Cost-of-Living Gets a Bigger Boost in a Remote-Work World

Cost-of-living, one of the primary quality of life factors people and companies consider in making living and locating decisions, has become even more important this year. Remote work has boomed with the COVID-19 pandemic, with a seemingly endless set of news stories about the newly untethered tech sector and other workers moving out of large cities to smaller cities in search of a better quality of life. While a number of quality of life factors may influence which metro areas get the most new residents, cost-of-living is a factor by which the Baton Rouge metro area leads the average U.S. region. Cost-of-living information provides comparable data points region-to-region to provide workers an understanding of the buying power of their salaries or wages.  

Talented and Skilled People Have Choices  

Imagine having two job offers in two different cities with relatively similar salaries. If one city was markedly more expensive for housing, groceries, and other necessities, that would be a large red flag – the salary in that city would not go as far, and quality of life would likely be lower. 

Because cost-of-living is such a strong factor in talent recruitment and mobility, the Council for Community and Economy Research (C2ER) produces a cost-of-living index every quarter. The third quarter results for 2020 show that the Baton Rouge metro area is less expensive than the average American city, but middle-of-the-pack regarding peer cities and those with which we compete for economic development projects.  

How the Baton Rouge Region Ranks  

Within the C2ER cost-of-living index, the average for all participating regions equals 100, and “each index is read as a percentage of the average for all places.” For example, a town with an index score of 90.0 means it costs 10% less to live there than the average metro area; a score of 110.0 means it would be 10% more expensive. 

Overall, it’s more than 4% less expensive to live in Baton Rouge than the average city. However, some costs – healthcare, restaurants, and services – are above that of the national average, potentially due to regulatory costs such as licensing fees. Occupational licensing reform, as well as revamping local permitting processes, are pieces of potential solutions to these costs.  

What Else Matters in these Decisions?  

Utility costs, transportation, and housing are all highlights for the region. As companies are looking to recruit or retain talent, the fact that housing is 10% below the national average – and significantly lower than places like Dallas and New Orleans – is a big deal. While Baton Rouge does well in these cost-of-living analyses, our communities must also recognize that other quality of life factors play an important role. Talented people, and the companies that need them, look for attractive places – what BRAC calls “quality of place” – that are well-maintained, have connected and multi-modal infrastructure, and magnetic public spaces. They seek great public schools, high-quality healthcare, manageable tax rates, affordable housing, and more.  

The Baton Rouge Area offers many of these amenities and has room to grow as well. As BRAC makes the business case for Baton Rouge to companies considering the region, knowing that they and their employees will get more bang for their buck than elsewhere in the country is a strong point that we’ll continue to emphasize. 

Andrew Fitzgerald

As Senior Vice President of Business Intelligence, Andrew focuses on research and analysis for BRAC’s business development and economic competitiveness teams, providing economic, demographic, and fiscal research to support business expansion and relocation efforts in the Baton Rouge Area and analysis of education, workforce, tax, and other economic and public policy issues.

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