Seattle is one of the most expensive places in the United States to live, and compensation to be a resident here should reflect that. However, UW residents are the lowest paid residents by cost of living in the country. UWHA analyzed fifty of the largest and most prestigious academic medical centers in the country, UW’s peer institutions. Many programs in far cheaper locations pay as much or more than UW.
On this graph, the black line represents the average compensation per unit of cost of living. Our peer public institutions meet or exceed this average. Consider the University of Michigan, located in a far lower cost city but paying substantially more than UW. This is not some private enterprise with a massive endowment to fund salaries. This is our nearest peer public institution, with the same challenges and prospective resident pool as UW.
Furthermore, UW itself recognized this by requesting funds from the legislature to give raises of 2-4% to faculty and staff (1). UW stated that “allocating more state resources for [raises] is critical to remain competitive with peers (many of which offer higher salaries in locations with a lower cost of living)” (1). UWHA agrees.
And the cost of living is only going up: housing prices have increased nearly 160% since the late 1990s (2). Beyond rent, the Consumer Price Index (CPI), a gauge of how expensive “everything” is, has been rising at or above 3% in all but two months since early 2016 (3). In Seattle, the value of a dollar is lower than nearly all other cities in the United States (4).
1) Office of Planning and Budgeting. Summary of 2019-21 Operating Budget Requests. University of Washington.
2) Rosenberg, Mike. Hoping for Seattle-area rents to get cheap? Don’t hold your breath. Seattle Times
3) Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Price Index – Seattle.
4) Cole, Alan. The Real Value of $100 in Metropolitan Areas. The Tax Foundation