New York Drops in Cost of Living Ranking

July 12, 2011 ( - Luanda in Angola is the world’s most expensive city for expatriates for the second year running, according to Mercer’s 2011 Cost of Living Survey.

Tokyo remains in second place and N’Djamena in Chad in third place. Moscow follows in fourth position with Geneva in fifth and Osaka in sixth. Zurich jumps one position to rank seventh, while Hong Kong drops to ninth.   

New entries in the top 10 list of the costliest cities in the world are Singapore (8), up from the 11th position, and São Paolo (10), which has jumped 11 places since the 2010 ranking. Karachi (214) is ranked as the world’s least expensive city, and the survey found that Luanda, in the top place, is more than three times as costly as Karachi. Recent world events, including natural disasters and political upheavals, have impacted the rankings for many regions through currency fluctuations, cost inflation for goods and services and volatility in accommodation prices.   

Down five places from last year, New York (32) is the most expensive city in the United States, followed by Los Angeles (77), San Francisco (106) and Chicago and Washington tied at 108. Winston-Salem (197) is ranked as the least expensive city in the United States.   

The survey covers 214 cities across five continents and measures the comparative cost of more than 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods and entertainment. New York is used as the base city and all cities are compared against New York. Currency movements are measured against the U.S. dollar. The cost of housing – often the biggest expense for expatriates – plays an important part in determining where cities are ranked.  

The Americas  

Up 11 and 17 places in the ranking, respectively, São Paolo (10) and Rio de Janeiro (12) are now the most expensive locations for expatriates in both North and South America. In South America, Brasilia (33) is the third most expensive city, up 37 places since last year’s ranking. High inflation on goods and services means Caracas in Venezuela has also shot up in the rankings, to 51 from 100 in 2010. Bolivia’s La Paz (212) and Nicaragua’s Managua (213) were the least expensive cities in South America.  

At 32, New York is the most expensive city in the United States. Los Angeles (77) and Chicago (108) have dropped in the rankings (22 and 17 places, respectively) as price increases on goods and services have been moderate compared to New York. Washington, however, also ranking 108, has climbed three places, as rental accommodation prices have increased significantly.  

Miami (115) and Honolulu (117) have each dropped 15 places. Houston (143) dropped 17 places and Dallas (147) dropped 13 places. Portland, OR (186) and Winston-Salem (197) are the least expensive cities in the United States.   

Up 17 places, Toronto (59) has overtaken Vancouver (65) to become the most expensive Canadian city in the ranking, followed by Montreal (79) and Calgary (96). Ranking 114, Ottawa is the least expensive city in Canada.

Europe, the Middle East and Africa  

According to Mercer’s 2011 Cost of Living Survey only three European cities remain in the top 10 list of most expensive cities. Moscow (4) is still the most costly European city on the list, followed by Geneva (5) and Zurich (7). Oslo (15) is down four places from last year, whereas Bern (16) has jumped six and Copenhagen dropped seven places from 10 to 17. London (18) is followed by Milan (25) and Paris (27) ­­­­­– both down 10 places from last year. St. Petersburg ranks 29, followed by Rome (34) and Vienna (36). Up from 76 in 2010, Stockholm (39) has seen one of the most dramatic changes in the region – mainly due to a considerable strengthening of the local currency against the U.S. dollar.  

Ranking 24, Tel Aviv is down five places from 2010 but continues to be the most expensive city in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi (67), Dubai (81) and Amman (103) follow, having dropped 17, 26 and 20 places in the ranking, respectively.   

Luanda (1) remains the most expensive city for expatriates across Africa and globally, and N’Djamena follows in third place. Libreville (12) has slipped five places since last year. Niamey remains at 23 whereas Victoria (25) in the Seychelles dropped 12 places as the Seychelles rupee has weakened against the U.S. dollar. In South Africa, Johannesburg (131) and Cape Town (158) have leapt 20 and 13 places in the ranking, respectively, reflecting the strengtheningof the South African rand. The least expensive cities in the region are Tunis (207) and Addis Ababa (211).  

Asia Pacific  

Australian cities have witnessed some of the most dramatic jumps in the ranking as the local currency has gained almost 14% against the U.S. dollar. Sydney (14) is up 10 places, Melbourne has moved from rank 33 to 21 and Perth has surged 30 places to rank 30. Up 44 places,Adelaide (46) is the country’s highest riser.   

The most expensive city in Asia is Tokyo (2), followed by Osaka (6). Singapore (8) has joined the list of the world’s top 10 most expensive cities and is followed by Hong Kong (9). Nagoya (11) in Japan is up eight places whereas Seoul (19) is down five. Other highly ranked Asian cities are Beijing (20), Shanghai (21), Guangzhou (38), Shenzhen (43) and Taipei (52).    

New Delhi (85) is India’s most expensive city followed by Mumbai (95) and Bangalore (180). Elsewhere in Asia, Jakarta ranks 69 followed by Hanoi 136, Bangkok 88 and Kuala Lumpur 104. Karachi (214) is the region’s least expensive city.   

Mercer produces individual cost of living and rental accommodation cost reports for each city surveyed. For further information, or to purchase copies of individual city reports, visit call Client Services, Warsaw  on +48 22 434 5383.