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The cheapest place to live in America: By the numbers
You can buy a loaf of bread for less than $1 in Harlingen, Texas. But the struggling city also has one of the nation's highest poverty rates
Downtown Harlingen, Texas: Good luck trying to find a decent high-end restaurant in America's "cheapest" city.
Downtown Harlingen, Texas: Good luck trying to find a decent high-end restaurant in America's "cheapest" city.
CC BY: Cliff
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ith a cost of living 18 percent below the national average, the small city of Harlingen, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley had been dubbed the "cheapest place to live in the U.S.," according to data from the Council of Community & Economic Research, which compared prices across 340 urban areas. But before you pack your bags for this "penny pinching paradise," be sure to note Harlingen's high rates of poverty and unemployment. Here, a brief guide, by the numbers:

$847
Average monthly principal and interest payment for a home in Harlingen. "We have relatively low income in the (Rio Grande) Valley, including in Harlingen," says the city's mayor, Chris Boswell. "We have fewer college educated folks." The area also has few high-end retailers.

$4,686
Average monthly principal and interest payments for a home in Manhattan, the most expensive urban area in the county. Other particularly pricey areas include New York's Brooklyn and Queens, San Francisco, and Honolulu.

$0.90
Average cost of a loaf of bread in Harlingen

$2.23
Average cost of a loaf of bread in Manhattan

$2.65
Average cost of a gallon of gas in Harlingen

$3.15
Average cost of a gallon of gas in Manhattan

65,000
Population in Harlingen

9.4
Unemployment rate, in percent, in Harlingen. "There's no work," says unemployed resident Benito Flores.

30.4
Poverty rate, in percent, in Harlingen, one of the highest in the nation. The national poverty rate hovers between 13 and 17 percent.

$31,720
Average annual income in the Brownsville-Harlingen metro area in 2010, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

$44,410
Average annual income throughout the United States. "While Harlingen's cost of living may be 18 percent lower than the U.S. average, area income is about 28 percent lower," says Vanessa Wong at Bloomberg Businessweek.

Sources: Bloomberg Businessweek, Huffington Post, TIME, ValleyCentral.com

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