Those looking to get the biggest bang for their bucks would be most likely to find it west of the Mississippi, according to a new joint report by Trulia and Indeed . The firms looked at which American cities stretch paychecks the furthest. The report found four cities topping the list, in the South, Southwest, and West. Three are mid-sized cities and one is larger.
Birmingham, Alabama, tops the list of cities where paychecks meet opportunity. The iron-and-steel town dubbed the “Pittsburgh of the South” has an average salary of about $77,000 that, adjusted for cost of living, spends like $86,000. According to Zillow data , the median home value in Birmingham is $64,600 and home values in the city have increased 6.6 percent over the past year
“Birmingham’s growth doesn’t match the pace of Southern economic powerhouses like Atlanta, Raleigh, and Nashville,” the report stated, “but it is Alabama’s largest city and a bright spot in the state’s economy, accounting for about 30 percent of its domestic product.”
The Irondale neighborhood is a major affordability boon to the region, Trulia reported. Median home prices in the 35210 zip code are, on average, $147,000. That's about $50,000 below more metro-centered homes.
Trulia found almost identical dollar-stretching numbers in St. Louis, Missouri, and El Paso, Texas. Both cities report a median income around $76,000 that stretches to about $84,000 when adjusted for cost of living. Dollars in St. Louis, according to Trulia, stretch further than those in Chicago and Detroit, the latter of which is considered a highly affordable metro. The city has an economy running on manufacturing, construction, leisure, and hospitality.
Still, dollars stretch further in the St. Louis suburb of Bethalto, which is actually in Illinois. Bethalto is less than 35 miles from downtown St. Louis, and homes there sell for a median price of $114,000. Zillow  shows a current median home value in Saint Louis proper at $128,600, up 9.1 percent year-over-year.
Over in far-west Texas, El Paso might be the forgotten metro of the Lone Star State, but it's the most affordable city in Texas, according to the report. The same salary spends about $9,000 better in El Paso than in Dallas, even though home values in the city's most desired suburb, Upper Valley, are significant. Median homes in Upper Valley sell for about $460,000. Per Zillow , the median El Paso home value is $115,700, up 1.7 percent over the past year.
The West Coast's lone entry to value-friendly cities is Fresno, California, where an $82,000 average salary stretches to about $84,000. Fresno is part of California's software hub, but the region is still big in farming and leisure, given its proximity to three national parks.
According to Trulia, most Fresno workers prefer to live in Woodward Park, 11 miles outside of town. The median home price in Woodward Park is about $342,000, roughly $100,000 more than living in the city itself. Within the city, the gulf between average salary and median home price, though, is among the most favorable in California's urban areas. Zillow  reports the median home value in Fresno is at $228,700, with a year-over-year increase of 10.5 percent.
Scott Morgan is a multi-award-winning journalist and editor based out of Texas. During his 11 years as a newspaper journalist, he wrote more than 4,000 published pieces. He's been recognized for his work since 2001, and his creative writing continues to win acclaim from readers and fellow writers alike. He is also a creative writing teacher and the author of several books, from short fiction to written works about writing.