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Study ranks purchasing power of top 10 S.C. counties

Banking & Finance
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Curious about the S.C. counties where residents make the most money? The folks at financial technology company SmartAsset were, and analyzed census data to find answers.  

The study, using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Five-Year Community Survey, determined that Beaufort County has both the highest median income ($68,377) and the state’s highest cost of living ($42,537), giving residents there the state’s most purchasing power.  

The study calculated two cost-of-living metrics for a household with one adult and no children: one reflecting the baseline cost of living of each location and the other reflecting typical expenditures for someone making the county’s median income. Those numbers were combined using a weighted average based on how close each county’s median income was to the minimum livable income in that area, and income taxes paid were then subtracted.  

The study then determined the weighted cost of living as a percentage of median income, with the top locations having the highest median income relative to the cost of living.  

Beaufort County’s median income index of 38.80 lead the list. York County, with a median income of $65,361 and a cost of living of $40,805, was second at 36.31. 

The Lowcountry took spots 3-5. Charleston County, with a median income of $64,022 and a cost of living measured at $39,915, ranked third with a median income index of 35.20. Berkeley County was next, with a 34.61 median income index determined by a $63,309 median income and a $39,974 cost of living. Dorchester County’s $63,080 median income and $40,435 cost of living ranked it fifth at 34.42. 

The Midlands were represented by Lexington and Richland counties, with Lexington ranking sixth and Richland ninth. Lexington’s $61,173 median income and $38,867 cost of living gave it a median income index of 32.84, while Richland logged in at 27.54 with a $37,573 cost of living and a $54,767 median income.  

Greenville County, with a cost of living of $37,765, median income of $60,351 and a median income index of 32.16, ranked seventh. Lancaster County ranked eighth with a 30.92 median income index calculated from a $36,146 cost of living and a $58,849 median income.  

Spartanburg County, with a median income index of 25.52, rounded out the top 10. Residents there have a median income of $52,332 and a cost of living calculated at $35,729.  

The study also compared costs of living among different areas of the country. For instance, the cost of living in New York, N.Y. is 28% higher than in Columbia, where residents can enjoy a standard of living for $50,899 that would require $65,261 in annual income in New York. 

Reach Melinda Waldrop at 803-726-7542.

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