According to the most recent data release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS; May 2021; see Fig 1), median Phoenix-area nursing pay is $37.82/hour. This is fairly similar, and within the margin of error of many nearby cities. The exceptions are in California, where nurses can expect to earn about 53% more in the Los Angeles area and 41% more in the San Diego area. That’s a fairly large premium for working in California but it’s also important to look at other cost and quality of life factors before making a decision between the two geographic areas.
Fig 1 Median hourly pay for nurses in Southwestern metro areas
Cost of living comparison
Housing prices are dropping rapidly, but the median house in the Phoenix area was $474,400, while it was $900,000 in San Diego and $893,200 in the Los Angeles area according to August 2022 data from the National Association of Realtors. Income tax is also quite a bit higher in California at around 8% vs the 3-4% people pay in Arizona.
Weather and other environmental factors
California arguably has better weather than anywhere else in the United States. Phoenix on the other hand is known for having nice weather in the winter but not the summer. California’s access to the coast and the beautiful Sierra Nevadas and northern forests is also in its favor. The downside is that some cities (especially L.A. are very crowded). Another factor is homelessness. Unfortunately, Los Angeles has been hit much harder by the homelessness crisis that is sweeping the country. Phoenix is starting to suffer as well.
Probably the biggest downside of California (besides the cost and maybe the crowding) is the large number of potential natural disasters. California is part of the “Ring of Fire,” the incredibly seismically and volcanically active boundary that largely follows the Pacific Ocean. Earthquakes are common and volcanic eruptions are also possible in various places in California. Smoke from wildfires–and the wild fires themselves–can wreak havok as well.
In the end it may be more important to be near your friends and family. But if you make the decision based on finances then it seems to make sense that California is great for single people, dual bread winners, people with small families, etc. and Arizona may be more suited to larger families.
Photo credit: Phoenix skyline by Alan English