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Study: Suburban Atlanta living is way cheaper than city life

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Cost differential for Atlanta families is significantly higher than national average, researchers find

A suburban couple in a circa-1960 photos.
“You realize, Jane, we’re saving $1,000 per month over those inner-city Atlantans.”
Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images

What’s the convenience of city life worth to the average Atlantan? And given the added costs, is it really a convenience after all?

According to a new Cost of Living analysis by Zillow and, urban families across the nation spend, on average, $9,000 more per year to cover basic housing and child-care costs than their counterparts in the suburbs.

In Atlanta, that gulf is significantly wider, the study found.

Urban Atlantans fork over about $1,050 more per month than denizens of Gwinnett, Cobb, Clayton, and other suburbs for the privilege of living intown.

That gap ($12,557 annually) means Atlanta has one of the highest cost differentials of metro areas studied—on par with San Francisco and Washington D.C.—per research that examined property taxes, mortgage payments, and child-care costs.

“Frank, we really should paint the spare dining room.”
Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images

While Atlanta isn’t in the same ballpark as New York City—where the urban-versus-suburban variance is a staggering $71,237—we’re not far behind Sun Belt competitor Dallas ($14,128), which notched the third highest variance in the country. (As an interesting aside, researchers found that residents of metro Philadelphia and Baltimore actually pay $14,000 more annually to live in the ‘burbs).

Atlanta’s suburbanites are also getting more house for their buck, as median home sizes in the ‘burbs are 377 square feet larger than intown.

That makes sense, but the study’s findings about median commute times in Atlanta are bit more confounding: Living intown saves just two minutes on the median half-hour commute in metro Atlanta? Really?

Anyhow, the national and local statistics: