Thanks for reading, Tim. Yes, having more buying power than everyone else you know seems like it might always be preferable.
Yet I think there are some non-cash factors that still influence people's decisions.
For instance, I interpreted the study results as saying someone might prefer to make $50,000 in a small town (where the average is $25,000) rather than move to NYC or SF where their salary is $100,000 (but the average is $200,000).
Your buying power is more limited compared to your peers when living in that big city but not making the big bucks. However, many of us love living in big cities (or near enough to capitalize on the benefits of big cities).
I see this happening all the time because I live in a high cost-of-living area. My salary would likely be lower in a small town but still enable me to buy much more than what I can in a high cost-of-living area. Yet my entire extended family (and my husband's entire extended family) are in this area, our friends are here, and our favorite restaurants/activities are here. So even though we could take our savings and move to a smaller town where we'd have far more buying power, we remain here.
Per that Harvard survey, it sounds like almost half of people would rather move to the cheaper destination to have more buying power.