A Guide to the Average Cost of Living by State, and Why it Matters for Law Students


Upon graduating from law school, recent lawyers may decide to join a law firm or open their own practices. One of the major decisions that new legal professionals have to make is choosing where they will serve and which area of specialization they will focus on.

Additionally, they can also try to find out which state is the most affordable to live in, and decide where a law firm should be located. Before we go to the comparative list, let’s define first what we mean when we refer to “cost of living”.

What is Cost of Living?

A person’s cost of living is the amount of money they need to maintain their standard of living. Basic living expenses include things like housing, food, transportation, clothing, taxes, entertainment, equipment, and education. You can compare basic living expenses across regions by looking at cost of living indexes. Comparing cities, states, and countries can be done by using such indexes.

The cost of living is higher in large cities such as New York City than in small ones like Albany. In order to compensate for these higher costs (e.g., rent, basic goods, fuel), salaries are generally higher.

Based on cost-of-living information, law students can determine how expensive it is to set up a firm and practice in a particular area. New lawyers may refer to the state’s cost of living to create accurate fund allocation, set reasonable employee salaries, and establish a fair pricing model for services that clients will pay for.

These are the 10 states with the lowest cost of living, according to worldpopulationreview.com:

  1. Mississippi
  2. Arkansas
  3. Oklahoma
  4. Missouri
  5. New Mexico
  6. Tennessee
  7. Michigan
  8. Kansas
  9. Georgia
  10. Alabama

States with Highest Cost of Living

The areas with higher cost of living are Hawaii (an island where most goods need to be transported/shipped in), D.C, California, Oregon, and New York. Living spaces, groceries, transportation, and utilities are all above the U.S. average in these states.

You can also view a more comprehensive comparison of cost of living for each state in the third quarter of 2021. Aside from getting the necessary information to set up a reputable firm, research is an integral part of legal practice. Practicing it early in the game, even in law school, will go a long way towards making it a regular practice in any case.

Cost of Living Calculator

Calculating how much one dollar will buy in two different cities is possible with cost of living calculators. While it is true that most of these services subtly promote real estate companies or other businesses in certain cities, their usefulness and convenience cannot be understated.

Saving up on money that could go towards top quality legal representation is a good decision. As for user-friendly features, users can enter information such as their income, current city, and prospective city in these calculators, without hiring anyone else.

Here are some tools that can be used to compare the cost of living in different states:

All three services offer verified information and are good for the needed research. A final tip would be that consumer price indexes (CPI) are also available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Food, shelter, transportation, and clothing are among the items included in the Consumer Price Index. Researching these aspects of living are all important in the quest to become cost-effective towards becoming a future legal powerhouse.