How Much of Americans’ Income Goes Toward Rent Across the U.S.?

Historical Rent Income Data

You should spend no more than 30% of your gross income on rent, according to many financial experts. But with rental rates increasing on what feels like a daily basis, is that still feasible in 2024? We put that very question to the test.

To find out how much the average American is spending on rent in the United States, we analyzed two key metrics: median annual earnings for singles and average monthly rental rates in 100 major U.S. cities. From there, we calculated the average rent-to-income ratio in each city, based on the proportion of income going toward rent over the past five years.

So, are the age-old financial recommendations still realistic, and in which parts of the country? Read on to find out.

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Key Findings

  • Rent is increasing at a faster pace than income. The national rent-to-income ratio has increased by 2.7% over 5 years — from 27.5% in 2018 to 30.1% in 2022. 
  • Nationally, rent has increased by 32.6% over 5 years, while the median income has increased by 20.8%. 
  • In Miami, rent accounts for 54.9% of a person’s income — the highest current rent-to-income ratio of any city analyzed. This has increased by 11% over the past 5 years. 
  • The lowest average rent-to-income ratio is in Wichita, KS (19.5%). Wichita is the only city analyzed with an average rent still under $1,000 per month. 

Cities with the Largest Changes in Rent-to-Income Ratios

Things can change a lot in five years. It’s not surprising that monthly rent rates have gone up since 2018 — by roughly 32.6%, to be exact. The bigger challenge lies in the fact that income has only increased by 20.8% in that same time period for the average American. 

This discrepancy is exacerbated in Miami, FL, where rent rates have hiked much faster than income has increased. In 2018, the average Miami resident spent 43.9% of their gross income on rent. That has since increased to a whopping 54.9%, with monthly rent averaging nearly $2,600. 

Miami is one of six Florida cities that have experienced dramatic increases in rent-to-income ratios. Tampa, Lakeland, Deltona, Cape Coral, and Orlando all join Miami in the top 10 U.S. cities where rent increases are outpacing earnings growth. 

rent to income graphic

But Florida isn’t the only state experiencing these variances. In Knoxville, TN, rent takes up an average of 32.6% of a person’s income. That may sound reasonable, but it’s up 8.2% from a respectable 24.5% in 2018. 

Allentown, PA, and Riverside, CA, have also seen jumps of roughly 6.7% in the percentage of income that renters dedicate to housing. While the average monthly rent in Allentown is still under $1,600, it’s increased by 36.4% in five years. Meanwhile, the median income has increased by just 7.2%. In Riverside, income has increased by 23.9%, but rent has increased by 45.7%. 

It’s not discouraging in all cities — in some parts of the country, the opposite is true. Louisville, KY, is one of 16 cities where income growth has outpaced rent growth. The median income has increased by 31.1%, while rent has increased by a mere 8.8%.

San Jose, CA, and San Francisco, CA, may be notorious for their high costs of living, but they’ve also seen decreases in the percentage of income renters give up to their homes and apartments each month. Rent has increased to $2,986 and $3,176 per month in San Jose and San Francisco, respectively; but the median income sits at $105,929 and $124,348. 

The lowest average rent-to-income ratio is in Wichita, KS (19.5%). Wichita is the only city analyzed with an average rent still under $1,000 per month.

Full Dataset

Interested in diving deeper into the rent-to-income ratios and five-year changes in your city? Check out the interactive table above to see the current proportion of median income dedicated to rent and how that’s changed over time. 

Closing Thoughts

If you’re looking to make your next move, it’s important to do adequate research on the city so you’re prepared well before you have to sign a lease. Everybody’s financial situation is different, but with proper budgeting and saving techniques, surviving the surge in rental rates is possible. 

“It’s important to be both realistic and forward-thinking,” says Erica Sandberg, Financial Expert. “Yes, you need a place to stay, but if you know that the monthly rent will always be stressful, open yourself up to all financially healthy alternatives. Stop-gap measures, such as depending on credit cards or loans to meet expenses, are temporary and, ultimately, will become another expensive burden.” 

Looking for tips on making the best of your financial situation? You may not be able to control increasing rental rates, but you can take charge of your financial literacy. Check out our blog for the latest expert advice.


We analyzed the median income for single earners from 2018 to 2022, according to the U.S. Census. We compared that to the average rent for all homes (including apartments, single, and multi-family residences) each year over the same time period, according to Zillow. 

To calculate the rent-to-income ratio, we multiplied the monthly rent by 12 and divided it by the median income. The five-year change is the difference between the 2018 and 2022 ratios.