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Cost of Living Versus Income in Bristol VA-TN

by Lewis Loflin

The material below was extracted from Kiplinger's Best Cities 2010 survey of 367 MSAs.

MICL: this is an index I came up with compare the median family income versus the cost of living. This is a possible reflection of both an income gap and the low quality of jobs, etc. The bad news for Bristol is when they separated the Johnson City MSA from Bristol/Kingsport some troubling factors were revealed. For years averaging the two together masked the high cost of living relative to the lowest median family incomes as compared to other communities in Virginia and Tennessee. Bristol came out last in both states.

Another interesting factor is "creative class." For years they have claimed the lack of a "creative class" has slowed economic development, etc. Yet the Kingsport/Bristol rankings on that are par with other communities in both states. So that excuse they use to justify the low wage scales here won't fly as they say.

The Cost of Living Index is based on 100 being the national average. Income Growth is the increase in household income from 2005 to 2008. The higher the MICL rating the better the community for earning a living for the average person. In addition Bristol/Kingsport MSA cost more to live in than St. Louis or Atlanta!

There is also no lack of college graduates either. East Tennessee University in Johnson City just graduated over 3200 students in December 2010 alone, yet census records show the number of people with college degrees in the region is less than half of the Virginia average of almost 30 percent.

King College (www.king.edu): 533 graduates in 2010.

Also see Southwest Virginia Demographics 2010.

There needs to be some serious questions as to what is happening to the billions in government money that is being spent to develop jobs when 20 years later nine out ten college graduates flee the region looking for jobs and we still rank near the bottom. Note the higher the MICL the better it is for working people.


323,"Kingsport-Bristol-Bristol, TN-VA",
Population 302997,
Cost of Living Index 100,
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class 30.9,
Median Household Income 36017,
Salary Growth 3.05%,
Employment Growth 0.81%
MICL: 360.17

156,"Johnson City, TN",
Population 193457,
Cost of Living Index 88.8,
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class 30.2,
Median Household Income 36853,
Salary Growth 2.07%,
Employment Growth 1.85%
MICL: 415.0

167,"Roanoke, VA",
Population 296321,
Cost of Living Index 93.81,
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class 30.7,
Median Household Income 46103,
Salary Growth 2.28%,
Employment Growth 1.94%
MICL: 491.45

314,"Blacksburg-Christiansburg-Radford, VA",
Population 157052,
Cost of Living Index 97.93,
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class 25.1,
Median Household Income 37827,
Salary Growth -3.38%,
Employment Growth 1.22%
MICL: 386.27

360,"Cleveland, TN",
Population 110792,
Cost of Living Index 91.21,
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class 27.7,
Median Household Income 38605,
Salary Growth 3.14%,
Employment Growth 0.80%
MICL: 423.25

365,"Morristown, TN",
Population 134026,
Cost of Living Index 88.89,
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class ?
Median Household Income 37368,
Salary Growth 1.48%,
Employment Growth -0.38%
MICL: 420.38

161,"Nashville-Davidson--Murfreesboro, TN",
Population 1518971,
Cost of Living Index 88.7,
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class 32.7,
Median Household Income 49979,
Salary Growth 3.22%,
Employment Growth 2.52%
MICL: 563.46

164,"Jackson, TN",
Population 112357,
Cost of Living Index 90.5,
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class 24.6,
Median Household Income 38352,
Salary Growth 6.05%,
Employment Growth 4.25%
MICL: 425.99

151,"Knoxville, TN",
Population 680444,
Cost of Living Index 89.3,
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class 26.9,
Median Household Income 44,511,
Salary Growth 3.23%,
Employment Growth 0.69%
MICL: 498.44 

173,"Chattanooga, TN-GA",
Population 512327,
Cost of Living Index 88.66,
Percentage of Workforce in Creative Class 26.7,
Median Household Income 42801,
Salary Growth 2.75%,
Employment Growth 0.61%
MICL: 482.75

Cost of living comparison:

St. Louis, MO-IL 90.0
Dallas, TX 	91.9
Houston, TX 91.9
Tampa, FL 92.2
Atlanta, GA 96.0
Detroit, MI 98.2
Phoenix, AZ 99.6
U.S. Metro Average 100.0 (Bristol VA/TN)
Miami, FL 105.2
Minneapolis, MN 110.3
Riverside City, CA 	112.3
Chicago, IL 116.8
Baltimore, MD 119.3
Seattle, WA 120.2
Philadelphia, PA 125.0
Boston, MA 131.1
San Diego, CA 131.6
Los Angeles, CA 133.3
Washington, DC 	139.7
San Francisco, CA 	162.5
New York, NY (Manhattan) 209.7

The Creative Class is a socioeconomic class that economist and social scientist Richard Florida, a professor and head of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, identifies as a key driving force for economic development of post-industrial cities in the United States.

Florida describes the Creative Class as comprising 40 million workers, 30 percent of the U.S. workforce, and breaks the class into two broad sections, derived from Standard Occupational Classification System codes:

Super-Creative Core: This group comprises about 12 percent of all U.S. jobs. It includes a wide range of occupations (e.g. science, engineering, education, computer programming, research), with arts, design, and media workers forming a small subset.

Creative Professionals: These professionals are the classic knowledge-based workers and include those working in healthcare, business and finance, the legal sector, and education. They "draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems" using higher degrees of education to do so (Florida, 2002).

Source: "ACCRA Cost of Living Index, Second Quarter 2010" Council for Community and Economic Research, August 2010.

Ref. http://www.kiplinger.com/tools/bestcities_sort/Best_Cities_2010.csv