The Buzz

August 18, 2014

Kansas, Missouri are cheap places to live. Why don’t more people move here?

New figures show Kansas and Missouri are especially cheap places to live. So why do so many people live in high-tax, high cost-of-living states?

The Buzz

The facts, faces and hum of local politics with Steve Kraske and Dave Helling

The right-leaning Tax Foundation has surveyed purchasing power in all 50 states — and discovered the cost of living in Missouri and Kansas is especially low.

The real purchasing value of $100 in Kansas, the group says, is $111.23. In Missouri, it’s even better: $113.51, putting in a tie with Alabama for third-highest purchasing power in the country.

The survey includes rental housing, which is one likely explanation for the lower living costs in the two states. Housing is cheaper in the two states than almost anywhere else.

But it also points out something quite important in the context of policy debates in Kansas and Missouri: when deciding where to live, Americans value things other than money.

Proof?

Income tax rates in California are two and a half times higher than those in Kansas, in the top bracket, and the purchasing power of $100 in California is just $88.57. Put another way: California’s taxes and cost-of-living are much, much higher than in Kansas.

Yet 38,332,521 people lived in California in 2013, the Census Bureau says. In Kansas, the population was 2,893,957.

New York is also a high-tax, high-cost state. It had 19,651,127 people in 2013.

Why would someone live in a state with high costs of living, and higher taxes, when low-cost, low-tax states are available?

Because other things matter, too — family, jobs, amenities, education, climate. Earnings and taxes are motivators, but not the only ones.

The figures also suggest why Missourians have not rushed over to Kansas despite the recent tax cuts.

A buck goes farther in Missouri than it does in Kansas.

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