New York City vs Chicago: Which Is Better?

By PropertyClub Team
Sep 8th 2023
New York and Chicago are two of the largest cities in the United States and often face comparison. Although they are very different cities, both have a lot to offer residents in terms of culture and employment opportunities. They each have a very different vibe and tend to attract a different demographic.

While the energy in New York City is unparalleled, Chicago also features a unique culture that is more laid back and less expensive. Here is an in-depth look at New York vs Chicago and how they compare in 2023.

hash-markCost of Living

New York is by far more expensive than Chicago. The cost of living in New York City is 87% more expensive than in the Windy City. According to PayScale, the cost of living in New York is 131%, whereas it's only about 24% higher than average in Chicago. In addition, in Chicago, utility prices are actually 10% lower than the standard, whereas in New York, they are 25% higher. The average cost of groceries and transportation is also more expensive in New York than in Chicago. But the biggest difference is housing. The average sales price of a home in New York is $861,000, while in Chicago, it's only around $368,000.


Neither city is particularly well known for its great weather, but New York tends to feature slightly favorable conditions. They both offer substantial seasonal changes with cold winters and dry summers. But Chicago tends to be slightly colder in the winter, while the summers are just as hot. New York has a "modified maritime" climate that is warmed and moisturized by the Atlantic Ocean. Chicago is positioned on Lake Michigan, which doesn't do as much to warm the air and features a continental climate that is more frigid in the winter. Plus, New York only averages about 25 inches of snowfall per year, whereas Chicago averages 35.

hash-markPublic Transportation

While the public transportation in both cities is among the best in the country, nothing beats New York's MTA system. NYC is known for its 24-hour subway system and reliable line of buses that can get you almost anywhere in the five boroughs at any time of the day. Plus, Manhattan is set up on a grid, making it easy to get around, and there are far more express trains. Chicago's L System is also considered among the best in the country but is a bit more spread out, and only a few lines run all night.  

hash-markJob Opportunities

Both cities offer a variety of job opportunities at top companies, but the sheer size of New York means that it has a larger and more diverse job market. New York offers jobs in various industries, including finance, tech, medicine, and law. Chicago also has a diverse economy with opportunities in finance, insurance, manufacturing, publishing, and food processing. The number of private-sector jobs in New York City increased by over 210,000 in the final months of 2022, whereas in Chicago, it was closer to 100,000. Plus, employers in New York pay on average 12% more in NYC than in Chicago (although this barely offsets the difference in cost of living).

hash-markCuisine and Lifestyle

Chicago and New York are both known for their unique food and lifestyle. While New York is more fast-paced and diverse, Chicago is more laid back and is well known for its contributions to the arts. New York's culinary scene is world-famous, with more than 70 Michelin star restaurants and food from nearly every culture on the planet. But Chicago can boast the invention of deep-dish pizza and tends to feature fresher ingredients due to all the nearby farms. In general, New York is a much faster-paced culture that is work-oriented, whereas Chicago is a bit more chill and offers a better work-life balance. Both cities feature world-famous cultural institutions and have made significant contributions to the arts. But New York offers energy and variety that can't be matched.  

hash-markCrime Rates

Based purely on statistics, New York is a much safer city than Chicago. According to a scale compiled by BetterPlaces, Chicago scored 49.9 for violent crime and 46.3 for property crime. New York, in comparison, scored 28.2 for violent crime and 24.9 for property crime. That's compared to the national average of 22.7 for violent crime and 35.4 for property crime. New York City is one of the safest large cities in the world. Although crime has gone up with the onset of the pandemic, it still pales in comparison to other major cities. On the other hand, Chicago struggles with violent crime and reported at least 800 homicides in 2021.

hash-markCity Culture

The biggest cultural difference between New York and Chicago is the pace of life. Chicago is downright sleepy compared to NYC, but that may be attractive to some residents. New York is the city that never sleeps and features a diverse local culture where there is always something to do. In comparison, Chicago is more laid back but known for its developments in the arts, specifically theater, stand-up comedy, and music. Which is better boils down to personal preference as they both have a lot to offer. But New York certainly offers more energy and variety.

hash-markCommute Times

Chicago tends to offer slightly shorter commute times than New York. On average New Yorkers tend to spend about 41 minutes commuting, compared to 35 minutes in Chicago. Close to 50% of all Chicago residents commute via automobile, compared to only 22% of New York (the majority use public transportation). While Chicago has more direct suburbs with easy access to the city, New York tends to attract residents who live in nearby cities in Connecticut, New Jersey, or Upstate New York. The largest percentage of commuters in Chicago live about 30 to 35 minutes away, whereas in New York about 19% of commuters live between 60 and 89 minutes away from their job.

hash-markQuality of Life Index

According to an index developed by Numbeo, Chicago has a slightly higher quality of life than New York. This scale was developed using data on the city's crime statistics, employment data, climate, health care quality, housing prices, and statistics on traffic and pollution. According to all these metrics, Chicago scored 156.56, which is considered high. In comparison, New York scored 138.09, which is considered moderate. The biggest factor impacting the differences in the score was the high cost of living in New York compared to the average income.

hash-markNYC vs Chicago Overall

Both cities rank among the most influential and culturally important metropolises in the world. But New York has a bit more to offer when it comes to energy and possibility. It features a variety of employment and recreational opportunities that you won't find in Chicago. Plus, it has slightly better weather and less crime. Chicago also has a lot to offer residents, and many may prefer the more relaxed pace of life. But in a side-by-side comparison, New York tends to excel in more categories. 

hash-markNew York vs. Chicago Comparison Winner



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Quality of Life Index