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South Dakota 2015 Cost of Living 102.5% of Nat’l Average, 2nd Highest in Region

Throughout my blogging, I have consistently turned to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center’s posting of cost-of-living data from the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER). Today I find MERIC has posted the 2015 annual average cost of living for all states as compared to the national average.

Mississippi ranks #1, as in having the lowest cost of living, 83.5% of the national average. The next cheapest states are Indiana, Idaho, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. Ranking 46th through 50th are, perhaps predictably, Alaska, California, New York, the District of Columbia, and Hawaii (the last at 168.6% of the national average).

Where’s South Dakota? 30th, as in more costly to live in than 29 other states:

Cost of living by state, indexed to national average, 2015, from C2ER via MERIC, downloaded 2016.02.23.
Cost of living by state, indexed to national average, 2015, from C2ER via MERIC, downloaded 2016.02.23.

In 2015, it actually cost 2.5% more to pay for groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, and other basic living expenses in South Dakota than the national average. Among our neighbors, only Montana had a higher cost of living. Everyone else in the neighborhood, even Minnesota, has a lower cost of living. Iowa’s the cheapest neighbor, with cost of living 92.0% of the national average.

Yes, yes, the C2ER does not include taxes. But South Dakota’s low tax burden doesn’t make up for South Dakota’s low wages, meaning our higher-than-you-thought cost of living still kicks working folks around as hard as if not harder than the cost of living across most of our borders.

The C2ER index also looks only participating cities. In South Dakota, the only two participating areas are Sioux Falls and Pierre (come on, Rapid City! Fill out that questionnaire!). North Dakota sends data from Bismarck, Fargo, and Minot. Minnesota sends data from Minneapolis, St. Paul, Mankato, and St. Cloud. So if you’re going to argue that the C2ER data is biased toward the high costs in South Dakota’s big towns and leaves out our rural areas, you have to consider that (1) Pierre offers an interesting counter to economic trends in Sioux Falls and perhaps offering a useful proxy for isolated rural communities, and (2) the absence of really-small-town data should equally skew the numbers in North Dakota and Minnesota.


  1. mike from iowa 2016-02-23

    Geaux iowa! We’re Regional Numero Cheapo.

  2. Jenny 2016-02-23

    There was an article out a few weeks ago comparing Rochester MN to Sioux Falls SD -very similar in population, both medical towns. Guess which one came out as more expensive to live – Sioux Falls. Housing was more expensive in Sioux Falls, and of course wages lower. Unions are still alive in blue collar MN – like the teamsters and the electrical workers. Most of the working boys don’t complain about their Union dues either. What people don’t realize are that Unions are more that just about wages. You have a Union representative to go to for a lot of issues such as harassment on the job. Out of staters are catching on to the South Dakota lie about cost of living being low.

  3. Jenny 2016-02-23

    LOL, SD loses again, MN is lower cost of living! Isn’t it time to vote the corrupt GOP out, South Dakota? Dems will fight for you.

  4. Madman 2016-02-23

    It’s time to attract businesses that aren’t creating more low paying jobs. South Dakota is dead last in pay in so many areas it isn’t even funny.

  5. Jenny 2016-02-23

    It’s time to drop the food tax in SD, but that will never happen.

  6. Mark Winegar 2016-02-23

    Oops! There goes another GOP myth. So, with the second highest cost of living in the region how does the GOP justified ranking 51st in teacher pay not to mention so many other professions?

  7. Jeff Endrizzi 2016-02-24

    The cost of living argument must include taxes, those are dollars out of pocket. The cost of living in SD includes ALL costs rolled together, not a la carte.

  8. John Tsitrian 2016-02-24

    should read “about 1% below the national average.”

  9. larry kurtz 2016-02-24

    The cost of living in South Dakota is mostly spirit and soul-draining.

  10. Madman 2016-02-24


    This is the truth of it. Even with taxes were still only 18th in being an affordable place to live. Out of the 17 states ahead of us which ones are behind us in terms of wages and benefits to carpenters, clergy, teachers, architects, civil engineers, mail carriers, correctional officers, mental health workers, registered nurses, electricians, computer programmers, mechanical engineers, accountants, auditors and more.

    The quick answer is none as South Dakota is last in everyone of these occupations.

    What kind of businesses has the state focused on bringing to here, low paying, low skill jobs. As a result you put people in this endless cycle of always trying to stay ahead. This hasn’t changed and the gap between the top of South Dakota wage earners and the bottom is pretty wide. Low income in this state needs to be addressed by the state in how to create jobs that actually pay.

  11. Jeff Endrizzi 2016-02-24

    Madman, is there some expectation SD be the lowest priced state in the country to live? It all ties together, and 18th is much better than 28th or 50th. How has the State “put people in this endless cycle of always trying to stay ahead”? Has the State forced people to accept jobs? Has the State forced people to stay away from education? Low skill will equal low pay. That’s not the State’s issue. The State works hard to encourage post-secondary education. Learn a skill, earn a living wage.

    I’m a mechanical engineer by training. Could I earn more in a different state? Possibly, but SD offers what I need looking at the entire picture.

  12. larry kurtz 2016-02-24

    I’m a social engineer by training but looking at the entire picture South Dakota is crazy making to the sane, the healthy and the democratic.

  13. mikeyc, that's me! 2016-02-24

    You crack me up.

  14. larry kurtz 2016-02-24

    mikey! south dakota is a 77,184 square mile institution for the criminally unwell.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-24

    Jeff, South Dakota offers what you and I want in the big picture. We are a happy minority. Workforce shortages across the state show that we aren’t offering enough. The state’s excuses about low cost of living (even with taxes) making up for even lower wages are not convincing enough people to come here. We need to offer more to recruit the workforce we need.

  16. Stumcfar 2016-02-24

    It is amazing. South Dakota is short workers, Minnesota has a worker shortage, yet we have more people on food stamps and a larger percentage of people nationally not working. All this under a Democratic administration in the White House. Maybe the problem is instead of being Santa Claus ala Obama and Bernie Sanders, we should make people work and not live off the backs of the middle class who are working. Extremely high taxes in Minnesota are forcing manufacturing jobs out of the state in droves. Keep your taxes low and keep your environmentalists from going crazy and you have chance. Funny, the liberals want just the opposite!

  17. larry kurtz 2016-02-24


  18. Jenny 2016-02-24

    Stump, whatever your name is, my taxes in MN are not high by any means. What they take out of my income is very reasonable.
    If a Minnesotan is in the top income bracket, yes, their taxes did go up to 9.85%, but the rest of Minnesotans didn’t. What manufacturing companies are leaving MN, funny, I haven’t heard? I’ve heard just the opposite that corporations like it here b/c MN has a lot to offer and there is no discrimination, and workers are more educated.
    When you here about discriminatory transgender laws and Native American racism in a state like SD, corporations don’t want to take a chance, even with all the tax exemptions they get.

  19. Stumcfar 2016-02-24

    Jenny if you looked anywhere north of the liberal metro, you would see the companies leaving. Polaris to Monterey Mexico and Alabama, Marvin Windows to two different spots in ND, Digi-key to ND, just to name a few from one small area of the state. Several thousand jobs by the way!! Yes, big corporations worry about transgender laws. You liberals are so out there I don’t know if I should laugh or cry!! Bearcreek, so you are saying that country has all of a sudden been over run with disabled people??? You may be on to something, because I have several who are customers that receive government benefits monthly, yet function normally, hmmm. Of course there are people that need help, but we need to quit rewarding stupidity and bad decisions with money from the working middle class!

  20. bearcreekbat 2016-02-24

    No Stu, like you I am saying lets make sure that children, disabled and elderly people should have to get jobs instead of welfare. Except our rules are so loose now that they can still get welfare even if they work.

    Welfare should go to major corporations so they can keep their regular employees wages below subsistence levels, pay multi-million dollar salaries to their CEOs and board members, and give a bit in dividends to stockholders, not to those lazy babies, kids, truely disabled folks (although it might be okay to pay off the fakers you know), and grandmas. We need to drive more money up the hill to those who know how to save it by moving it offshore and get it out of the hands of the takers and users who will just waste it on rent, diapers and other stupid things.

    See Stu, I am right in your corner. Greed is okay for you and me and the rich, but it is a moral failing when the whiny kids, wounded vets and elders cry for shelter and food – what a waste. You go Stu – let’s make this country great again!

  21. Jenny 2016-02-24

    You’re so misguided, Stub -Polaris, another MN made company, is still headquartered in the Cities and has distributers all over the States. It did open a facility in Mexico and Alabama so they can take advantage of low wages, nothing to do with MN taxes.
    MN was rated one of the best business climates and has a low 3.8% unemployment rate in spite of all those taxes that conservative are scared of.
    It baffles states like SD which think taxes are evil, but what counts when looking for a place to set up business is quality schools, quality healthcare and those are some of the indicators that MN is known for.

  22. Jenny 2016-02-24

    Oh yes, Stub, Corporations will look for whether a state is LGBT friendly or not.

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-24

    Stu does like diverting us from the topic by talking about his pre-chewed talk-radio points. Where, Stu, did I make any claim about Obamanomics? Our focus here is real South Dakota issues, not the dog whistles LImbaugh/Levin/etc. blow to make you salivate.

  24. Roger Cornelius 2016-02-24

    Will someone slap Stu upside the head and remind him that South Dakota’s economic failings have all been at the behest of forty years of republican legislatures and governors. President Obama wasn’t in office when South Dakota conservative republicans started their corrupt ways and lagging tax and economic policies.
    Today Donald Trump said, “I love poor uneducated voters”, we now know he was talking about this Stu creature.

  25. Wayne B. 2016-02-24

    You know I jump on you for using Missouri’s methodology every time… thanks for trying to preempt my arguments, but I still strongly advise you not to mis-use the MERIC data… again.


    To your (1): Pierre is an abnormally high COL town, due no doubt to the high concentration of government jobs. I remember looking at housing in Pierre and just how out of wack it was. So it’s not a good proxy for more isolated rural areas. If Pierre didn’t participate, we’d actually probably be below the 100 point mark.

    In 2013, the median house/condo in Sioux Falls was $153,300. In Pierre, it was $167,564! For a comparison, Fargo was $162k, and Rochester was $164. So Sioux Falls housing was more affordable. In fact, the 2013 median house/condo in Minneapolis was $198k. The median household income in Minneapolis was $50k, compared to $51k in Sioux Falls. So 1/2 of the people in Minneapolis are making just as much as 1/2 of the people in Sioux Falls, yet they have fewer affordable housing options. Since housing and healthcare take the largest chunks of the family budget, they have the greatest impact on overall cost of living.

    To your (2): NO. NO. NO. The fact that metrics are missing for rural towns does not mean we can conclude all towns experience the same cost of living issues. We do not have the data to make categorical analysis and therefore cannot make any evidence-based claim. We cannot say it is cheaper to live in rural Minnesota than it is to live in rural South Dakota (or vice versa).

    What’s interesting to me is if we examine Health costs, only Iowa is cheaper than South Dakota among our neighbors. If we could get the anomaly that is Pierre out of the equation, I think we’d see a dramatically different presentation of COL for “South Dakota”.

  26. grudznick 2016-02-24

    Mr. C, it is the libbies own failures for failing to get people elected. When you lose a football game it is silly to blame the other team for being too good.

  27. Jenny 2016-02-24

    Where do you get those stats, Wayne, please?

  28. Wayne B. 2016-02-24


    Those data ultimately come from the US Census Bureau, but is where you can pull them very quickly.

  29. Les 2016-02-24

    They left for lower wage labor but not taxes, Jenny? What are the taxes in Mehico? We haven’t seen anything yet, Miss Jenny. There are billions out there just waiting to take our jobs and opportunities from us. Might just start a revolution in the US, folks actually wanting to work for a life.

  30. Jenny 2016-02-24

    Well then why didn’t they just go to tax exemption friendly, screw the wage earner SD, Les?

  31. grudznick 2016-02-24

    I, for one, think here is the reality. Debate it from out of state all you want to entertain me.

    If you make enough to live happily in South Dakota, the greatest state of the Union, that is wonderful. If you are a bitch pisser moaner who doesn’t want to work hard enough to get enough money then go be a slackard elsewhere so you can bitch and moan there. If you don’t live in South Dakota but are a bitcher pisser moaner just on general principles, then I am glad to have you blogging here but please don’t visit. Just keep entertaining me.

  32. Jenny 2016-02-24

    Hmmm Wayne, I thought those numbers looked low for Minneapolis.

    Here are the latest median income stats from the US census bureau that says income for Minneapolis was $69000.

  33. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-24

    Wayne, you mean you aren’t going to accept my argument that the omission of rural communities from every state’s rankings means that the cost of living figures will be similarly skewed for every state in a way that means the rankings wouldn’t shift much if we did include fair samples of small towns from each state?

    The North Dakota rankings include their relatively isolated state capital. Does government-town Bismarck not experience housing inflation similar to what you say happens in Pierre?

  34. Jeff Endrizzi 2016-02-25

    Cory, we all would like to have more jobs available that pay good or great wages.

    These things all work together….population, education, jobs. Our technically educated residents are finding good jobs. Our four technical institutes are graduating people that are finding work in SD. Very few leave the state. This is not a unique situation.

    The facility I manage does not see many (essentially none) applications from students coming out of MN tech schools, even though we are on the MN border.

    As a state, we can’t draw businesses needing skilled workforces unless we can fill those jobs. And some businesses don’t require that level of skilled worker, and if they can fill their workforce needs with SD residents, good for them.

    Getting an education is the best thing a person can do for themselves. Getting an education in something you enjoy, and results in being employable is a win for everyone.

  35. Wayne B. 2016-02-25


    Wayne, you mean you aren’t going to accept my argument that the omission of rural communities from every state’s rankings means that the cost of living figures will be similarly skewed for every state in a way that means the rankings wouldn’t shift much if we did include fair samples of small towns from each state?

    Simply put, no. From a data analytics standpoint, we have tens of thousands of missing data points. This challenge is compounded because different states have differing levels of participation (different number of towns participating). Just because every state is missing its rural components doesn’t mean we can assume those rural components experience the same skew in cost of living.

    I don’t know if you ever pay attention to county-level CDC or NIH data, but there’s a reason counties in rural areas have data suppressed; it’s because there isn’t enough data to make an accurate inference from the data. MERIC’s data, when deaggregated to state-to-state comparisons, suffers from the same problems. The challenge is the folks who host the resource aren’t willing to acknowledge it because they want more towns to participate.

    The North Dakota rankings include their relatively isolated state capital. Does government-town Bismarck not experience housing inflation similar to what you say happens in Pierre?

    It does indeed. But this is interesting. I can’t find the participating towns for ND – do you have a link to illuminate?

    This is my challenge with the MERIC dataset:
    Fargo Median House: $164,200 (Income: $44,845)
    Bismarck Median House: $191,400 (Income: $56,545)
    Minot Median House: $211,905 (Income:

    MERIC uses average house value, so perhaps the median and mean are dramatically different, but note that those medians are higher than the Sioux Falls and Pierre counterparts. What I don’t understand is, given the data I can find, I don’t see how the housing in North Dakota (102%) is cheaper than that of South Dakota (117%). I can’t see what’s going on behind the calculations.

    I’ve voiced this concern before: MERIC isn’t very transparent on how it generates its compound averages. It’s not a straight average across the categories. So it’s hard to see how they get to their final numbers.

  36. Les 2016-02-25

    Why would Polaris come to SD and pay $10-20 per hour when they can go to Mexico and screw the wage earner at $4 per day and fewer taxes, Jenny? Putting SD lower than Mexico shows an ignorance I don’t really think you have.

  37. Jenny 2016-02-25

    Oh, let’s face it folks. There is way too much poverty in a country this wealthy. ‘Pubs like to call it class warfare but doesn’t everyone deserve a living wage? A decent company should pay their workers that, after all it’s the employees that make the company what it is.
    There is too much Union in me to not fight for the workers!

  38. Jenny 2016-02-25

    Les, name a SD employer that is paying manufacturing workers with just High school degrees 20 bucks an hour.
    In MN, I can name several.

  39. Wayne B. 2016-02-25


    Thanks for the link! Here’s the link where I pulled Minneapolis data and here’s a map.

    You Dept of Numbers data is pulling from the same dataset as City-Data – they’re coming from the American Community Survey from the Census Bureau. The differential in numbers is entirely due to boundaries. Dept of Numbers pulls the entire Metropolitan Statistical Area of the Minneapolis-St.Paul-Bloomington, and therefore includes more zip codes. The City-Data numbers are coming from the zip codes which are used to define Minneapolis as a city by the census bureau, and therefore does not include the entire MSA.

    So since we’re capturing more of the suburbs around Minneapolis, we’re likely to capture some more affluence – that explains the increased median household income of $69,000 vs $50k. However, I’m willing to wager we’d see a dramatically higher median house/condo value expressed as well (I couldn’t find that data on the website you provided Jenny).

  40. Les 2016-02-25

    Jenny, name a manufacturer in Mexico paying their high school educated $20 per hour. In SD I can name several.

  41. Jenny 2016-02-25

    Okay, Wayne since you’re bringing metropolitan area into it, does Sioux Falls median income include their suburban sprawl? I’m thinking it probably does but yet it barely skews it doesn’t it, just barely over $50,000.
    South Dakota as a whole has over 14% poverty rate (data US census bureau, compared to just over 11% in MN (and that includes the ghettos of N Minneapolis and then those Native American reservations up Nort’, since SD always likes to claim their poverty is b/c of the Rez.).
    Again, for a country as rich as the US the poverty level is way too high, but the Dems at least try to do some good things such as advocating for a living wage and promoting Unions.

  42. Jenny 2016-02-25

    Les, there are a lot of dairies in Southern MN that are Union and start $18-20/hr right from the start. Kemps in Rochester MN is one of them and the boys are represented by The Teamsters. They have very good health insurance(my daughter was on it and had no problem getting anything covered) and a 401K.
    The boys get a LOT of overtime at certain times of the year so they make a decent living.

  43. Jenny 2016-02-25

    Does anyone know of a factory job in SD that starts at 20 bucks an hour with no skills needed?

  44. Wayne B. 2016-02-25


    I found a link with the stats we need for the whole Minneapolis MSA

    Median household income: $69,111
    Median household cost: $216,400

    So the median household in the Minneapolis MSA represents 3.13 x the median income.
    In Sioux Falls it’s 2.99.
    Pierre is 3.07.

    So again, the housing costs of Sioux Falls are actually a little better based on our incomes. So while homes are more expensive than I’d like to see, they’re not dramatically out of proportion (and they’re still well below the median US household cost of about $181k)

    I acknowledge it’s a complex system to calculate cost of living, but since housing is such a major factor, it’s a pretty good place to look (and it’s readily available data).

  45. Jenny 2016-02-25

    Again Wayne, can you post the link where you got those numbers?

    Rochester, Fargo or Duluth are more fitting towns to compare Sioux Falls to since they are similar in population.
    Most metropolitan areas are going to be more expensive to live than Sioux Falls.

  46. Jenny 2016-02-25

    Wayne, what does median household cost entail?

  47. Les 2016-02-25

    Does anyone know of a factory job in Mexico that starts at 20 bucks an hour with no skills needed?

  48. Jenny 2016-02-25

    I found the link, Wayne. Cory or Nick – you guys are numbers people. What is your observation of this data? To me considering in the Cities the median income is $69000 ($19,000 more than Sioux Falls) , and the median house price is around the $200-210,000 range, there is really not that much difference then because of the lower Sioux Falls wages. This is surprising b/c it seems then that the Cities are not that much different from Sioux Falls economically, but you get a lot more to offer.
    Which town is a pinch more expensive? Is Wayne’s observation correct?
    This just speaks volumes of how much more expensive Sioux Falls has gotten in the last two decades.

  49. Jenny 2016-02-25

    You still haven’t answered my question, Les. Where in SD is there a factory job that starts at 20 buck an hour, no skills needed fresh out of high school? Anyone? Cory do you know of any?

  50. Wayne B. 2016-02-25

    Jenny, sorry if the hyperlinks are harder to see. I try not to clutter up text with extra baggage. Glad you found it.

    To your question, Estimated Median House/Condo value is an amalgamation of all housing units of all types available in a town, generated through real estate transaction history. City Data actually breaks down the mean (not median) prices for each type of housing, too. There’s even median gross rent.

    I agree with your premise that we should probably compare similar sized towns.

    Let’s do that.
    I’m going to use City-Data for everything, so all are going to be median income/housing costs.

    We’ve established Sioux Falls Income: $51,158 / housing: $153,300 (2.99 times the median income)
    Duluth: Income: $42,176 / Housing: $148,800 (3.53 times the median income)
    Fargo: Income: $44,845 / Housing: $164,200 (3.66 times the median income)
    Rochester: Income: $62,152 / Housing $164,400 (2.65 times the median income)

    So Rochester is the only town you mention where housing is generally more affordable than Sioux Falls. That’s fascinating.

    Do you live in Sioux Falls, Jenny? I guess I’m not sure what you mean by the “you get a lot more to offer” comment about the Twin Cities vs. Sioux Falls. Do you care to elaborate?

  51. Jenny 2016-02-25

    Let’s see – professional sports teams, theater, arts (Minneapolis art museums are some of the finest in the country) public well-funded transportation (including a bicycle share system which has proven to be extremely popular) beautiful lakes and parks, science museum, zoos, Mall of America, universities.
    The link is all about the bicycle sharing system which the crazy liberals started to try to save the environment. Extremely popular.

  52. Jenny 2016-02-25

    So it is less than one percent less expensive to live in Sioux Falls according to the numbers above. Not even 1/2 of one percent more to live in Minneapolis, correct if I go by your numbers, Wayne, correct? 3.13 to 2.99.

  53. Wayne B. 2016-02-25

    Okay, so it’s predominantly social engagement activities. That’s fair.

    Minneapolis MSA has a population of 3.5 million to draw upon in order to fund all those things. That’s a whole different league. :-)

    The fact that Sioux Falls is a town of 165,000 (the MSA is estimated to be in the 240k range) and we still have sports teams, trade shows, convention events, big named musicians, historical enrichment, a zoo, recreational and shopping opportunities, bike trails, and a wide variety of cuisine options speaks well for us. And really, there isn’t anything in the Minneapolis retail scene that can’t be bought in Sioux Falls.

    We have venues commensurate to our size, and quite comparable to the other towns you mentioned.

    Sioux Falls has plenty to improve, but it’s not so bad a place to live (aside from the increasing crime… that’s definitely troubling). It is, however, pretty affordable compared to individual peers in the region.

    Pierre is a whole different story. It is much less affordable – and the quality of life isn’t as good. From yellowed overpriced lettuce to higher fuel…. it’s just tougher to get by.

  54. Wayne B. 2016-02-25

    Jenny, I missed this comment of yours. I’d like to address it.

    Okay, Wayne since you’re bringing metropolitan area into it, does Sioux Falls median income include their suburban sprawl? I’m thinking it probably does but yet it barely skews it doesn’t it, just barely over $50,000.

    Well, $51,300 is pretty good. I want to gently remind you I was comparing Minneapolis the city to Sioux Falls, the city (apples to apples). You’re the one who found and introduced the MSA data. I’m afraid I’m having trouble locating good data on the Sioux Falls MSA, but it includes four counties – Minnehaha, Lincoln, Turner, and McCook. Lincoln is the only one with more affluence.

    South Dakota as a whole has over 14% poverty rate (data US census bureau, compared to just over 11% in MN (and that includes the ghettos of N Minneapolis and then those Native American reservations up Nort’, since SD always likes to claim their poverty is b/c of the Rez.).
    Again, for a country as rich as the US the poverty level is way too high, but the Dems at least try to do some good things such as advocating for a living wage and promoting Unions.

    Let’s not get into party politics, please. I like data.

    I think comparing poverty is a great idea. However, the “Rez” is exactly why South Dakota’s poverty rate is higher than Minnesota’s. The poorest county in the entire US is in Indian Country. And it’s not just one county – it’s many of our tribal populations. It stinks, and I really wish South Dakota would work more collaboratively with the tribes for educational attainment and economic development.

    However, much of our conversation has been surrounding the Minneapolis vs. Sioux Falls debate. If we continue in that vein, it’s a pretty revealing picture:

    Link to Minneapolis (City) poverty : 23.2%
    Link to Sioux Falls (City) poverty : 11.8%

    Those websites also are rich resources for showing us housing affordability. Sioux Falls has a greater percentage of homes under $100k than Minneapolis. That speaks well to affordability.

    They also show you exactly the boundaries of where we’re talking. That’s super helpful :-)

  55. Jenny 2016-02-25

    The metropolitan area brings the poverty rate level way down. Again, it doesn’t mean anything to compare a major metro area to a little town like Sioux Falls.

  56. Jenny 2016-02-25

    I could just play the race card like you and say Minneapolis is close to 20% black (it is) and so that’s why the poverty rate is so high.

  57. Wayne B. 2016-02-25

    So it is less than one percent less expensive to live in Sioux Falls according to the numbers above. Not even 1/2 of one percent more to live in Minneapolis, correct if I go by your numbers, Wayne, correct? 3.13 to 2.99.

    Kinda, but remember those are multiples of your income, so even a .1 difference is pretty dramatic (hence why Rochester being 2.65 is pretty darn sweet).

    Maybe if we talked mortgages, it’d be more helpful?
    Assume 10% down, 30 year loan, 3.92% APR

    Sioux Falls: $7,824 annual cost, or 15.3% of gross median income
    Minneapolis (city only): $10,104 annual cost, or 20% of gross median income
    Rochester: $8,400 annual, 13.5% of gross median income
    Duluth: $7,596 annual, 18% of gross median income
    Fargo: $8376 annual, 18.7% of gross median income

    Rochester is clearly the winner (go Mayo!)
    Sioux Falls is definitely next in line for housing affordability.

    But see how big a difference just a small multiple means?

  58. Wayne B. 2016-02-25

    Jenny, I’m a little miffed you’re saying I’m “playing the race card” when looking at rational causes for the differential in poverty rates between MN & SD.

    Demographics matter. It’s not just “Native Americans are poor” – it’s that they’re in a perpetual cycle which is preventing them from escaping poverty. I would encourage you to watch this TED talk by an esteemed colleague of mine, and someone who is trying to make a huge difference for tribal populations in our region. He does an awesome job explaining the poverty and health issues facing first nations peoples.

    But let’s explore the poverty issue. Let’s look at some other towns:

    Sioux Falls: 11.8%
    Pierre: 11.7%
    Fargo: 14%
    Bismarck: 10.8%
    Minot: 10.5%
    Rochester: 10.7%
    Duluth: 22.7% (!!!!)
    Sioux City: 16.6%
    Des Moines: 19.9%
    Billings: 11.8%

    So it’s interesting that even those higher cost of living towns like Bismarck & Pierre don’t have higher poverty rates. Fargo, Sioux City, Des Moines, and Duluth are considerably higher.


  59. Jenny 2016-02-25

    Duluth, an old shipping blue collar town has been hit hard by the recession and was going downhill before that.

  60. Jenny 2016-02-25

    Iron Range recessions always hurt Duluth also.

  61. Wayne B. 2016-02-25

    Thanks for filling in the contextual reasons for Duluth’s higher poverty. Ultimately there’s an explanation for deviations; finding and illuminating those reasons doesn’t necessarily mean we have to denigrate each other.

    South Dakota has plenty of issues. Lower wages is definitely one of them. But I also reject the MERIC dataset as a valid tool for examining South Dakota writ large vs its neighbors.

    Cory, I stumbled across a cool comparison tool on the Census Bureau’s website. I’m trying to find it again; it allows for comparisons among states/counties/towns.

  62. Jenny 2016-02-26

    Consider this Wayne, MN and SD have the same percentage of minorities 85.7%, but yet SDs poverty rate is still higher – 11.5% to 14.2%. Are you still going to blame that on the Rez? Wouldn’t it be more fair to also include lower wages as a whole also?,46,00
    MN has a higher rate of blacks and Hispanics than SD. SD is over 9% Native American.

  63. Jenny 2016-02-26

    Oops, I meant to say MN and SD have the same percentage of nonwhites 14.3% to Caucasians 85.7% (who would have thought that anyway?)

  64. Nick Nemec 2016-02-26

    I’m late to this conversation and have a few thoughts. I wonder if towns with larger medical industries are more affordable for their residents? SF (medical industry) stacks up well when compared to some cities in MN, Rochester is especially good no doubt thanks to the Mayo Clinic. If I remember correctly, from some long forgotten blog conversation, Jenny lives there. There are a lot of good paying jobs in the medical field in Rochester, jobs that pay almost twice a similar job in SD would pay. Pierre is a low wage, expensive, isolated place, if you aren’t a fisherman there isn’t much to do. Young people can go there to get job experience and after a few years move and make much more in some other city. If you want a state job it really helps to be a Republican, if you are a well connected Republican it’s all the better. If state government were in some other city Pierre would turn into Chamberlain or Mobridge overnight.

    The more union friendly environment in Minnesota has done a lot to improve both union and non-union wages and those higher wages will continue to attract South Dakotans like Jenny looking for a better life. South Dakota’s anti-union obsession holds us back but don’t expect our leaders to acknowledge that simple fact anytime soon.

  65. Jenny 2016-02-26

    Pierre is a corrupted little isolated town isn’t it? The corruption plays into the price of housing doesn’t it. Cronies working for each other probably. Why else would the price of housing be so high? I mean, really, it’s in the middle of nowhere and the shopping sucks!

  66. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-02-26

    Fascinating stats from all parties make this an enlightening thread. Please carry on.

    Wayne says “There isn’t anything in the Minneapolis retail scene that can’t be bought in Sioux Falls.” I suppose in the era, Main Street retail options matter less. But I’ll observe glibly: REI, Apple Store, LEGO Store. Those LEGO bulk bins are pretty awesome.

  67. Wayne B. 2016-02-26


    Thanks for the link! That was the nifty tool I mentioned.

    I think there’s a challenge here where you’re having me paint with too wide a brush. The “Rez” is definitely a major contributing factor to South Dakota’s poverty rate. I can’t see how anyone could look at our demographic data and deny it.

    But of course it isn’t the sole cause! However, since it’s the most egregious source of poverty in South Dakota, it’s where our minds immediately go. It’s also where it makes sense to target our poverty alleviation efforts.

    Of course Caucasians are contributing to the extra 3 percent in poverty, as are other minorities. Please understand I’m not trying to place blame; just explore and explain root causes.

    Nick, I think you’ve got a good theory regarding medical industry.

    What’s interesting to me is both Pierre and Sioux Falls have substantially lower poverty rates than South Dakota as a whole.

    I was looking up other SD towns.

    Aberdeen: 12%
    Huron 20% (!!!) – this looks to be linked to the high concentration of Karen and Hispanic workers at the turkey plant, and the significantly lower educational attainment (only 83% have high school diplomas)
    Then you get to Rapid City. It has a 16% poverty rate yet a 93% highschool completion rate.

    But if we zoom out to MN vs SD comparisons,

    MN has 11.5% poverty, 1% native populations, 6% black, 5% Asian, 5% Hispanic, and 81% Caucasian. 92.6% were high school grads or better. 35% had a Bachelor’s degree or better.

    17% of your hosing stocks are valued under $100k

    SD has 14.2% poverty. As far as Diversity, we’re actually not as bad as you make us out to be; it’s 83% Caucasian, 2% Black, 8% Native, 1% Asian, 3% Hispanic.

    91.7% were high school grads or better. Where we fall down is only 28% have earned Bachelor’s degrees or better. (This makes a lot of sense given all the discussion of the South Dakota brain drain.) It’s interesting that South Dakota actually has a higher high school completion rate than Minnesota (31% vs 26%), but I’m willing to bet MN’s greater percentage of graduate degree earners occludes that statistic.

    33% of our housing stocks are under $100k.

    So we do have a greater percentage of poor people, but we also have more affordable housing in which they can live. It also means there are more opportunities for higher wage earners to live below their means and get ahead.

    But there are definitely serious issues facing South Dakota. We don’t retain our highly educated. Therefore, there’s a paucity of higher wage jobs requiring higher educational attainment.

    SD has a tendency to drive people away. I’m sticking it out because 1) I’ve got an awesome job able to support my family and making a real difference in the Midwest and 2) I figure if I leave, I’m contributing to the cultural draining of a state I love.

    Am I upset with what’s going on in Pierre? Yup. But I’m active in giving our representatives a piece of my mind.

  68. Wayne B. 2016-02-26

    Cory, when it comes to shopping, there really isn’t anything that can’t be had between amazon, ebay (it’s where I got all my bulk legos), or some outlet.

    It’s also pretty cool that Sioux Falls is attracting outlets such as the Duluth Trading Co. I’ve heard Bass Pro Shops has put options on land in NW Sioux Falls out by the interstate, we’re getting an Alto Foods in April, and Trader Joe’s has been doing site exploring.

    We won’t have the “Mall of America” experience, and we’ll never compete with the Minnesota Orchestra.

    But I definitely make sure my money gets spent at local fly fishing shops (out in Rapid) rather than Scheels and Cabelas.

  69. Jenny 2016-02-26

    What are you talking about, Wayne?!! Those stats say MN has a higher high school grad rate than SD. 92% to 90%.

    And both states has the same percentage of Caucasians – 85.7%. It’s right there in the link – US Census bureau.

    Really, when you have pitifully low wages in a state like SD, any housing is going to seem expensive to those low wage earners, even Section 8. It’s amazing more people aren’t on it.

  70. Wayne B. 2016-02-26

    Sorry for the confusion Jenny – I was using the state profiles for my analysis since it has a better breakdown of educational attainment, poverty, and demographics (it’s cleaned up). I’m not certain why there’s a discrepancy – they both seem to be relating to 2014 Census Data.

    Again you paint with a very broad brush. I’ve already shown you how the median household in Sioux Falls spends less of their entire income on housing than other comparable towns, with the exception of Rochester.

    But let’s use the state comparison you provided on the QuickFacts page.

    Median selected monthly owner costs -with a mortgage, 2010-2014
    MN: $1,526 x12 = $18,312 annually / Median Houshold Income ($60,828) = 30.1% of gross income
    SD: $1,210 x12 = $14,520 annually / Median Houshold Income ($50,338) = 28.8% of gross income

    So the median household living in the median house in Minnesota has 1.3% less of their gross income. It’s not a huge difference, but it is still lower. Again, this makes me challenge the MERIC data’s validity on our housing costs.

    Again, revering to the breakdown of housing, SD has a greater percentage of homes available for our low wage earners.

    We’re NOT that bad off. If you understand the data, it’s pretty clear it isn’t so dire a picture as you paint. We’re not Monty Python’s peasants farming mud. Could it be better? Sure. But please open your mind.

  71. Jenny 2016-02-26

    According to the high school grad rates between the states, I’m correct MNs is higher, right Wayne?

  72. Jenny 2016-02-26

    Again if SD housing is so affordable how come more MNs own their house – SD 68% to MN 72%? It says that right on the quick facts. Oh I know, b/c they make higher wages and have more to put down on a mortgage? Higher wages means more money,means being able to even AFFORD a down payment on a house!

  73. Jenny 2016-02-26

    Is there anything that SD beats MN in that is good?

  74. Les 2016-02-26

    Is there anything that Mehico beats MN in that is good?

  75. Wayne B. 2016-02-26


    Yes. MN has a slightly higher high school graduation rate. MN also has more citizens with Bachelors degrees or better (we covered that). It also has a 4% lead in homeowners, as you pointed out. That does remind me, though, of how South Dakota never really experienced the housing bubble and commensurate foreclosure crisis; Minnesota definitely did. Moreover, let’s look at New York State –

    Jenny, my goal isn’t to say South Dakota beats Minnesota in any category. It is a fact SD’s median income/housing is better than MN’s, but that’s more to to the point that MERIC’s data is pretty flawed.

    My goal is to show we’re not living in squalor as you seem to portray… that there’s nothing worthwhile about the 850,000 souls who call South Dakota home. If that isn’t your purpose, then please change your tone and acknowledge that South Dakota isn’t really that far behind Minnesota in quite a bit.

    Please contemplate a bit before you respond again; digest all the statistics we’ve discussed, and realize how small those margins are (3% more poverty, 1.6% less high school graduation, 4% less home ownership).

    I don’t know where you live in Minnesota. I’ve driven through the Iron Range. I’ve been through all the little towns in northern MN. I’ve seen the same kind of rural there that I seen in South Dakota – just a lot more trees.

  76. Jenny 2016-02-26

    Technically,SDs median income/housing is better by pennies ……pennies, maybe nickels and dimes also. If it’s that great in SD, again more S Dakotans would be buying houses to live in!
    I know Cory or Nick could explain this better. Guys are you there?

  77. Jenny 2016-02-26

    Sioux Falls is a nice enough town, Wayne. It is not as racist as Pierre or Rapid City.

  78. Jenny 2016-02-26

    There is something that makes me deeply irate about a state as corrupted as SD where the people just sit back and let it happen. That is what Cory and his people are really just trying to do on here.

  79. Jenny 2016-02-26

    I meant Cory and his supporters are trying to wake South Dakotans up. Millions have been taken from you, the people, and yet South Dakotans choose not to believe it.

  80. Wayne B. 2016-02-26


    No Jenny. It’s not pennies. Remember those mortgage rates? The fact that the median household cost vs income in Sioux Falls is 3-5% less than similar sized communities is thousands of dollars of difference.

    $51,300 x 3% = $1,539.
    5% = $2,565
    Those ain’t pennies!

    And according to the MERIC data, healthcare is cheaper in South Dakota (I’m taking that with a grain of salt, mind you) than Minnesota. That’s a pretty big differential.

  81. Jenny 2016-02-26

    MNs uninsured has gone down to 7%. SDs uninsured is still in double digits. You would think if it’s more affordable more people would be insured, but with lower wages it is just simply too expensive to have that deducted from your pay check also.

  82. Jenny 2016-02-26

    Uninsured in MN has gone down to 6.8% actually. SD is 11.4%.

  83. Wayne B. 2016-02-26

    True enough Jenny, and I’m glad the Governor is finally doing something about it.

    Bout darn time.

    Still, the Missouri folks still report healthcare takes a lesser chunk of South Dakotans’ wallets than it does for Minnesotans. Again, I’ve got the salt shaker; the Economist I know from Wash U in Missouri doesn’t think highly of the MERIC datasets either…

  84. Nick Nemec 2016-02-27

    I’m back after a day, life happens, and read with interest the conversation.

    Wayne taking your housing cost numbers into consideration the median Minnesota family will have $6698 more after paying for housing, that’s significant.

    The reason why there are higher average wages in Pierre than most SD towns is because of state government and all the taxpayer paid jobs there. Apparently SD government has taken my advice to businesses to heart, rather than cry about not being able to find workers increase wages. The free market works but SD businesses would rather cry to state government for fixes to address their inability to find workers. South Dakota government doesn’t have the luxury of crying to Mom and Dad to fix it for them.

    SD is an ok place to live, MN is an ok place to live. In MN you’ll probably have more money to live with. The generalized numbers miss the details of certain occupations, it’s well known Minnesota teachers make more than SD teachers. The medical field is another one where MN pays considerably more than SD. But gains are being made, I’m on the Avera Hand County Hospital board and know for a fact that the Avera system has given large pay increases to employees in an effort to move closer to market. Medical employees are highly educated, highly recruited and can easily move to a better playing job someplace else. Pay them or lose them, or never be able to get them in the first place.

  85. Jenny 2016-02-27

    Nick, how did you figure that $6698 (where median MN family will have $6698 more after housing costs?.

  86. Jenny 2016-02-27

    Nurse Practitioners and PAs at Mayo Clinic make $100,000 annually and all employees at Mayo get a cost of living increase each year which is around 2-3%.
    Minnesotans really don’t realize how good they have it, in the medical field anyway. There are ex-Iowans along with ex-South Dakotans that I know that live in MN and we are always amazed at how well-paid we are after coming from such measley low wage states. Then the overtime that employers will give you in MN is something else that I never had in SD. There are so many employers here that offer OT.

  87. Nick Nemec 2016-02-27

    Jenny, I used the figures Wayne B provided in his post of 12:38.

    Minnesota median family income – Minnesota median mortgage cost=income after housing costs

    SD median family income – SD median mortgage cost=income after housing costs

    MN income after housing-SD income after housing=MN after housing income advantage.

  88. Jenny 2016-02-29

    Thanks Nick. So according to Nick’s figures, MN comes out ahead after housing costs. Another question I have Wayne or Nick – how did Wayne get to the 30.1% versus 28.8% MN -SD percentages of income after housing costs? This is in that 12:38 post of his. Are these percentages correct?

  89. Erica 2018-11-25

    Moved to South Dakota Aug 2016. Wish we would have found this post before our decision to relocate here. Housing is way overvalued here, cities and towns like to tax the property owners every chance they get making it even more overpriced, utility rates absurd..and we get nothing for the higher cost of living. No state income being a reason to move hereis a lure to get you reeled into the idea it is a little more affordable here.

    We have lived in numerous states across the US to include OH, MA, TX, HI, and KY. SD next to HI has been the most expensive and at least with HI the higher prices made sense.

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