"Just imagine comparing New York to Cincinnati or Houston or Dallas — these are places where housing tends to be fairly low as a share of income, but transportation tends to be fairly high as a share of income because families are living far away and drive long distances," he says. "New York is exactly the opposite," he adds, pointing to the city's high housing prices but efficient transportation system.
While there's plenty of difference between the most- and least-affordable metro areas, the fact that incomes are outpacing costs for basic needs still means tightening budgets in all of these cities.
"We have to qualify all of these with the point that housing and transportation costs are still going up faster than incomes," says Lubell. "They are still consuming more than half of the incomes of moderate-income households in every one of the 25 metro areas that we looked at."
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Danielle Kurtzleben is a business and economics reporter for U.S. News & World Report. Connect with her on Twitter @titonka or via E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.