Aiken Chamber provides national data

The Cost of Living Index in the Aiken-Augusta area was about 13 percent below the national average in 2014, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. With the average composite index rated at 100, Aiken-Augusta scored 87.2 last year.

This is the lowest composite index in the 28 Metropolitan Statistical Areas, also called MSAs, measured in Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina and is the 16th lowest of the 281 areas across the nation.

Aiken is part of the federally designated MSA consisting of Aiken and Edgefield counties in South Carolina and Richmond, Burke, Columbia and McDuffie counties in Georgia.

The Aiken Chamber of Commerce is among more than 300 other chambers of commerce and economic development organizations that provide data for the Cost of Living Index. The index is recognized for official use by the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNN Money and the President's Council of Economic Advisors.

The Aiken Chamber collects the data in order to provide a snapshot of how prices compare at a single point in time in the local area to other areas across the country. The information can then be used by individuals considering relocation, by employees and employers in salary negotiations, and by others who want accurate data about local pricing.

The Cost of Living Index consists of six major categories: grocery items, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services. The composite index is weighted as follows: 13.36 percent for grocery items, 28.64 percent for housing, 10.46 percent for utilities, 10.46 percent for transportation, 4.44 percent for health care and 32.44 percent for miscellaneous goods and services. These figures reflect the typical distribution of spending for professional and managerial level households across the nation.

A staff member of the Aiken Chamber gathers prices three times per year from at least five establishments for every item in the index, other than utilities. A personal visit, phone call or email and the corresponding documentation are required for each.

The Chamber prices 26 specific items at Bi-Lo, Fresh Market, Kroger, Publix and Wal-Mart for the grocery section. Examples of these items are ground beef, bread, coffee, eggs and dishwashing powder. The data is then entered into the Council for Community and Economic Research database and is used to compute the Cost of Living Index.

The other categories also require research and cooperation with area businesses.  A number of builders, real estate professionals and leasing agents supply housing data. The cost of gasoline and automobile maintenance, basic medical care, eye care and dental care (excluding insurance), as well as prices of restaurant food, apparel and entertainment are all factors that go into the development of the index. 

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