Cost of Living vs. Income
Americans often complain about their long commutes as traveling 45 minutes or more to and from work each day has become the norm. The natural response to this is to suggest moving closer to work. It is certainly true that moving closer to work would alleviate some of the stresses of commuting, but often times it is not economically possible to do so.
To give a quick example, this graph shows the change in income and rent prices in the New York City area. As you can see, rents have risen while incomes have fallen slightly. For the "average" person in this circumstance, they have had less and less money available to pay their ever increasing rent payment. At some point, this "average" person will experience a drop in lifestyle if they remain in New York City or they will have to move away from the city to live in a cheaper apartment while maintaining their lifestyle.
According to a study by the Manhattan Rental Market, the average price to rent an apartment in Manhattan is now $3,822 per month, or $45,864 per year. The common rule is that you should not spent more than 30% of your annual income on housing. So in order to afford living in Manhattan, you would need an average of $152,880 per year in income. Most professions averages do not make the cut. For example, the average Manager makes about $108,000, Professors make around $73,000 and Judges make an average of $126,000. We think of all of these occupations as high-wealth and respected, but you need to be better than average in order to make it in Manhattan. One of the only people who could live comfortably here is an anesthesiologist who makes an average of $232,000.
Interestingly enough, 1.6 million people actually live in Manhattan. These people must either be quite wealthy, work several jobs or live in more dangerous sections of the city.