Just how far does your PA buck go?

Adjusting PA salaries state-by-state by the cost-of-living

By Noël Smith

Are you familiar with the term regional price parities (RPPs)? You should be. RPPs measure the differences in the price of the goods, services, and housing you buy across states and metropolitan areas for a given year. Compare your median salary with the RPPs of the city or state where you currently live, or plan to live, and it will show why you’re not getting as much bang for your buck.

It’s all about purchasing power.

The most recent U.S. Commerce Department price parity data was put out in 2014, so we’re going to compare it with the median PA salary for that year — $93,800. A regional price parity of 100 indicates that a salary of $93,800 would buy $93,800 worth of goods and services. PA salaries that appear to be lower in some states — such as South Dakota, Mississippi, and Ohio — actually have greater purchasing power when cost of living is taken into account.

In South Dakota the median PA salary of $90,543 buys $102,890 worth of goods and services. In Mississippi the median salary of $89,000 buys $102,653 worth of goods and services. And in Ohio, the median salary of $91,500 buys $102,464 worth of goods and services. The reverse is true as well as is clear in the case of New York and the District of Columbia. In the District of Columbia, the median PA salary was $96,000 which only purchased $81,287 in goods and services. In New York, the median salary was $93,000 which only purchased $80,380 in goods and services.

Most salary reports provide salary data down to the state level but even state level data is not always available when looking at practice-specific breakdowns. When evaluating comparable salaries, comparing the salary to national data may not accurately reflect what reasonable compensation in a specific locale is. For example, PAs in Iowa may receive base salaries below the national median as the regional price parity for Iowa is 90.3. However, the metropolitan areas within Iowa have a regional price parity of 93.0 whereas those outside metropolitan areas have a regional price parity of 86.5. Understanding that there are variations in salary based on locale is an important piece to understanding all that makes up what is a reasonable salary offer.

Table 1. A state-by-state comparison of regional price parities versus median PA salary

Regional Price Parity for All Items1 Real Median Salary2 Adjusted Median Salary Real Difference from Median Adjusted Difference from Median
Nevada 97.7 $105,500 $107,984 $11,700 $14,184
Oklahoma 90.1 $96,530 $107,137 $2,730 $13,337
Texas 96.6 $99,750 $103,261 $5,950 $9,461
South Dakota 88.0 $90,543 $102,890 -$3,257 $9,090
Mississippi 86.7 $89,000 $102,653 -$4,800 $8,853
Ohio 89.3 $91,500 $102,464 -$2,300 $8,664
Indiana 91.4 $93,250 $102,024 -$550 $8,224
Georgia 92.0 $93,500 $101,630 -$300 $7,830
Arkansas 87.5 $88,750 $101,429 -$5,050 $7,629
Wyoming 96.2 $97,500 $101,351 $3,700 $7,551
Rhode Island 98.7 $100,000 $101,317 $6,200 $7,517
West Virginia 88.9 $90,000 $101,237 -$3,800 $7,437
Missouri 89.4 $89,760 $100,403 -$4,040 $6,603
Maine 97.1 $97,250 $100,154 $3,450 $6,354
New Mexico 95.0 $95,000 $100,000 $1,200 $6,200
Tennessee 90.2 $90,000 $99,778 -$3,800 $5,978
South Carolina 90.5 $90,000 $99,448 -$3,800 $5,648
Iowa 90.3 $89,796 $99,442 -$4,004 $5,642
Minnesota 97.6 $97,000 $99,385 $3,200 $5,585
Michigan 94.1 $93,000 $98,831 -$800 $5,031
Kentucky 88.7 $87,500 $98,647 -$6,300 $4,847
Arizona 96.4 $95,000 $98,548 $1,200 $4,748
Louisiana 91.4 $90,000 $98,468 -$3,800 $4,668
Montana 94.2 $92,750 $98,461 -$1,050 $4,661
North Dakota 91.5 $90,000 $98,361 -$3,800 $4,561
Alaska 105.7 $103,500 $97,919 $9,700 $4,119
Nebraska 90.6 $88,500 $97,682 -$5,300 $3,882
Wisconsin 93.4 $91,000 $97,430 -$2,800 $3,630
North Carolina 91.7 $89,000 $97,056 -$4,800 $3,256
Alabama 87.8 $85,000 $96,811 -$8,800 $3,011
Idaho 93.4 $90,000 $96,360 -$3,800 $2,560
Washington 103.8 $100,000 $96,339 $6,200 $2,539
Oregon 99.0 $95,000 $95,960 $1,200 $2,160
Vermont 101.2 $97,000 $95,850 $3,200 $2,050
New Hampshire 105.2 $100,000 $95,057 $6,200 $1,257
Delaware 101.9 $95,500 $93,719 $1,700 -$81
Kansas 90.7 $85,000 $93,716 -$8,800 -$84
Florida 99.1 $92,000 $92,836 -$1,800 -$964
Utah 97.0 $90,000 $92,784 -$3,800 -$1,016
Connecticut 108.8 $100,000 $91,912 $6,200 -$1,888
Pennsylvania 98.2 $90,000 $91,650 -$3,800 -$2,150
California 112.4 $102,500 $91,192 $8,700 -$2,608
Massachusetts 107.1 $97,191 $90,748 $3,391 -$3,052
Virginia 102.6 $93,000 $90,643 -$800 -$3,157
Illinois 100.7 $90,000 $89,374 -$3,800 -$4,426
Maryland 110.3 $98,000 $88,849 $4,200 -$4,951
New Jersey 114.5 $100,000 $87,336 $6,200 -$6,464
Colorado 102.0 $86,000 $84,314 -$7,800 -$9,486
District of Columbia 118.1 $96,000 $81,287 $2,200 -$12,513
New York 115.7 $93,000 $80,380 -$800 -$13,420
Hawaii 116.8 $88,500 $75,771 -$5,300 -$18,029

Sources:

  1. U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis website. Real Personal Income and Regional Price Parities, http://www.bea.gov/newsreleases/regional/rpp/rpp_newsrelease.htm. July 7, 2016. Accessed December 8, 2016.
  2. American Academy of PAs. 2015 AAPA Salary Report. Alexandria: Virginia; 2015.

 Noël Smith is AAPA senior director of PA and industry research and analysis.