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IF YOU LIVE in Buffalo, your salary doesn't stack up against the national average and -- to make matters worse -- it costs more to live here than it does in the typical American city.

That may fly in the face of the popular local belief that Buffalo's comparatively low cost of living is one of the area's greatest selling points, but the Economic Research Institute of Newport Beach, Calif., says it's true.

The institute, which compiles a variety of economic statistics for more than 3,000 U.S. and Canadian cities, says the cost of living in the Buffalo area is 6.7 percent higher than it is in the average U.S. city. What's more, the institute found that salary levels in Buffalo are 4.8 percent below that of the average U.S. city.

Of course, the institute found that Buffalo's cost of living is at least 30 percent lower than it is in cities like Boston, Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco. It's also about 19 percent lower than Washington, D.C., and about 6 percent lower than Seattle and Chicago.

But Buffalo's cost of living doesn't compare so well with other cities. It costs about 10 percent more to live here than in Dallas, and about 8 percent more than in in Kansas City. The local cost of living also is about 2 percent higher than it is in Atlanta and Miami.

The institute bases its cost-of-living comparisons on differences in the cost of housing, transportation, taxes, utilities, consumable goods and services.

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