This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

The high cost of living in Phoenix, Arizona, and how it changed


When you think of places like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you realize that the cost of living in Phoenix, Arizona is much less. But it wasn't always that way. 100 years ago Phoenix was a very expensive place to live. And that's because everything had to be brought in, on trains, from places like California.

In California, however, there were ports with a constant supply of everything people needed. And that made everything cheaper there, from building materials to food. Ships from all over the world unloaded their goods right there, and if you were living on the coast, you got the best price. If you were living further inland, such as in Phoenix, you paid a high premium. That's true of any isolated community, with a poor infrastructure, which Phoenix was until after World War II.

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Personally, when I moved back to Phoenix from Los Angeles in my 30s, after having been laid off from a great corporate job, I took a ten thousand dollar-a-year pay cut. But my standard of living immediately went up. That's because the infrastructure of Phoenix had been steadily improving since its territorial days, and so everything from houses to gasoline was cheaper than in California.

When my friends from California visit, they are absolutely amazed at how inexpensive the cost of living is in Phoenix. And in the long run it came down to climate. The weather is nicer in California, which brought a lot more people there in the past 100 years. Crowded conditions there drove prices sky-high. In Phoenix, while the growth has been great, it does not compare to the explosion of population in California, and the crowding, especially along the coast.


Image above: Looking north northwest at 1st Avenue and Washington in the 1890s, Phoenix, Arizona.