NYC Vs. Chicago: Which City is Better in 2022?


Are you looking for a change of scenery and are thinking about moving to a major city? Many people who are interested in making a move are researching whether they want to live in NYC or Chicago. The Windy City and the Big Apple can be great places to live, but you need to know what sets them apart before making a considerable commitment.

NYC and Chicago both have thriving cultural aspects and have huge populations. NYC will be more expensive but has more job opportunities. Chicago is generally cheaper to live in but will have higher violent crime rates and a less favorable climate with more snow and less sunshine. 

Don’t make any significant moves until you know the primary differences between the two major cities.

NYC vs. Chicago Population

If you want to live in a bustling city, both New York City and Chicago hold a lot of promise for you. Both are vast cities with a dense population, given their footprint. Chicago makes the list of the top ten largest cities in the United States with 2.7 million peopleHowever, NYC is even larger, with a population of around 8.4 million people

NYC vs. Chicago Cost of Living

Before you pack up those moving boxes, it is essential to know whether you can afford to live in either of these cities. Examine the cost of living in these three key areas to determine whether your budget will stretch as far as it needs to:

  1. Housing
  2. Food
  3. Transportation

Let’s take a closer look at what you can expect from the cost of living in both the Windy City and the city that never sleeps.

Cost of Housing in NYC vs. Chicago

Housing is an unavoidable expense that everyone will have to pay every month. Renting an apartment in both cities is quite expensive, but NYC is drastically more expensive. A one-bedroom apartment in NYC will run you $2,800, whereas an equivalent apartment in Chicago may cost as low as $1,700 per month

For those who prefer to own their home, you will want to give Chicago a second look. The median home cost between the two cities is markedly different and can mean the difference between your ability to buy over renting. In Chicago, the median home price is an affordable $291,200 compared to NYC’s $654,300.

Cost of Food in NYC vs. Chicago

Food is perhaps one of the best things about living in these major cities. You can enjoy a great slice of pizza anytime, day or night. Whether you want the thin crust of a NYC slice or a deep dish from Chicago, you need to know how much it will set you back. A small pizza in NYC is about $2.00 more than in Chicago. 

Here is a quick glimpse at what you can expect to pay for staple items:

  • Bread: $4.26 in NYC, $3.33 in Chicago
  • Eggs: $2.33 in NYC, $1.31 in Chicago
  • Milk: $2.76 in NYC, $2.09 in Chicago

As you can see, NYC is a bit more expensive than Chicago regarding grocery costs. While it may seem like a few cents here and there doesn’t amount to much, it can mean a significant difference in your monthly budget when every item is slightly higher in NYC. 

Transportation in NYC vs. Chicago

Both Chicago and NYC are known for their robust public transportation systems. However, NYC residents use their mass transit subway system more than Chicago’s residents utilize the L-train. More than half of NYC residents use mass transit, while roughly 30 percent use the Chicago-based mass transit.

A monthly pass in Chicago will run you right around $90. On the other hand, NYC is closer to $130 for the same monthly pass.

If you want to own your vehicle to get from point A to B, you will also spend more in the Big Apple. Expect the cost of a car to be 6 to 12 percent higher in NYC over Chicago. This may be a pressing issue for Chicago residents as almost half of them drive in a car by themselves to their place of employment.

Unfortunately, transportation is essential for deciding which city is suitable for you. Both have a longer than average commute, with Chicago coming in around 35 minutes and NYC coming in about 41 minutes.

Lifestyle and Culture in NYC vs. Chicago

For those who want to live in a diverse city filled with culture, you can’t go wrong with either the Big Apple or the Windy City. Both are known for their arts scene and the culture you will find there. 

New York City is home to bustling streets, Broadway plays, and extensive shopping options. It is also home to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MOMA, and the Metropolitan Opera. You can even visit the American Museum of Natural History. Culture is rich and varied in NYC, giving you something new to do every day of the week. 

You also have access to a thriving nightlife filled with gourmet restaurants, dancing, and shows. There is a reason why New York is referred to as the City that Never Sleeps.

Chicago has an excellent scene for music lovers, mainly rock and roll and the blues. However, you can also find jazz, hip-hop, and more at their frequent festivals. Perhaps most notably, Chicago is home to Lollapalooza and the World Music Festival.

If you love sports, then you will love Chicago because they are home to excellent teams from just about every sport, including the:

  • Chicago Blackhawks and Wolves (hockey)
  • Chicago Cubs and White Sox (baseball)
  • Chicago Bulls and Sky (basketball)
  • Chicago Bears (football)
  • Chicago Red Stars and Fire (soccer)

Of course, both cities have a large variety of cultural restaurants. Whatever you are in the mood for, you can certainly find it at any time of the day or night. You won’t want to miss out on eating a good slice of pizza in either city, whether you prefer thin-crust or deep dish!

Job Industry in NYC vs. Chicago

Where are you more likely to find a job that advances your career? You may have more luck in NYC than in Chicago, but it really depends. For those who are looking toward the future, NYC holds a bit more promise. Future job growth is expected at a rate of 30 percent in NYC, while Chicago is expected to grow at just 25 percent.

Both cities are on the upward trend, though, which may make them ideal for you.

However, it is also important to consider their current unemployment ratesIn NYC, the unemployment rate is higher than the national average at 11.2 percent. Chicago is also relatively high at 9 percent.

Climate in NYC vs. Chicago

No comparison of the two cities would be complete without a quick look at what you can expect from the weather. They are relatively close geographically, so the climate won’t be drastically different. Both will experience mild summers (highs around 84 degrees) and freezing temperatures in the winter season.

NYC receives more sunny days per year on average (224 days compared to 189 days). Chicago will get less rain in a given year, but they will receive about 10 inches of extra snow during the winter. 

Crime Rate in NYC vs. Chicago

Safety should be a significant concern if you are thinking of moving to either NYC or Chicago. Because both are major cities, many people perceive the crime rate to be worse in these parts of the country, and that may very well be true. What can you expect if you are looking for a safe place to call home?

Chicago may not be the right fit for you if you are worried about violent crime. Compared to NYC, Chicago’s murder rate is four times higher and has five times as many shootings as the Big Apple.

Property crime is also higher in Chicago than in NYC. According to Best Places, the crime index for Chicago is 46.3, whereas NYC is 24.9. Property crime includes:

  • Burglary
  • Larceny-theft
  • Motor vehicle theft
  • Arson

It does not include force or threat of force in a mugging situation.

Which City is Right for You?

When it comes to deciding whether Chicago or NYC is the right move for you, there is a lot you have to consider. Chicago is more affordable but poses a greater safety risk to its residents. NYC promises more employment and mass transit opportunities but has a higher unemployment rate. Both cities have extensive cultural outlets and a thriving nightlife.

Don’t book the moving truck until you have done some preliminary research on which city is the better fit for you. With these guidelines in mind, you will have a better idea of whether you want to live in Chicago or NYC.

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