What Is the ACCRA Cost Of Living Index?
The ACCRA Cost of Living Index is a dataset containing key living costs compiled by the Council for Community and Economic Research. Economists can use the index to make an apples-to-apples comparison of the cost of living between two different urban areas in the United States.
Understanding the ACCRA COLI
The ACCRA Cost of Living Index is a quarterly publication put out by the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association and the Council for Community and Economic Research. The index uses a set of broad categories calculated based upon consumer spending on groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health care and a miscellaneous collection of goods and services that do not fit under other categories. The composite index weights costs based upon spending patterns identified in households with mid-management income, as measured by government surveys.
Price comparison data exist within the index for over 300 U.S. cities, aggregated by county and by metropolitan statistical area.
Using the COLI
The index publishes a national average for the cost of each item in a category and extrapolates an expected expenditure by various family types in a specific area based on the variance from the national baseline across categories. For example, the index looks at a variety of staple grocery items to generate its overall category expenditure, including items such as ground beef, eggs, bananas, coffee, and facial tissues. Average rental costs for apartments and average home sale prices yield a cost for housing. A similar approach across categories led to a national average of $5,976 per month in 2017 for a couple with children under six years of age.
Job seekers and human resources departments can use the ACCRA Cost of Living Index to compare salaries and salary requirements in different parts of the country by looking at the deviation from average in a given area. Apartment rent averaged $1,037 per month on a national level in 2017 according to the index, significantly lower than the rent one might pay in Manhattan or other major coastal urban areas. Employers might use COLI data to ensure their pay remains competitive with salaries in other areas or to ensure that job seekers considering a move understand how much farther their take-home pay would go.
COLI vs. CPI
The ACCRA Cost of Living Index provides points of comparison between two geographic areas at a single point in time. It has little statistical value in terms of tracking prices over time, or charting inflation, however. For those interested in measuring inflation, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes the Consumer Price Index, which uses a somewhat similar approach to capture changes in cost of living over time.