Erie residents paid much less than the national average in 2022 for rent or mortgages, but pay more to heat and light those homes.
A new report from doxoINSIGHTS, a web and mobile bill pay service, showed that people in Erie also pay less for health insurance than the national average. However, they pay more for car insurance.
“Two factors really jump out at me from this report: One is that, like we have seen in other economic reports, Erie’s cost of living is lower than the state and national averages,” said Ken Louie, professor of economics at Penn State Behrend and the director of Behrend’s Economic Research Institute of Erie. “But the second is that the cost of utilities in Erie is significantly higher (about $110 a month higher). That really surprised me.”
Overall, Erie residents spend an average of $1,736 on 10 common monthly bills, which is 13.3% lower than the national average of $2,003 and 6.2% lower than the state average of $1,851.
The typical city of Erie resident spends 43% of their household income on those 10 bills. Erie’s median household income from 2017-2021 was $40,201 a year, while Erie County’s was $55,949, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Erie ranked 142nd out of 215 Pennsylvania communities, doxoINSIGHTS reported. The highest-ranked is Wynnewood, a western suburb of Philadelphia. Its monthly average is $2,868.
The lowest-ranked community? Oil City, with a monthly average of $1,300. Its average monthly mortgage is just $512 and rent is $615.
Meadville is ranked 186th, with a monthly average of $1,546.
“I expected Erie to have lower mortgage and rental costs than the national average, but the size of the difference surprised me,” Louie said. “It reflects the overall sluggishness of our local economy, that our housing market hasn’t been as vibrant.”
As for utility costs, Louie said Erie’s cold winters drive up heating costs. Northwestern Pennsylvania also has relatively few power plants to help stabilize costs.
Consumers also have few options when dealing with rising heating, cooling and electrical prices besides installing a programmable thermostat and visiting papowerswitch.com to select an electricity supplier.
“These aren’t discretionary spending, where you can go without for a period of time. You have to heat your home in the winter,” Louie said.
Here’s a look at what Erie residents pay for those 10 monthly household bills, compared to the national average, according to the report:
- Mortgage — Erie, $850; national, $1,368
- Rent — $763, $1,129
- Auto loan — $398, $433
- Auto insurance — $221, $196
- Utilities — $438, $328
- Health insurance — $55, $123
- Life insurance — $75, $82
- Cable & Satellite — $112, $114
- Mobile phone — $110, $113
- Alarm & Security — $90, $84
Health insurance costs are much lower in Erie than the national average for several reasons, Louie said. Again, he pointed toward the sluggish local economy.
“Erie’s larger employers are not providing health insurance to as many workers and their families as in other cities with more robust economies,” Louie said.
As a result, more Erie residents receive their health insurance from Medicaid, Medicare and Affordable Health Care plans, all of which are subsidized, at least in part, by the federal government.
Other monthly bills, like cell phones, and cable/satellite TV, are almost identical to the national averages. That’s because those companies tend to have a set national price, no matter the customer’s location.
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