The Center for Opportunity Urbanism‘s Wendell Cox has devised a system that, as his colleague Joel Kotkin describes, determines “metropolitan areas where salaries are relatively high relative to costs, and you get more for your paycheck.” The Center’s “Standard of Living Index” analyzes “the 2015 mean pay per job in the 106 metropolitan statistical areas with more than 500,000 population and adjusts it by cost of living. Metro areas that have a large proportion of high-wage jobs tend to do best, such as San Jose … and Houston. The biggest differences in terms of cost of living generally have to do with housing; costs for goods varied by 23 percent and for services by 35 percent in 2014 across the metropolitan data, but for rents the differential between the most and least expensive metro areas is 194 percent and, for housing purchased in 2014, a remarkable 775 percent.”
For New Mexico’s sole metro region on the list, the finding isn’t good. Albuquerque ranks #82. Taking a look at the cities in its neighboring states, the picture is equally ugly. Of its 15 competitors, the Duke City just about tied Tucson, and bested only Provo, El Paso, Ogden, and McAllen. Ten metro regions prevailed over Albuquerque. Houston’s victory was crushing — annual pay per job there was 30.2 percent higher.
Kotkin recommends that metro areas seeking to “improve in these rankings need to focus not just on developing their economies, but also policies that keep costs competitive with other regions.” At the city, county, and state levels, lower taxes, smarter spending, and lighter regulations are needed to boost Albuquerque’s subpar standard of living.