703.522.4982 info@coli.org
  Total:   $


Citizens and corporations are continually on the move and looking for the best place to call home. Local governments and development organizations are constantly faced with retaining and expanding local businesses and residents. Given these demands, local officials must find various ways to promote and improve quality of life.

Many local and state governments use the C2ER Cost of Living Index to advocate for and market their communities’ quality of life, as well as use the data as a benchmark to other cities. Given the versatility of the Index, scenarios and research questions for data users include:

  • Job Seekers – How does a new job offer in another city actually compare?
  • Human Resource Managers – What is the appropriate salary adjustment of employees in multiple cities?
  • Academic and Market Researchers – How have the average prices changed across the country over time?
  • Chambers of Commerce, EDOs, and Realtors – How does our city compare in cost in the region, state, and country?
  • Site Selectors – Will this community fit my business and lifestyle needs?

What is the Cost of Living Index?

Published since 1968, the Cost of Living Index, published by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), has been the most consistent source of city-to-city cost comparisons available. COLI data is recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and CNN Money. Our data and methodology are described in detail and completely transparent to users. Both data and methodology are reviewed by an Advisory Board composed of academic researchers and government officials. The Cost of Living Index is referenced in the Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstract of the U.S..

Published quarterly, using over 60 goods and services collected at the local level from over 300 independent researchers, COLI is the only local level cost of living index available for the US. Items on which the Index is based have been carefully chosen to reflect the different categories of consumer expenditures. Weights assigned to relative costs are based on government survey data on expenditure patterns for professional and executive households. All items are priced in each place at a specified time and according to standardized specifications.

Useful and versatile, the Cost of Living Index data is:

  • Data is available at the metropolitan statistical area (MSA) level and at the county level.
  • Organized into 6 categories: food, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services, as well as a composite index.
  • Data is released on a quarterly basis, within 2 to 3 months after its collection.
  • Methodology has been recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, President’s Council of Economic Advisors, Bankrate.com, and Brookings Institution.
  • Routinely cited by the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Kiplingers, CNNMoney, US News and World Report, ABC News, and many other national media outlets.

Interpreting the Index:

The average for all participating places equals 100, and each participant’s index is read as a percentage of the average for all places. The Index does not measure inflation (price change over time). Because each quarterly report is a separate comparison of prices at a single point in time, and because both the number and the mix of participants may change from one quarter to the next, Index data from different quarters cannot be compared. For inflation data contact the nearest regional office of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Because the number of items priced is limited, it is not valid to treat percentage differences between areas as exact measures. Since judgment sampling is used in this survey, no confidence interval can be determined. Small differences should not be construed as significant, or even as indicating correctly which area is the more expensive place to live.

For more detail on the Cost of Living Index Methodology, please consult our 2018 COLI Manual.


C2ER — the Council for Community and Economic Research — is a membership organization created in 1961 to promote excellence in community and economic research by working to improve data availability, enhance data quality, and foster learning about regional economic analytic methods.

We accomplish our mission through professional networks, training, advocacy, research, and delivering innovative products and services. With the increasing economic importance of information and the growing recognition of those who are skilled in analyzing data, community researchers and economic developers play a vital role. The one professional organization informing, educating, and developing these professionals is C2ER. C2ER is the only national organization representing community research professionals. Its members constantly seek to enhance the caliber of research in community and economic development. C2ER’s members manifest a broad range of specialty skills and collectively provide access to a very large amount of information.

Members of C2ER are professionals in the U.S. and Canada serving a variety of organizations including:

  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Economic Development Organizations
  • Government Agencies
  • Universities
  • Utility Companies
  • Workforce Development Boards
  • Community Development Organizations
  • Consultants and data providers