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College Grads Pay Up to 79 Percent of Income to Rent in SF

It doesn't take an economics degree to understand that's bad news

Summer is nigh, and commencement weekend approaches for graduates at UC Berkeley and SFSU. University of San Francisco grads walked at the end of April, and Stanford grads will follow suit in June. And if they’re planning on sticking around, they’d better hope those diplomas start paying off tout suite.

Graduates can expect to pay as much as 79 percent of their monthly salary to rent in San Francisco, according to the rental site RadPad, which conducted another of those ten major cities housing surveys so popular these days.

It’s one thing that San Francisco still has the highest rent in the United States, but how much can a BA-holding recent grad expect to make in the Bay Area? According to, the average entry-level San Francisco gig pays $4,417 (before taxes), the highest of the cities in the report. Still, an average rent of $3,500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in the city means your ramen habit probably isn’t going to improve after graduation.

The 79 percent number is of course the nation's highest. New York is a close second at 77 percent, and LA a more distant third at 61. It’s also "a number that is essentially impossible to accommodate," say RadPad analysts.

The RadPad data comports with the previous ApartmentList report, which offered $3,510 as the city median for a single bedroom, and Zumper, which gives a figure of $3,560. Rentbits says $3,460.

RentJungle, on the other hand, suggests an average of $3,096, although they haven’t updated that figure since February. If true, this would drive us down to only 70 percent of the Indeed salary figure. Trulia offers a comparably encouraging estimate of $2,795 (63 percent at that point), although that’s so much lower that it should be taken with a salt lick.

Most rental sites draw only from their own listings for this kind of data, and sample size and type can vary wildly. That lowest figure of 63 percent would still put the third highest housing burden on those making the proposed $4,417 income in the country, and is more than double the census-designated target of 30 percent. But every dollar does count.