Study: Your dollar goes further in rural Minnesota, if you can find a place to live

U.S. money
Rural Minnesotans can often afford a similar or higher quality of life than their metro area counterparts, despite overall lower wages, according to new research from the Center for Rural Policy and Development.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images 2017

Nowhere in Minnesota can a person afford the cost of living on the state minimum wage of $9.86 an hour. In fact, most regions require well over $15 an hour to afford to live. 

However, rural Minnesotans can often afford a similar or higher quality of life than their metro area counterparts, despite overall lower wages, according to a new study from the Center for Rural Policy and Development. 

Graphic: How affordable are Minnesota's regions?

The study illustrated major gaps in key expenses, such as housing and the wages needed to live. It based its measurements around a family of three with one adult working full time, one working part time and a child.

  • In the seven-county metro area around the Twin Cities, adults need to make nearly $20 an hour on average to meet the cost of living. In southwest Minnesota, they’d need to make just $14 an hour. North-central and northeast Minnesotans would need to make between $16 and $18 an hour. 

  • Child care costs averaged nearly $700 a month in the Twin Cities, compared with about $300 everywhere else.

  • Housing costs were almost $1,200 in the metro area and about $400 less in greater Minnesota. 

  • Rural areas had almost $260 less in monthly taxes than the metro area.

Graphic: Affordability of Minnesota regions by job field

However, the study’s authors note that rural Minnesota faces “significant shortages” of housing and child care, which weren’t accounted for in the research. 

For example, part of the shortage of child care providers in rural areas can be attributed to the lower costs, said Kelly Asche, a research associate who co-authored the study.

“They’re not getting paid enough,” he said.

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