This Chart Shows the Average American Can No Longer Afford to Live in a Big US City

Skyrocketing rent has effectively priced the average worker out of America’s cities, and not just the major ones, according to a recent survey by United Way.


The rent is too damn high!


Average-wage workers would have to work more than 40 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment in 47 of the 50 largest U.S. cities, United Way of the National Capital Area found in July.

“Say goodbye to the 40-hour workweek,” United Way wrote, citing National Low Income Housing Coalition data on average wages per state and fair market rents per city.

  • Only in Houston, Texas, can average-wage workers afford a two-bedroom rental working under 40 hours per week.

For minimum-wage workers, the situation is even worse: Working 50 hours a week would only be enough to afford a two-bedroom rental in two cities, Buffalo, New York and Tucson, Arizona, according to the survey.

  • In New York City, it would take working 111 hours a week, or 22 hours per weekday, for minimum wage to afford a one-bedroom apartment.
  • In San Francisco, it would be 161 hours per week, or nearly all day every day of the week.


With one-in-three Americans earning less than $15 an hour, millions of workers can’t afford to live where they work: About 30% of New York City’s workforce earns minimum wage.

  • In the past year and a half, high inflation without concomitant wage increases has exacerbated a long-term problem of unaffordable housing.
  • Lower-income earners have been forced to move farther and farther for work.
  • The National Low Income Housing Coalition, reported last year that minimum wage earners working a 40-hour week could not afford a two-bedroom rental in 91% of U.S. counties.


According to an August forecast by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, average rents nationwide will continue to rise much faster than wages through May 2023.