MONROE, La. (KNOE) - The Center for Business and Economic Research at ULM says the cost of living is much lower here in Northeast Louisiana, specifically Ouachita and Union parishes than it is nationwide. "It's production costs, transportation costs, but it's also competitive pricing,” says Robert Eisenstadt, Director of ULM’s Center for Business and Economic Research.
They measure the cost of living based on six categories: transportation, housing, miscellaneous goods and services, healthcare, utilities, and groceries. Healthcare used to be more than the national average, but now it costs 17% less says Eisenstadt. “Mostly, I think that has something to do with the number of physicians in the area, and we're starting to see lower, for example, office visit prices, the basic office visit,” says Eisenstadt. With ULM’s proposed medical school, Eisenstadt says that could bring health care costs even lower. “I would expect there to have some downward pressure on prices, but of course if the students who graduate from here disperse and go into other areas, then not so much."
As for transportation locally, Eisenstadt says that’s also 17% lower. “We've got low gas prices because we tend to have low gas taxes, and also because transportation costs are bringing, transporting, refined fuels from the gulf coast.”
He says apartment rentals and home costs are lower here than other areas in the country. “Part of the reason is that land costs are very low here and when you have low land costs then you don't have quite the upward pressure on home prices,” says Eisenstadt.
Over the past few years, experts have seen a drop in prices for groceries too. “Some additional grocery stores that moved in from a very large, national competitor, and it started to put pricing pressures on existing grocery stores,” says Eisenstadt.
To get the measurements that the cost of living is based on, Eisenstadt says they go out and measure a list of items used by almost everyone. They do this three times a year, on the same goods and services at the same location to see what changes occur.