An annual cost-of-living index ranks Northwest Arkansas among the least expensive places to live in the U.S.
The annual ranking, published by the Council for Community and Economic Research, determined Northwest Arkansas was the nation's 32nd most affordable metropolitan statistical area in 2013. Of 308 metropolitan areas surveyed, the Northwest Arkansas region (Fayetteville-Springdale-Rogers MSA) had a cost of living that was 11.3 percent below the U.S. average.
The cost-of-living index measures regional differences in the cost of consumer goods and services, excluding taxes and non-consumer expenditures, for professional and managerial households. It is based on more than 50,000 prices covering almost 60 different items for which prices are collected three times a year by chambers of commerce, economic development organizations or university applied economic centers in participating urban area.
The index is based on six components: housing, utilities, grocery items, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services.
Northwest Arkansas rated below the national average in its cost of groceries (92 percent of the national average), housing (76 percent), transportation (86.3 percent), healthcare (87.7 percent) and miscellaneous goods and services (94.1 percent). It's unusual for Northwest Arkansas to rank above the national average in any category, but utilities averaged 3.3 percent above the national average last year.
Only two percentage points separate Northwest Arkansas from the Top 10 Most Affordable Communities list.
The survey determined Manhattan, N.Y. was the most expensive metropolitan area with costs more than double the national average. Harlingen, Texas ranked as the most affordable place with the cost of living at 81.6 percent of the national average.