francisco, California

Median monthly gross rent: $1,836
Estimated hourly wage: $25.63
Hours of work needed to pay rent: 71.6

Denver, Colorado

Median monthly gross rent: $1,286
Estimated hourly wage: $18.39
Hours of work needed to pay rent: 69.9

Dallas, Texas

Median monthly gross rent: $992
Estimated hourly wage: $15
Hours of work needed to pay rent: 66.2

Jacksonville, Florida

Median monthly gross rent: $988
Estimated hourly wage: $15.05
Hours of work needed to pay rent: 65.6

Austin, Texas

Median monthly gross rent: $1,244
Estimated hourly wage: $19.11
Hours of work needed to pay rent: 65.1

Pricey California dominates the list, with four cities in the top six. New York and Boston, where housing is also notoriously expensive, rank fourth and fifth.

But while several cities with a high cost of living land near the top, "you can also find some expensive cities toward the bottom," says SmartAsset. That's because in certain places on the list, namely Jacksonville, Florida, and Dallas, Texas, workers must cope with lower salaries.

The key takeaway is that, as rents increase nationwide, it can be "difficult to avoid being housing-cost-burdened," the study says. "Workers trying to save money should certainly look to shack up with roommates or look to creative budgeting solutions to make sure they can hit their financial goals."

Here are some common-sense budgeting tactics and tips on how to live within your means.

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