For middle-class people, deciding where to live can be tricky. Before the pandemic, Americans were facing a situation where the labor market was growing by leaps and bounds and unemployment was under 5%. However, despite something that at least resembled full employment, things were not exactly rosy for the middle class.
For instance, Pew Research found in 2018 that the average hourly wage in the U.S. had been essentially flat since the mid-1960s when using real 2018 dollars. In other words, wage growth kept pace only with inflation, and purchasing power did not measurably increase in a period of more than 50 years.
This all means that finding the right place to live is more important than ever for middle-class workers. Budgets are tighter and people are looking to reduce costs. At the same time, people don’t want to sacrifice their quality of living. Take a look at the cities that offer the best of both worlds — a high standard of living that allows people to keep costs under control.
Located just 40 miles northeast of the nation’s capital is Baltimore. Despite having a bad rap at times, there is a lot to like about Maryland’s largest city. For one thing, the cost of living is below the national average, with housing that is much cheaper than you’ll find in other cities.
More than just being affordable, Baltimore offers a lot to do and has a vibrant economy.
“Much of Baltimore’s economy is fueled by the city’s universities and healthcare system,” says Olivia Tan, co-founder of CocoFax. “The education and health services supersector employs the most people.”
Notable schools include Johns Hopkins University. Oh, and don’t forget some of the best seafood you’ll find anywhere.
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
The capital city of Louisiana is slightly more expensive than Baltimore, but it still sits below the national average. Plus, its median home price is under $200,000. In addition, the city is home to Louisiana State University and has excellent views of the Mississippi River.
“Economically, the city is doing so well that the unemployment rate is down to 7.5% while job growth increases,” says Stephen Keighery, CEO and founder of Home Buyer Louisiana.
He also notes that Baton Rouge has several public and private schools to choose from, with an average student-teacher ratio of 15:1.
Salt Lake City
Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah and also the state’s most populous city, with more than one million people in the metro area. In recent years, SLC has been a popular place to move for people looking to escape the high cost of living in California and other parts of the country. The city has a relatively low cost of living, a booming economy and a high quality of life.
John Maxim, a real estate investor who has flipped more than $500 million in properties, lives there. He says this is one of the cities where “your investment will skyrocket” if you buy a home there.
“I always recommend buying in an up-and-coming neighborhood as close to the downtown as you can (5-10 minutes is ideal),” Maxim said.
The capital city of Texas also has been booming as people flee pricier West Coast cities. Of course, Texas has no state income tax, and that has people flocking to Austin to avoid high costs.
That said, the self-proclaimed live music capital is not the most affordable on this list. For example, the median home price in Texas is over $550,000. Nevertheless, there is a lot to do in Austin and it offers a great quality of life.
See More: The Real Value of $100 in Every State
Boise is another city that has drawn in people who are looking to escape the high costs of living elsewhere. The capital city of Idaho has a lot to offer, including excellent museums, a zoo, hiking trails and more.
The city is relatively affordable, with a cost of living slightly above the national average. In other words, it’s still quite affordable compared to the West Coast; the median home price is around $450,000. John Maxim put Boise among the cities where home values will skyrocket in the coming years as more people move to the area.
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This article originally appeared on GOBankingRates.com: The 5 Best Cities for the Middle Class, According To Experts