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In an annual report on Wednesday, SmartAsset searched 15 major cities and estimated how much residents need to earn in order to afford a two-bedroom apartment, reports Xinhua news agency.
Rent prices were pulled from RENTCafe's January 2017 report.
Researchers say no more than 28 per cent of income should be spent on housing, a threshold set by the US Census Bureau to avoid being "cost-burdened".
San Francisco topped the list with $179,529 in required annual income, more than $15,000 ahead of second place New York City at $164,614.
Boston, Los Angeles and Washington followed New York with $135,686, $109,543 and $103,543 respectively.
Despite the high cost of living in San Francisco, only 31 per cent of households make more than 150,000 dollars per year.
According to SmartAsset, Atlanta ($53,914), Dallas ($51,600) and Houston ($46,629) are much more affordable for renters.