New York City is one of the most dynamic cities in the world. It’s a place that attracts people of all walks of life who are drawn by the employment opportunities, culture, educational offerings — and the sheer excitement of it all.
All of these benefits come at a steep price, though: New York is certainly one of the most expensive places to live in the country. It is 31 percent more expensive than Los Angeles, according to data from Numbeo, and 23 percent more than Boston.
The cost of food in New York City is also considerably steeper than most other places in the country. The average monthly NYC grocery bill was about $486 in March, compared with about $348 in the U.S. as a whole.
But there are many money-saving options if you long to live in NYC. The city consists of five boroughs — Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island — and the cost of living can vary significantly among them, even from one neighborhood to the next.
New York City statistics
For all its glitz and glamour, there are definitely both pros and cons to life in New York City. While it’s a city of endless opportunity, it is also an extremely competitive and costly place to live. Here are some of the city’s key statistics:
- Median household income: $67,046
- Per capita income: $41,625
- Unemployment rate: 6.2%
- Poverty rate: 17.3%
- Average utility cost: $162.82 per month
- Median age: 36.9 years old
- Population: 8.37 million
- Tourism: 22.3 million visitors in 2020
- Average temperature: 53.4 degrees
New York City experienced the biggest exodus of any city in the country during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 160,000 households leaving between March 2020 and the beginning of 2021, according to data sourced from U.S. Postal Service change-of-address records. While that pattern appears to have slowed recently, the city is still experiencing an overall population decline. According to Census data, the population decreased 3.8 percent between April 2020 and July 2021.
Rental and housing costs in NYC
Rental costs in NYC
New York City is notoriously expensive, and that absolutely includes housing costs. By and large, NYC is a city of renters. As of May 2022, the median asking rent for a one-bedroom apartment ranges from $3,950 in Manhattan to $1,500 on Staten Island, according to real estate site StreetEasy. For a two-bedroom, median asking rents range from a high of $4,750 to a low of $2,000.
A full 90 percent of apartments in NYC rent for above $3,000 per month, per rental site ApartmentList. According to its data, the majority of rentals in the city, 44 percent, are one-bedroom apartments, while studios and two-bedroom units each make up about 22 percent. Three-bedroom apartments make up the smallest inventory in the city at just 12 percent.
While the pandemic temporarily drove down rental prices, this trend has since reversed and rents are once again rising. It is possible to save money, though, by shifting your search to a more affordable borough or even a cheaper neighborhood within the same borough. Prices vary significantly depending on where in the city you choose to live.
If you have your heart set on Manhattan, by far the most expensive borough, Upper Manhattan is likely your most affordable bet. Two of the more affordable neighborhoods there are Inwood and Washington Heights, where the median rents for a one-bedroom apartment are $1,733 and $1,850, respectively.
Even more affordable neighborhoods can be found in what are sometimes referred to as “the outer boroughs.” (The term typically refers to the four boroughs that are not Manhattan — a sore subject for many.) Several areas in Brooklyn are just as pricey as Manhattan, but Mapleton, Bath Beach and Bensonhurt, for instance, are much less expensive. In Queens, bargain hunters are familiar with Richmond HIll, Woodhaven and Kew Gardens Hills. The Bronx and Staten Island boast plenty more relatively affordable areas.
Housing costs in NYC
If you’re looking to buy a home rather than rent, don’t expect to save money: Real estate prices in New York City are also among the most expensive in the nation. The median asking price for a home in NYC hit $995,000 in April 2022, according to StreetEasy — the highest it has been since 2019.
Again, though, prices vary widely by borough. In May 2022, the median asking price in Manhattan was $1.5 million. In Brooklyn it was $995,000; in Staten Island, $699,400; and in Queens, $625,000. The most affordable homes are for sale in the Bronx, where the median asking price in May was more on par with national levels at $388,000.
The steep price of homes is not slowing down sales in the city, though. Homes here sell quickly and continue to appreciate in value over time. In April, the typical home spent about 46 days on the market, which was 20 days less than one year earlier. Paying such a high price for a home, however, does have a significant impact on the cost of living — just 33 percent of residents are homeowners, according to Census figures.
Job market in NYC
New York City is home to a dizzying array of employers, including the country’s leading media companies, financial and tech giants and many of the fashion industry’s household names. Education, healthcare and entertainment are also among the leading employment sectors in the city. According to CareerKarma, NYC’s five largest employers are:
|Company||Number of People Employed|
|JP Morgan Chase||255,351|
New York City’s job market is large, and growing larger. Between 2021 and 2022, the city gained about 293,800 jobs, according to the New York State Department of Labor. The vast majority of the job gains — 109,600 — were in the leisure and hospitality sector. Even with such growth, however, the city’s unemployment rate remains among the highest of major urban centers in the U.S.
Salaries among city residents vary wildly depending on what industry you work in, from Wall Street tycoons to taxi drivers and more. Those living and working in the city will pay a local New York City income tax, on top of the New York state tax. For residents, the tax rates are between 3.078 percent and 3.876 percent, depending on what income bracket you fall into.
Transportation in New York City
Owning a car and driving in New York City can be a challenging and expensive choice. Parking is limited, and it’s not unusual for car owners to rent parking spots. The monthly rental costs for a parking spot can be anywhere from $199 to more than $500, depending on the part of the city you are renting in. As you might imagine, the majority of NYC residents do not own cars.
Luckily, the city has a very well developed public transportation system. NYC’s subway, one of the oldest and most extensive subway systems in the world, is the main form of transportation for many New Yorkers. Operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), the subway runs 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
New York is also a very walkable city. Depending on where you live and work, walking can easily be your primary method of getting around. There are also plenty of other public transportation options, including MTA buses, rideshare and bikeshare programs and NYC’s famous yellow taxis.
Things to do in NYC
In “the city that never sleeps,” it’s no surprise to find a dizzying choice of entertainment and interesting activities to choose from on any given day — or night. Dining out is just one of the highlights in this cultural mecca. According to data from reservation portal Open Table, you could eat at a different NYC spot once a day for 22.7 years and never visit the same place twice! Here are more classic NYC activities:
1. Colleges and universities
New York City is home to a long list of legendary colleges and universities, known as much for their famous graduates and historic architecture as they are for their curricula. Three of the top colleges to visit are Columbia University, the city’s resident Ivy League entry; New York University, home to the NYU film school that boasts Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee as alumni; and City College of New York, where more than a few buildings on campus are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
2. New York City Ballet
One of the best dance companies in the world, the New York City Ballet was established in 1948 and is based out of the legendary performing arts venue Lincoln Center.
3. Central Park
New York City’s famous 843-acre Central Park dates back to 1858 and is one of the most visited urban parks in the United States. Aptly located right in the center of Manhattan, the park attracts 42 million visits each year and is a great place to bring a picnic lunch and spend some time exploring.
4. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Affectionately known as the Met, visitors will find more than 5,000 years of art on display at this historic and world-renowned museum.
5. The Edge in Hudson Yards
This observation platform’s claim to fame is being the highest outdoor sky deck in the Western Hemisphere. The platform is suspended in mid-air and provides a 360-degree view of the entire city and surrounding area — a fantastic place for photos.
6. Broadway shows
For theater fans the world over, there are few places that compare to Broadway. Offering everything from spectacular musicals to intimate plays, there are about 41 theaters to choose from. If you’re more into alternative options, there are plenty of off-Broadway theater productions as well, including at the popular SoHo Playhouse.
7. Statue of Liberty
A visit to New York City would be incomplete without exploring the Statue of Liberty. An iconic symbol of the city — and the country itself — the statue was gifted to the United States by France and has been overlooking New York Harbor since 1886. It can be reached by a scenic ferry ride from lower Manhattan.
8. Empire State Building
Speaking of icons! The Empire State Building’s observation deck, located on the 86th floor, is a great place to visit any time of day but can be especially memorable at sunrise and sunset. The open-air portion of the deck wraps around the building’s spire, giving visitors glorious views.
9. Shopping on Fifth Avenue
In some parts of the country, there are malls. In New York City, Fifth Avenue is the place to shop until you drop. The legendary street is home to storefronts for many of the world’s most famous brands.
10. The Plaza Hotel
If you read the Eloise books as a child, you already know the magic of the Plaza. An unforgettable New York City experience, this beautiful building has been hosting afternoon tea for more than 100 years. Tea is offered in the hotel’s Palm Court room, which is known for its soaring stained glass dome.
How to move to NYC
If you’re considering moving to New York City, it’s important to have a well thought out game plan in advance. Financially speaking, you should probably have a job lined up before packing up and heading to this pricey place.
It’s also important to do your research regarding the different neighborhoods, not only because the cost of living can vary significantly, but also because the entertainment and overall neighborhood vibe varies a lot as well. Spend some time exploring the city and finding the right neighborhood for your needs, budget and lifestyle. And once you settle on a location, be ready to move quickly — like the rest of the city, NYC’s rental market moves very fast.
On a practical level, the city is easy to reach from almost everywhere, via almost all transportation options, including train and airplane. If you’re moving to Manhattan specifically, don’t forget that it’s an island — you’ll have to cross a bridge or go through a tunnel to get there, and the tolls are not cheap. The current toll to enter Manhattan via the George Washington Bridge, Holland Tunnel or Lincoln Tunnel is $16. (On the plus side, it’s free to leave!)
There is always something to see or do in New York City. It is also a place that offers endless career and educational opportunities. For some, living in NYC, at least for a little while, is a bucket-list life goal. If living in New York City is on your list of things to do, you’re not alone: The city’s population is projected to grow to 9.1 million by 2030.