New York vs Chicago: Which City Is Better for You?

New York vs Chicago

In this article

New York vs Chicago is a widespread comparison, and although they are compared regularly, they cater to the needs of varying demographics of people. New York city's population is the largest in the US and one of the highest in the world. Chicago, on the other hand, is less populated and more laid-back, ideal for families.

The better city for you depends on your likes, dislikes, and general lifestyle. New York is the place for agile people who are all out for the fast pace and making more money. Easy-going and family-oriented people will find Chicago more appealing.

Population and Size of Chicago vs New York

New York is the most populous city in the United States. New York City's population as of 2020 was over 8.6 million. New York City has a total area of 472.43 square miles. With 300.46 square miles being the land area. The area gives New York a population density of 29,729 individuals per square mile. With that population density, New York is the most densely populated city in the United States.

Chicago is the third-most populous city and has a population of about 2.7 million. It has an area of 234.53 square miles, with a population density of 12,124. Chicago is the seventh most populated city in the US, behind New York City, San Francisco, Jersey City, Boston, Miami, and Santa Ana.

New York is almost 2.5 times more densely populated than Chicago. Its density has its perks and downsides. If you like the thrill, hustle, and bustle, then New York City is the place for you; however, if you are searching for a more laid-back and relaxed environment, then Chicago is the place for you.

The Cost of Living in New York vs Chicago

New York is an expensive city, and its cost of living is 75.1% more expensive than Chicago. Contributors to the cost of living include Housing and rent, food and groceries, health, transportation, and utilities. Food and utilities are 20% more expensive in New York City than in Chicago. Health costs 25% more in NYC, transportation by 31%, and utilities by 62%.

Rent and Housing is the singular defining difference between Chicago and New York. Rent is about 81% cheaper in Chicago than in New York City. The average rent in Chicago is $1,862, against the $3,374 average in New York City. Purchasing houses and real estate is even more expensive in New York - about 197% more expensive.

The average home in Chicago costs about $229,100, and a similar home costs about $680,500 in New York. Keep in mind that the US average is $231,200. Chicago is the clear winner for the cost of living, allowing you to live a better standard of life with an average lower cost.

Which City Is Safer? Crime Rate in Chicago vs NY

New York is a great city with a very tight security system. New York is safer than Chicago, and the crime rates differ by a large margin. The crime rates in US cities are measured on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the most insecure and 1 being the most secure. Property crime in New York is rated at 24.9, and a violent crime rating of 28.2. Chicago has a property crime rating of 46.3 and a violent crime rating of 49.9. In the US, the average violent crime is rated 22.7, and 35.4 for property crime.

The lower crime rate in New York can be attributed to its police department - the NYPD being the most funded police department in the country. Crimes are prevalent in Chicago, with over 800 homicides in 2021 and about 104 murders in 2022 so far, while New York has had 74.

Job Opportunities

There are many job opportunities in the two cities; however, New York City is larger and has more concentrations of top companies offering job opportunities than Chicago. In Chicago, the top industries are food processing, finance, publishing, insurance, and manufacturing. Finance, information, tech, law, and medicine are the leading industries in New York.

In the last few months of 2020, about 350,000 jobs were added to the private sector in New York. Around the same time, about 160,000 jobs were added to the private sector in Chicago. New York pays its workers about 11.6% more than equally skilled workers in Chicago; however, the difference is not enough to cover the higher cost of living in NYC.

New York has a 2.2% lower employment rate than Chicago. However, it has a higher job growth year on year. In the last 10 years, the job market in NYC has grown by 4.7%, while Chicago has increased by 3.1%. Although New York pays more on average, the high cost of living can quickly level up the grounds.

Architecture and Parks

Both cities offer a wide range of impressive architectural designs. Chicago has some of the tallest skyscrapers in the US, like the Willis Tower, formerly known as Sears Tower (the second-tallest building in the US), and Trump International Hotel and Tower, among many other architectural designs that grace Chicago's skyline. There are also historical architectural designs present in Oak park village.

Chicago has 126 skyscrapers, coming only behind New York City. New York has 302 skyscrapers, making it the city with the most skyscrapers in the US and the third in the world, coming closely behind Hong Kong and Shenzhen. NYC skyline is graced with notable architectural designs, including the Empire state building and One World Trade Center.

NYC has some of the most beautiful parks in the US, including Central park, Riverside Park, Brooklyn bridge park, and Bryant Park. Chicago is also home to some beautiful gardens like Lincoln park, Grant Park, Millennium park, Burnham Park, and Wicker park. There is no clear winner for this category as the two cities have exciting architecture and parks.

Public Transportation and Commute Times

The majority of the commuters in New York move around via public transportation. The public transport system in New York is among the best in the world and is active round the clock. Although the city is crowded, its residents can quickly move around town with the active transport system. Only about 22% of the commuters in New York move around in their cars, and 56.5% choose mass transit systems. The average commute time in New York is about 41 minutes, which is higher than the average in Chicago. The higher commute time may be attributed to more crowded streets in the metropolitan area.

If you’re a UK citizen, you’ll be glad to know that you can drive in New York with a UK license. The same goes for Chicago.

Chicago residents move around using their cars more than the residents in New York. On average, 49.2% use their vehicles, while 28.2% use the public transit system. The average commute time in Chicago is about 35 minutes, 6 minutes less than in New York City.

A single transit ticket costs $2.75, but many commuters purchase the unlimited monthly pass that costs $127. In Chicago, the monthly pass costs $105, and it works on trains and buses in both cities. NYC takes the medal for the transit category as it is cheaper and has a lower commute time.

Food Scene and Lifestyle

New York or the Big Apple is a melting pot of foreign cultures into a homogenous mix. Each of the cultural groups present in the city influences the food scene in New York. Chinatown for example is known to be home to the best Chinese food in NY. Some of the food popularly eaten in New York include trattorias, bagels, New York-style pizza, and cheesecake.

There are also diners and coffeehouses strategically located around the city. Many of the popular foods in New York are fast food and can be attributed to the fast pace of the city. New Yorkers are always on the move, time is money, and the city never sleeps.

Chicago has its share of fast food, like the Chicago sandwiches, deep-dish pizza, and Chicago-style hot dogs. Other foods present in the city include Puerto Rican-influenced jibarito, chicken Vesuvio, Italian beef sandwich, and saganaki.

The two cities' food scene vividly describes their inhabitants' lifestyles. New York City is more vibrant and fast-paced, while Chicago is more laid-back and family-oriented. Regardless, the cities offer a great culinary experience for inhabitants and tourists that visit.

Chicago vs New York Weather: Which One Has Better Climate?

None of the two cities have substantially preferable weather to the other. Chicago's climate has a comfortability index of 7, while New York has 7.3 (higher scores mean more comfortability). Summer is hotter in New York, and rainfall and sunshine are also higher in New York. Chicago is located on lake Michigan and, as such, is expected to influence the city's temperature, but it does not.

Chicago is a windy city because windstorms are common here and are filled with hot air. Chicago averages 35 inches of snow yearly, while New York experiences only about 25 inches. But New York has an advantage here: it can become magical during wintertime. Many tourists opt to spend Christmas in NY so they can experience its magnificent holiday vibe.

By the records, New York has a better climate than Chicago, but only slightly. It is generally warmer than Chicago, both in summer and winter.

Quality of Life Index

The quality of life index measures how comfortable it is living in an area. Some areas have a higher score, making it easier to live a better quality of life in those areas. The crime rate, healthcare, employment opportunities, cost of Housing and real estate, the weather, and traffic data all contribute to the index for an area.

By these indices, Chicago gives a better quality of living. Numbeo developed the index, and Chicago scored 148.37, while New York scored 134.30. The score for New York City is considered the average index, while Chicago's index is considered high. Less traffic, commute time, and lower housing cost in Chicago are significant contributors to the living index.

There are quieter neighborhoods in Chicago compared to the neighborhoods in New York City. It has a higher purchasing power, health, and real estate index, while New York City has a higher safety index, a better climate, and more job opportunities.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that New York City takes the lead in most categories. New York and Boston are great cities to live in, with world-famous sites. The property crime rate in New York is higher than in Boston. Boston has a higher education coefficient because it has more colleges and educational activities. By population density, New York is one of the largest cities in the US, meaning the average New Yorker is always in a crowded place.

Do You Need a Visa for New York and Chicago?

Up until this point, you’ve probably formed an opinion about the two magnificent cities we’ve been trying to bring closer to you. If you decide to visit either of them, you are required to have certain documents in place. You can check what kind of visa for New York you need, or take a look at general requirements for entering the US.

Visitors who come from one of the 40 countries that are members of the Visa Waiver Program have something to look forward to: if they’re staying for less than 90 days in the US, they are eligible for an ESTA. This applies to the little ones too. When travelling to the US, children are required to have an ESTA, regardless of their age.

This Electronic System for Travel Authorisation is much quicker than applying for a US visa and it can be completed online.

The Takeaway

The comparison between New York City and Chicago is valid as the cities are similar in many areas. The two cities are beautiful places to be domiciled. The city center of New York is littered with many skyscrapers and architectural wonders. Downtown Chicago is also not left out, as it has incredible bridges, tall buildings, and skyscrapers. On the flip side, the pace of the two locations differs, with New York being more fast-paced and active than Chicago.

The cost of living, feeding, and transportation is lower in Chicago, while the crime rate is higher. The sheer size of New York means more people are in it, and it is more crowded. There are five boroughs in New York City, compared to the two in Chicago, Illinois. The Cuisine, lifestyle, city culture, and weather medals go to New York.

For business-oriented people, the sprawling metropolis of New York City is a better option. The work culture and business sense of the inhabitants make it ideal. Chicago is a better choice for family-oriented people because it is slow-paced and has many family spots like Millennium park and Central park in Chicago.

Written by Abisola Fikayomi

Abisola is an accomplished writer interested in US Travel, immigration, passports and visas. She’s passionate about exploring new places and cultures and willing to share her experiences, expertize and findings with others. That is her primary drive for specialising in this industry.


Chicago is cleaner than New York and is known as one of the cleanest cities in the US. The difference may be because trash is kept on the curb in New York, where it can be seen. However, in Chicago, they are held in alleys where they cannot be seen. The sheer size of New York could also affect the trash management, making it less clean than Chicago.
NYC has better food among the duo. The food in NYC is influenced by the history of New York being a melting pot of many cultures. The food culture in Chicago reflects its family-oriented lifestyle.
New York is a more expensive city to live in. The main difference between the cost in New York and Chicago is the rent and transportation; other indices are similar.

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