New York City vs Chicago: Which Is Better? (2023)

New York and Chicago, being two of the largest cities in the United States, are often compared with each other. While they have distinct differences, both cities offer their residents a plethora of cultural and employment opportunities. They have unique atmospheres that tend to appeal to different types of people.

New York City is known for its unmatched energy, but on the other hand, Chicago has a distinct and relaxed culture that is comparatively less expensive. Let’s take a detailed look at the differences between these two cities.

Cost of Living

When it comes to expenses, New York City surpasses Chicago by a significant margin. The cost of living in New York is approximately 85% higher compared to Chicago. According to PayScale, the overall cost of living in New York is around 129%, whereas it’s only 23% higher than the national average in Chicago.

Furthermore, utility prices in Chicago are 10% lower than the standard, whereas in New York, they are 25% higher. The cost of groceries and transportation is also comparatively higher in New York than in Chicago. However, the most significant cost disparity is in housing. The average price of a home in New York is approximately $745,000, while in Chicago, it’s only about $315,000.


While neither city is renowned for its weather, New York tends to have slightly more favorable conditions. Both cities experience significant seasonal changes with cold winters and dry summers. However, Chicago tends to be chillier during the winter season, while its summers are just as hot as New York’s. New York has a “modified maritime” climate that is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, which provides warmth and moisture to the air.

On the other hand, Chicago is located on Lake Michigan, which does not have a significant impact on warming the air, and thus features a continental climate that is more frigid during winter. Moreover, New York experiences an average of 25 inches of snowfall per year, while Chicago averages around 35 inches.

Public Transportation

While both cities boast excellent public transportation systems, New York’s MTA is in a league of its own. The city’s 24-hour subway system and efficient bus lines provide access to almost every corner of the five boroughs at any time of day or night. Additionally, Manhattan’s grid-like street system makes navigation easy, and express trains are readily available. While Chicago’s L System is also highly regarded, it’s slightly more spread out than New York’s system, and only a few lines operate throughout the night.

Job Opportunities

Both New York and Chicago have a plethora of job opportunities with major companies, but the vastness of New York City gives it an edge over Chicago in terms of a more extensive and diverse job market. New York offers employment opportunities in numerous sectors, such as finance, technology, healthcare, and law. Similarly, Chicago also has a varied economy with openings in finance, insurance, publishing, manufacturing, and food processing.

However, the private sector job growth in New York City during the final quarter of 2020 was over 350,000, compared to approximately 160,000 in Chicago. Moreover, employers in New York tend to pay around 11.8% higher than Chicago. However, this increment is hardly enough to offset the high cost of living in New York.

Cuisine and Lifestyle

Chicago and New York are renowned for their distinct lifestyles and unique culinary scenes. New York is a bustling, diverse city that offers a fast-paced lifestyle, while Chicago is more laid-back and celebrated for its contributions to the arts. New York boasts a world-renowned culinary scene, with over 70 Michelin-starred restaurants, serving up a plethora of cuisines from around the world.

On the other hand, Chicago is the birthplace of deep-dish pizza and tends to offer fresher ingredients as it has many nearby farms. While both cities are culturally rich and have significant contributions to the arts, New York’s faster pace and diversity give it an unmatched energy and variety. However, Chicago offers a more relaxed environment and a better work-life balance.

Crime Rates

Looking at the statistics alone, New York appears to be a much safer city compared to Chicago. According to the BetterPlaces scale, Chicago scored 49.9 for violent crime and 46.3 for property crime, while New York scored 28.2 for violent crime and 24.9 for property crime. These figures are in comparison to the national average of 22.7 for violent crime and 35.4 for property crime.

While New York has experienced a rise in crime during the pandemic, it still fares well compared to other major cities and is considered one of the safest large cities in the world. In contrast, Chicago has struggled with violent crime and has reported around 800 homicides in 2021.

City Culture

One of the most significant cultural differences between New York and Chicago is their pace of life. Compared to Chicago, New York is a bustling city that never sleeps, offering a diverse local culture that provides endless entertainment options. On the other hand, Chicago is more relaxed, making it appealing to some residents. Chicago is famous for its contributions to the arts, particularly in theater, stand-up comedy, and music. Ultimately, which city is better is a matter of personal preference since both have plenty to offer. However, New York’s vibrant atmosphere and diverse offerings make it the city with more energy and variety.

Commute Times

When it comes to commuting, Chicago has a slight advantage over New York with shorter average commute times. In Chicago, the average commute time is about 35 minutes, while in New York it’s about 41 minutes. Nearly half of Chicago residents commute by car, while in New York the majority rely on public transportation with only 22% commuting by car. Chicago has more suburbs that offer direct access to the city, while New York tends to draw commuters from nearby cities in neighboring states. The majority of Chicago commuters live within a 30-35 minute radius, while in New York about 19% of commuters live between 60-89 minutes away from work.

Quality of Life Index

Based on a quality of life index created by Numbeo, Chicago has a higher rating than New York. The index takes into account various factors such as crime rates, employment opportunities, climate, healthcare quality, housing prices, and traffic and pollution statistics. Chicago scored 156.56, which is considered high, while New York scored 138.09, which is considered moderate. The primary reason for the difference is the high cost of living in New York, which makes it difficult for people to afford a comfortable lifestyle despite the relatively high average income.


While both cities are highly regarded as influential and culturally significant, New York stands out for its energetic atmosphere and abundant opportunities. The city boasts a diverse range of employment and recreational options that are unparalleled in Chicago. Additionally, New York enjoys better weather and lower crime rates, making it an even more attractive destination. While Chicago has its own unique charm and appeals to those who prefer a more laid-back lifestyle, in a direct comparison, New York generally outshines it in several areas.

New York vs. Chicago Comparison Winner

It is difficult to declare a clear winner in a comparison between New York and Chicago as it ultimately depends on personal preferences and priorities. However, both cities have their own unique strengths and weaknesses.

Chicago tends to have a lower cost of living and shorter commute times compared to New York. It also has a more relaxed pace of life and lower crime rates.

On the other hand, New York boasts a more diverse range of job opportunities and a more vibrant city culture. It also has better weather and an abundance of cuisine and lifestyle options.

When considering overall quality of life, both cities score relatively high on various indexes. However, this may vary depending on individual preferences.

In conclusion, while both cities have their own strengths and weaknesses, the ultimate decision between New York and Chicago comes down to personal preferences and priorities.