Monday, March 14, 2016

A Look at a Cost of Living Assessment for Herkimer County

Getting a measure of the cost of living for an area is not an easy thing to do. No official numbers exist for small localities – typically cost of living data covers large, rather diverse, areas. For Herkimer County, as an example, the cost of living data collected by the Bureau of Economic Analysis is based on all of the rest of New York State, plus the New York City metro area that stretches from Connecticut to New Jersey.Using the cost of food, clothing, and shelter from those areas as part of our cost of living analysis makes local numbers very problematic.

Various services do offer different numbers based more on local data than the example listed above. Sperling’s Best Places to Live is one of these. They assess the total cost of living in an area by looking at groceries, healthcare, housing, utilities, transportation and miscellaneous costs. Each of these areas are defined as including the following:

  • Grocery  "The average cost of food in Grocery stores in an area." 
  • Health  "The average cost of health care calculated using the standard daily rate for a hospital room, and the costs of a doctor's office visit and a dental checkup."
  • Housing  "The average cost of an area's housing, which includes mortgage payments, apartment rents, and property tax."
  • Utilities  "The average cost of heating or cooling a typical residence for the area, including electricity and natural gas."
  • Transportation  "The average cost of gasoline, car insurance and maintenance expenses, and mass transit fare for the area. The cost of the vehicle and any vehicle registration and license taxes are not included."
  • Miscellaneous  "The cost index of those goods and services not included in the other cost of living categories, including clothing, restaurants, repairs, entertainment, and other services."

The total of all the cost of living categories are then weighted subjectively by Sperling’s as follows: housing (30%), food and groceries (15%), transportation (10%), utilities (6%), health care (7%), and miscellaneous expenses such as clothing, services, and entertainment (32%).  State and local taxes are not included in any category. 

For Herkimer County, the data compared to the US data subsequently looks like this:
Note that the US data equals 100 in each index. 

So although for Herkimer County five of the six categories score higher than the US indices, (US always equals a score of 100) their impact is offset by the extremely low score for housing costs as seen by Sperlings for our area. As a result, the overall cost of living for Herkimer County is lower than that for the country as a whole (93 versus 100).