These California Cities Demand the Most Work Hours in the U.S.A.

San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco topped the list of cities where renters need to work the longest hours just to make the rent
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Many financial advisors will tell you that you should spend no more than 30 percent of your pre-tax monthly income on rent. But in some of the United States’ biggest cities—including Los Angeles and San Francisco—this simply isn’t possible for some residents.

In a study released Wednesday, SmartAsset examined 25 of the nation’s most populous cities to determine the number of hours a renter would need to work to cover housing expenses based on three metrics: average annual take-home pay, average hours worked per year, and median monthly rent, KTLA reports.

The consumer site found that, on average, renters need to work 56 hours a month to afford rent across the largest cities. But for Californians in cities like San Jose, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco, which topped the list, the average number of work hours needed to cover rent is remarkably higher.

San Jose got the dubious distinction of first place in this treadmill race. With the median monthly rent there at $2,232 and an estimated hourly wage of $28,84, a renter needs to work 77.4 hours just to pay the rent—nearly two weeks of full-time work. And that’s not including other living expenses, and don’t even think about leisure, for that matter.

Los Angeles ranked second on the list for most work hours needed to afford rent. L.A.’s  median monthly rent of $1,523 plus an estimated hourly wage of $21.08 are both lower than in San Jose, but renters still need to put in a grueling average of 72.3 hours to pay the landlord.

Close behind in third place is San Diego, where the median monthly rent is $1,770 and estimated hourly wage is $24.53. Analysts determined that a renter there would need to work 72.2 hours to live indoors.

Boston, which ranked fourth with 68.1 hours, was the only city not located in California to land in the nation’s top five.

In fifth place San Francisco, where the median monthly rent is $2,010 and estimated hourly wage is $31.74, renters must put in 63 hours of work to call it home for a month.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that Americans spent roughly 25 percent of their income on housing expenses in 2020, residents in the nation’s most populous cities paid a higher percentage, according to SmartAsset.

San Jose renters spend an average of 48 percent of their income on rent, Angelenos and renters in San Diego spend roughly 45 percent, and San Francisco renters spend an average of 40 percent. These results likely don’t come as a surprise to anyone who lives in California—or knows someone who does. In fact, Los Angeles and San Diego were recently ranked as some of the most expensive rental cities in the nation.

And it’s not only renters that are spending a pretty penny on rent. Housing prices in San Jose, L.A., San Diego, and San Francisco also have the highest median home list prices, according to a recent study by Zillow, KTLA reports.

Other cities that made SmartAsset’s list for most hours needed to work to cover rent was New York which ranked sixth with 61 hours, followed by Denver with 60.2 hours, Austin with 57.4 hours, Charlotte with 56.9, and Seattle rounding out the top 10 with 56.6 hours.


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