New York City and Chicago, two major cities in the United States, are often compared and contrasted due to their size and cultural impact. Each city showcases its distinct vibe and tends to draw different groups of individuals. NYC is known for its electric energy, while Chicago offers a more relaxed atmosphere at a lower cost.

In 2023, the comparison between these two cities continues to be relevant as both deliver various qualities of life, employment prospects, and cultural experiences. We present a comprehensive analysis of New York and Chicago to help you understand their unique features and make an informed choice.

NYC vs. Chicago Quick Comparison

 ChicagoNew York
Cost of Living ❌
Weather ❌
Public Transportation ❌
Job Opportunities ❌
Cuisine and Lifestyle ❌
Crime Rates ❌
City Culture ❌
Commute Times ❌
Quality of Life Index ❌

Cost of Living

When comparing the cost of living between New York and Chicago, you’ll find that New York is significantly more expensive. While Chicago’s cost of living is slightly above average, New York’s is considerably higher. Utilities in Chicago are more affordable, being 10% lower than average, whereas New York sees a 25% increase.

Groceries and transportation also cost more in New York compared to Chicago. However, the most substantial disparity lies in housing costs. Homes in New York average a price of $861,000, while in Chicago, the average is around $368,000. This means that living in Chicago can provide a more affordable lifestyle, particularly concerning housing, utilities, and general expenses.


Both New York City and Chicago experience significant seasonal fluctuations, marked by cold winters and dry summers. While they share similarities, New York typically boasts slightly more agreeable conditions due to its “modified maritime” climate, influenced by the Atlantic Ocean. In contrast, Chicago’s location on Lake Michigan results in a continental climate, bringing colder winters.

Regarding temperatures, Chicago’s winters are generally colder, while summers in both cities are equally hot. As for precipitation, New York sees an average of 25 inches of snowfall each year, compared to Chicago’s 35 inches.

Public Transportation

When it comes to public transportation, both New York City and Chicago have top-notch systems. However, the New York MTA outshines with its 24-hour subway service and extensive bus network. You can easily travel throughout the five boroughs at any time, thanks to Manhattan’s grid layout and numerous express trains. On the other hand, Chicago’s L System, while highly rated, has a more spread-out structure and limited nighttime service on some lines.

Job Opportunities

Both New York City and Chicago present a variety of job prospects with leading companies in numerous sectors. With its larger size, New York City boasts a wider, more diverse job market, offering positions in areas such as finance, technology, healthcare, and law.

In contrast, Chicago’s thriving economy includes finance, insurance, manufacturing, publishing, and food processing opportunities. During the last months of 2022, private-sector employment in New York City saw an increase of over 210,000 jobs, while Chicago experienced a rise of approximately 100,000 jobs. Furthermore, New York City employers tend to pay 12% more on average compared to their Chicago counterparts, although this marginally compensates for the cost of living difference.

Cuisine and Lifestyle

Both Chicago and New York boast distinctive culinary scenes and lifestyles. New York City’s food scene is incredibly diverse and fast-paced, offering an impressive array of over 70 Michelin-star restaurants. You can find dishes from almost every culture in the city that never sleeps.

On the other hand, Chicago is famous for its iconic deep-dish pizza, with renowned spots like Lou Malnati’s leading the charge. Due to its proximity to local farms, Chicago’s cuisine often incorporates fresh ingredients. While New York is known for its relentless, work-oriented culture, Chicago provides a more relaxed atmosphere and a balanced work-life experience.

In terms of arts and culture, both cities house world-renowned institutions and have made significant contributions. However, New York’s unmatched energy and variety set it apart when it comes to cultural experiences.

Crime Rates

When comparing crime rates between New York City and Chicago, you’ll notice that New York City is statistically safer than Chicago. For example, Chicago has a violent crime score of 49.9, while New York City’s score is nearly half that, at 28.2. Similarly, property crime rates show Chicago at 46.3 and New York City at 24.9, both on a scale by BetterPlaces. Keep in mind, the U.S. national average stands at 22.7 for violent crime and 35.4 for property crime.

Despite a recent increase in crime, New York City remains among the world’s safest large cities. Conversely, Chicago continues to face significant challenges with the high number of violent crimes, including over 800 reported homicides in 2021 alone.

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City Culture

When it comes to city culture, you will find both New York City and Chicago offering unique experiences. In New York City, you can expect a fast-paced atmosphere with iconic landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, and Empire State Building. It is abundant in art museums, historical sights, and vibrant entertainment options, including Broadway.

In contrast, Chicago is more laid-back but equally rich in culture. Famous landmarks like Willis Tower, Cloud Gate (commonly known as “The Bean”), and a diverse art scene with institutions like the Art Institute of Chicago and Museum of Contemporary Art can be found here. The city is also known for its significant developments in theater, stand-up comedy, and music. Ultimately, the choice between these bustling cities depends on your personal preference.

Commute Times

When comparing commute times between Chicago and New York City, you’ll find that, on average, Chicagoans experience slightly shorter commutes, typically taking around 35 minutes. In contrast, New Yorkers tend to spend roughly 41 minutes commuting daily. Notably, about half of Chicago residents utilize automobiles for their commutes, while in New York, the majority opt for public transportation.

The geographical layout also impacts commute times. The suburbs around Chicago offer direct access to the city, whereas many New York residents live in neighboring cities or regions like Connecticut, New Jersey, and Upstate New York, contributing to longer commutes. In Chicago, a large percentage of commuters reside 30 to 35 minutes away from work, while in New York, around 19% of commuters face a 60 to 89-minute journey to their workplace.

Quality of Life Index

In terms of quality of life, you might find Chicago to be a more appealing option compared to New York. This is based on a scale by Numbeo that takes into account factors such as crime, employment, climate, health care, housing prices, and traffic and pollution. Chicago received a higher score of 156.56, reflecting a high-quality lifestyle, whereas New York’s score was 138.09, indicating a moderate quality.

Differences in the cost of living relative to average income have a significant influence on these scores, with New York being notably more expensive.

NYC vs Chicago Overview

When comparing these two iconic cities, New York City and Chicago, each offers unique experiences and attractions. While both are culturally important metropolises, New York City holds an edge in terms of energy and opportunities. You’ll find diverse employment and recreational possibilities in the Big Apple, with its five vibrant boroughs, such as Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island.

Chicago, on the other hand, is known for its scenic beauty, including Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. Both cities boast plenty of family-friendly activities, with parks like Central Park in NYC and shopping areas such as the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. Tourist attractions like Little Italy and Ellis Island in NYC add to the city’s allure.

Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with either city as both offer fascinating experiences, but if you prefer a fast-paced cosmopolitan experience, New York City might have the edge.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the crime rate higher in New York City or Chicago?

While both cities have crime, it’s important to note that crime rates can vary by neighborhood. In general, Chicago has a higher crime rate compared to New York City. However, this shouldn’t discourage you from visiting either city, as tourist areas are usually well-patrolled and safe.

Which city offers a more delightful culinary experience: Chicago or New York?

Both Chicago and New York boast diverse food scenes, making it difficult to declare a definitive winner. Chicago is renowned for its deep-dish pizza and hot dogs, while New York is famous for its bagels, pizza, and diverse international cuisine. It truly depends on your personal taste preferences when deciding which city holds the upper hand in terms of food.

How do the two cities’ skylines stack up against each other?

Chicago and New York City both have iconic and impressive skylines. Chicago’s skyline features the Willis Tower and the John Hancock Center, while New York City’s skyline showcases the renowned Empire State Building and One World Trade Center. While it’s subjective which skyline is better, both cities offer striking views that are worth experiencing.

Where is the nightlife more vibrant: New York City or Chicago?

Both New York City and Chicago have thriving nightlife scenes, offering a variety of bars, clubs, live music venues, and more. New York City is known for its 24/7 lifestyle and has a larger number of options, while Chicago also has a popular nightlife scene with a more laid-back vibe. Ultimately, it depends on what kind of atmosphere you prefer.

What is the time difference between Chicago and New York?

Chicago is located in the Central Time Zone (CT), while New York City is in the Eastern Time Zone (ET). There is a one-hour time difference between the two cities, with New York being one hour ahead of Chicago.

Is it more affordable to live in Chicago compared to New York City?

Yes, the cost of living in Chicago is significantly lower than in New York City. Housing, transportation, and various daily expenses are more affordable in Chicago. Keep in mind that the standard of living can vary based on factors such as income and personal preferences.

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