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New York City vs Chicago: Which Is Better?

New York City vs Chicago: Which Is Better

Are you trying to choose between two fantastic cities, New York City and Chicago?

These two major US cities are often compared, thanks to their rich cultural scenes, impressive skylines, world-class attractions, and thriving entertainment industry. 

Whilst they share a lot of similarities, there are also significant differences that set them apart. Chicago offers far cheaper living in a more attractive environment on the shores of Lake Michigan, while New York City is a sprawling metropolis that dwarfs its smaller rival in sheer scale and excitement.

So, New York City vs Chicago: which is better overall?

Well, I’m here to answer that!

So, if you are struggling to decide which of these fine cities to call home, here’s a comprehensive guide outlining the advantages and disadvantages of living in New York City vs. Chicago.

New York City versus Chicago

Size and Population – New York vs Chicago

The United States’ most populous city is New York, which boasts a population of over 8.6 million people as of the latest reports. Covering a total area of 300.46 square miles of land area, the city has a population density of 29,729 individuals per square mile. This makes New York the most densely populated city in the country.

That may be appealing to some, but…

On the other hand, Chicago, the third-most populous city, has a population of around 2.7 million people and covers an area of 234.53 square miles. Resulting in a population density of 12,124 individuals per square mile. Chicago is the seventh-most densely populated city in the US.

That means there are nearly 2.5 times more people per square mile in New York than in Chicago. A factor that has both its benefits and drawbacks. But if you crave the excitement and fast-paced lifestyle of a bustling city, then New York City might be the ideal destination for you. However, if you prefer a more relaxed environment with fewer people around, then Chicago might be more to your liking.

Cost of Living – New York vs Chicago

The cost of living comparison between Chicago and New York City is likely a significant consideration for many people. One of the biggest advantages of residing in Chicago is that you can enjoy the excitement of urban living without breaking the bank. 

The cost of living in Chicago is substantially less than that of New York City. In nearly all aspects, Chicago offers more affordable options compared to New York City. From housing and groceries to entertainment and dining out, virtually everything is less expensive in Chicago.

Housing Costs 

Rent and housing costs are undoubtedly the biggest single difference between costs in Chicago and New York. In Chicago, rent is approximately 81% cheaper than in New York City. A one-bedroom apartment has an average rent of $1,862 compared to $3,374 in New York City.

That’s a big difference!

If you’re someone who prefers to own a home rather than rent, Chicago is also the far cheaper option. The average home cost in Chicago is significantly more affordable than in New York City, potentially making the difference between being able to buy or being stuck renting. 

In Chicago, the median home price is a reasonable $291,200, whereas, in New York City, it jumps to $654,300. That’s just over 125% more expensive.

Other Living Expenses

By every other metric, New York is a more expensive place to live:

  • Food and Groceries – You’ll pay 16.6% less at the checkout in Chicago.
  • Utilities – Your bills will be 38.3% cheaper in Chicago.
  • Transportation – It’s 23.5% cheaper to use public transport in Chicago.
  • Health expenses – These are based on the average price of a hospital room, a doctor’s visit, and a dental checkup. These medical costs are 31% cheaper in Chicago.

It’s interesting to note that despite the significantly higher cost of living in New York City, the average salary there is only 9% higher than in Chicago. The average worker in Chicago earns $72,000, compared to $79,000 in New York. Simply put, your money goes a lot further in Chicago.

Other Living Expenses

Career Opportunities – Chicago vs. New York

Both Chicago and New York City offer many job opportunities, but New York City is a larger city with a higher concentration of top companies. And more diverse job opportunities compared to Chicago.

Some of the leading industries in Chicago include finance, insurance, publishing, insurance, food processing, and manufacturing. While New York’s leading industries include finance, law, medicine, information technology, and tech.

So it’s going to depend on your specific field, but…

Overall, if you are looking for a wider range of job opportunities across multiple industries, New York City may be a better choice. However, if you are interested in pursuing a career in one of Chicago’s major industries, it could be a great place to live and work.

Workers in New York earn more for the same job than those with equivalent skills in Chicago. But despite the higher pay in New York, the high cost of living more than offsets this advantage. The sky-high housing costs in New York will eat up the increased pay and some. And for many, this will be one of the biggest factors when it comes to choosing between these two great cities.

Crime Rates – New York vs Chicago

When it comes to safety, New York City is actually safer than Chicago by a significant margin. One of the biggest problems of living in Chicago is its high crime rate, with the city frequently ranking among the most dangerous in America. In fact, last year, Chicago had four times more homicides per 100,000 than New York.

According to data from the latest stat releases, the violent crime rate in Chicago was 943 incidents per 100,000 people, compared to 571 incidents per 100,000 people in The Big Apple. 

And property crimes?

Yup, property crimes are also significantly higher in Chicago than in New York. All that being said, both cities have many relatively safe areas as the crime in both is generally centered around a number of troublesome neighborhoods.

Public Transportation – New York vs Chicago

In New York City, most commuters rely on public transportation to get around. And the city’s public transport system is widely considered one of the best in the world. The subway system is open 24 hours per day, and residents can get anywhere in the crowded city pretty quickly. 

Only 22% of commuters in New York travel by car, while 56.5% opt for the mass transit system. However, commuters spend an average of 41 minutes getting to work in New York, which is 6 minutes more than in Chicago. This is probably down to the sheer density of people on the streets in New York.

On the other hand, Chicago residents drive to work in their cars more than New York residents, with 49.2% taking this option and 28.2% using public transit options. 

Transportation costs?

In terms of transportation costs, an unlimited monthly pass costs $127 in New York as opposed to $105 in Chicago. This works on trains and buses in each city. Overall, New York City is cheaper in terms of value for money and has a more efficient public transportation system. Making it the winner in this department.

Culture and Nightlife – New York versus Chicago

Next, in my comparison of New York City vs Chicago: Which is Better, if you’re seeking a vibrant city filled with diversity and cultural excitement, both cities offer this in abundance. This is thanks to lively art scenes and a smorgasbord of eating options.

Culture and Nightlife – New York versus Chicago

New York is home to Broadway and an incredible array of shopping options. So, if it’s high culture you’re after, then this city is for you. It’s home to the thriving Metropolitan Opera, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the American Museum of Natural History, to name but a few.

Nightlife is complimented by a wide range of gourmet restaurants and an overwhelming number of nightclubs and bars. The entertainment options in New York are basically endless. And thanks to a 24-hour transit system, this truly is a city that never sleeps.

And how does Chicago compare?

Well, Chicago more than holds its own in terms of interesting things to do. For music enthusiasts, Chicago is a city that stands out with its exceptional music scene, especially for rock and roll and blues. However, visitors can also enjoy a variety of other music styles, such as operatic performances, jazz, hip-hop, and more.

Other popular attractions include a host of renowned museums, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Shedd Aquarium, and the Chicago Theatre. There are also a ton of waterfront activities to be had on the shores of Lake Michigan. 

Food-wise, Chicago has actually been voted by the culinary website Bon Appetit as the best food city in the US. And it’s not just deep-dish pizza that the city is famous for. Name an international cuisine, and it will be very well represented here. It’s also much cheaper to eat at high-end restaurants in the Windy City.

Cityscape – New York vs Chicago

Both cities have breathtaking cityscapes, but for sheer scale, the 302 skyscrapers adorning the Manhattan skyline have to be seen to be believed. Among their number are the iconic Empire State building and the tallest building in the US, the One World Trade Center.

But Chicago actually holds its own in this regard…

The 126 skyscrapers in Chicago boast the 2nd tallest building in the country, the Willis Tower. Additionally, the city has preserved historical architectural designs in Oak Park village.

Both cities have a number of beautiful parks and gardens that offer a much-needed reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the city streets.

So, which environment you prefer will come down to whether you can tolerate the far busier streets of New York City. Or if the far smaller population of Chicago is more to your liking.

Cityscape – New York vs Chicago

Live Sports – New York vs Chicago

If you are a big sports enthusiast, then you will find that the Windy City has more to offer than New York City. Chicago is widely considered to be one of the top sports cities in the United States, boasting five major sports franchises. These include the Bears (football), the Bulls (basketball), the Blackhawks (hockey), plus two baseball teams, the Cubs and the White Sox.

Quality over quantity…

New York actually has more major sports franchises than Chicago and is also home to the world-famous Madison Square Gardens. A mecca for boxing and fighting sports. However, the love of sports is more ingrained in the culture of Chicago, making it a better place to be as a sports fan.

Climate Differences – Chicago versus New York

When deciding between Chicago and New York, it’s important to take into account their respective climates. And if you choose to live in Chicago, you need to be ready for some occasionally harsh weather conditions.

But isn’t New York freezing in the winter, too?

Contrary to popular belief, New York City is not as cold as Chicago. In fact, NYC winters are relatively mild in comparison, with temperatures usually 10 degrees warmer than in Chicago. Chicago also receives far more snow on average throughout the year. 

Overall, New York City tends to have less extreme weather throughout the year. And there’s a reason Chicago is referred to as ‘The Windy City.’

Now that I’ve fully covered… New York City vs Chicago: Which Is Better, are you…

Thinking of Moving to New York?

If you’ve decided that New York is the place for you, you may also be interested in confirming the Most Dangerous Neighborhoods in NYC to live in, How to Get a Work Permit in New York, the Best Sites to Find A Job in New York City, and Why Are There No Walmarts in New York City?

And when preparing your professional profile, also check out How to Use LinkedIn to Find a Job, the Best LinkedIn Headline Examples For Job Seekers, and LinkedIn Cold Messages: How to Reach Out About a Job in 2023.

But if you or your spouse happens to work for Walmart or Amazon, if you don’t already know about it, you should definitely look into the Walmart Transfer Policy and Amazon’s Transfer Policy.

Want to compare other US cities?

Then why not take a look at the Cheapest Places to Live in California, the Safest Cities in Texas, and the Safest Places to Live in Florida?  

Ok, back to today’s relocation query

Which is Better?

Choosing between Chicago and New York City can be a challenging decision. As each city has its own set of pros and cons. Your money will stretch considerably further in Chicago. Housing costs are where you’ll save the most, although living there means an increased risk of crime. 

On the other hand, NYC offers more job opportunities and better mass transit options but has a population over three times the size. So, if you’re not used to those levels of people, it can feel overwhelming. 

Culturally, there isn’t much to choose between them. Both have vibrant nightlives that will more than cover the entertainment and dining needs of almost anyone.

So, ultimately, your final decision is going to be a personal one based on your lifestyle and priorities. Hopefully, by considering all the information I’ve provided, you’ll be far better equipped to decide whether Chicago or New York City is the right place for you to call home.

Happy living out your dreams!

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