The East Coast-West Coast rivalry is one of the oldest, with New York City and Los Angeles at the center of it all. No two metropolitan areas in the United States are compared as much as these two. So, which one is better?
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New York City is the largest metropolitan area and also one of the most densely populated. In 2020, the city was recorded to have a population of 8,177,025 and a population density of 27,222 people per square mile. The population of Los Angeles, on the other hand, is almost half that of New York City, with a 2020 census record of 3,985,516. Spanning over 500 miles, the metropolitan area has a population density of 8,4999 people per square mile.
According to the most recent data collected by the American Community Survey (ACS), the racial makeup of New York City is as follows:
- White: 42.73%
- Black or African American: 24.31%
- Other race: 14.75%
- Asian: 14.09%
- Two or more races: 3.63%
- Native American: 0.43%
- Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.06%
The racial composition of Los Angeles is slightly different, although Caucasians are still the most prevalent group, and Native Hawaiian /Pacific Islanders have the smallest population in the city.
- White: 52.06%
- Other race: 22.75%
- Asian: 11.62%
- Black or African American: 8.93%
- Two or more races: 3.75%
- Native American: 0.73%
- Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander: 0.16%
2. Job Prospects
New York City is widely recognized as a hub for business and commerce, serving as a center for world trade, banking and finance, real estate, retailing, new and traditional media, transportation, insurance, accountancy, legal services, and fashion and the arts. Multiple Fortune 500 and multinational corporations in the city attract investors from all over the world. The metropolitan area is also the top global center for the advertising industry, with a wide variety of job opportunities in sectors such as traditional media, new media, crowdsourcing, and niche marketing. New York City is also renowned for its fashion industry, which employs over 180,000 people with $11 billion in annual wages. Other noteworthy sectors include non-profit institutions, medical research and technology, and universities.
Los Angeles, or the City of Angels, as it’s sometimes known, has an economy that thrives on international trade, entertainment, technology, aerospace, apparel, fashion, tourism, and petroleum. LA is home to the largest manufacturing center in the nation, with over 500,000 manufacturing jobs in the field. This can be attributed to the city’s long and well-documented history as a manufacturing base. The metropolitan area is also one of the most competitive financial centers in the United States, with plenty of work opportunities in banking, insurance, and asset management. The cannabis industry is also on an upward trajectory in the city, with more than 300 cannabis businesses (both retailers and suppliers) receiving approval for operation in 2019. The largest non-governmental employers in Los Angeles include Kaiser Permanente, University of Southern California, Northrop Grumman Corp., and Providence Health and Services Southern California.
3. Cost of living
Here are some of the aspects that contribute to the cost of living in these metropolitan areas:
If you rent an apartment in NY, you may pay less for water, heat, and sometimes even electricity, as they are often included in the rent, especially in older buildings. According to the New York state law, landlords are required to have hot water in the rent. Furthermore, older apartment buildings usually only rely on a central heating system and one electricity meter, preventing property managers from charging tenants for individual use. If you have to pay for your own electricity bill, expect to pay anywhere from 35-40% more than in other parts of the USA. That being said, other utilities are often less expensive. The average utility costs in NYC are about $165.40 monthly or $1,984.80 annually.
On the contrary, the lovely weather of Los Angeles keeps utility bills relatively reasonable, especially during the year’s colder months. However, keep in mind that your air conditioning budget may rise significantly during the hot summer months. Many older apartment buildings in the city lack a central heat or air conditioning system, but this is hardly a concern, especially for homes close to the ocean. The average Los Angeles resident pays $145.08 monthly for basic utilities (electricity, fuel, gas, and water).
New York City’s vibrant culinary scene is undeniably the hub of the metropolitan area’s social life. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), NYC residents spend a whopping 130% more on dining out than the national average. Furthermore, the average cost of eating out at a full-service restaurant in the city is $46.14, which is almost $10 higher than what you would spend in other cities in the United States. Eating a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant, expect to fork over $100, including gratuity. Alternatively, you can buy street foods from one of the city’s many food carts, and stalls – the $5 hotdog, chips, and soda combo might be far from healthy, but it’s affordable, delicious, and convenient. To save some of your hard-earned money, opt to cook and eat in the comfort of your home. If you opt to do this, expect to pay around $307.50 monthly for groceries, or $3,690 annually.
Los Angeles is a haven for those who enjoy tasty foods on a budget. The famous tacos will set you back $1.50-$2 each depending on where you buy them, but if you want to dine in one of the swankier restaurants in the city, be prepared to part with any amount from $38. If you opt to eat a three-course meal for two people at a mid-range, you’ll pay an average of $80. The average Angeleno can expect to spend around $3,792 per year on food, or $316 per month.
New York City is famed for having the largest public transportation network in the USA. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) allows commuters to travel all over the city via subway, bus, and commuter rail. The starting cost of a regular bus or subway ticket is $2.75, and rail tickets typically cost more, and the rates vary depending on your destination. If you want to save money on transportation, opt to go for an unlimited monthly pass, which will set you back $127. Although the monthly Metrocard card is seemingly costly, it can be seen as a good value, considering the city has over 5,000 miles of subway and bus routes.
Another mode of transportation that you may use is the NYC Ferry. It’s an excellent option for those who live near the ferry’s terminals, and various routes serve all the five boroughs at a reasonable $2.75 each way. If you’re one of the rare drivers in the city, expect to pay anywhere from $2.25 to $3 per gallon for gas. Car insurance prices vary from one borough to another, with Brooklyn residents paying the highest costs ($3,550) and Manhattan residents paying relatively affordable fees ($2,273).
Unlike New York City, Los Angeles has a reputation of being a driving city. The LA Metro (the city’s public transportation system) is an excellent option for those who want to use public transport. Still, due to LA’s sprawling size, residents in many neighborhoods cannot access it, with only those who live near transit lines experiencing the convenience of this mode of transport. Over 80% of Angelenos drive to work, with only 6% taking public transit. Bus and rail options cost around $1.75 for a single ride for those who can access the LA Metro. Monthly passes range anywhere from $100 to $122.
As you might expect, gas prices in Los Angeles are astronomical, coming in at around a dollar higher per gallon than the national average in 2021. Between 2019 and 2020, the city’s gas cost fluctuated between $2.75 and $4.25. Car insurance in LA is higher than the national average ($1,427), coming in at $1,964 on average.
4. Housing Market (1 bd rent price, 2 bd rent price)
Over 60% of New Yorkers rent apartments, and renters in the city’s five boroughs spend over 30% of their monthly income on housing costs on average. The average cost of renting an apartment in the city is $3,436. According to Rent Cafe, the average rent for a unit in Manhattan in January 2020 was an astonishing $4,210 for a 1-bedroom apartment – which is the most expensive rate in the country and almost three times the national average. Rent in Brooklyn and Queens was significantly more affordable, coming in at $2,936 and $2,412 for the same amount of space. For a 2-bedroom unit, expect to pay monthly rents of $5,784 in Manhattan, $3,547 in Brooklyn, and $2,523 in Queens on average. Apartments in Staten Island are the cheapest to rent on average, with a 1-bedroom unit costing $1,488 and a 2-bedroom apartment going for $2,251 per month.
Renters also make up most of the population in Los Angeles, with over two-thirds of residents renting homes in the cities. Due to the high demand for rented properties, the metropolitan area’s vacancy rates are low, consequently increasing the rent rate. On average, residents pay $2,545 to rent a home in the city. Rents are highest in trendy neighborhoods like Venice ($3,203) and Playa Vista ($3,415). On the flip side, it’s more affordable to rent in areas like Van Nuys ($1,960) and Eagle Rock ($1,931). On average, a one-bedroom apartment in the city will set you back $1,714 per month, while a two-bedroom unit will cost about $2,249.
The weather in New York City and Los Angeles couldn’t be any more different. In NYC, the summers tend to be warm, humid, and wet, while the winters are frigid, snowy, and windy. It’s also partly cloudy all year round. On the flip side, summers in Los Angeles are warm, arid, and clear, while the winters are cool, wet, and partly cloudy. The temperatures in NYC typically vary from -2°C to 29°C, and they rarely fall below -10°C or shoot above 34°C. In LA, temperatures generally range from 9°C to 29°C, rarely going below 5°C or above 34°C.
The warm season in New York City lasts for around three-and-a-half months, starting in early June and ending in Mid-September, with average daily temperatures reaching highs of 24°C. The city’s hottest month of the year is July, with temperatures soaring to highs of 29°C and dipping to lows of 21°C. Conversely, the warm season in LA lasts for 2.9 months, from 1st July to 30th September, with average daily temperatures reaching highs of 27°C. August is the city’s hottest month of the year, with temperatures ranging from highs of 29°C to lows of 19°C.
The cool season is shorter in New York City (3.3 months) than in Los Angeles (3.9 months). However, the daily average temperature in the former is 12°C than that of the latter. January is the most frigid month in New York City, with an average low of -2°C and a high of 4°C. The coldest month in LA is December, with daily temperatures dipping to lows of 9°C and reaching highs of 20°C on average.
6. Crime Rates
According to neighborhoodscout.com, the crime rate in NYC and LA is significantly higher than the national average. Your likelihood of becoming a property or violent crime victim in NYC is 1 in 39 and 1 in 33 in LA.
The rate of violent crime in NYC is one of the highest in the United States, with a total of 9,829 incidences in 2020. Aggravated assault was the most prevalent crime, with 5,991 incidents reported. Other reported violent crimes reported in the city include armed robbery (3,243), rape (479), and murder (116). Your chance of becoming a victim of one of the aforementioned crimes in the city during this period was one in 172.
In Los Angeles, there were 29,022 violent crimes reported in 2020. Like in NYC, aggravated assault was the city’s most common crime, with 18,619 cases. The robbery came in second (8,054), with rape (1,998) and murder (351) occurring less frequently. The likelihood of a resident in the city falling victim to one of these crimes is one in 134.
The rate of property crime in New York City is 20 per one thousand, while that of Los Angeles is 23 per one thousand. In 2020, your likelihood of falling victim to property crime in NYC was one in 50 and one in 182 in LA. The theft was the most widespread property crime in NYC, with 27,685 reported incidents, followed by burglary (4,035) and motor vehicle theft (2,169). The trend was similar in LA, with 51,807 cases of theft, although there were more incidents of motor vehicle theft (21,386) than burglary (14,577).
Both NYC and LA have plenty of hospitals and healthcare facilities. The main challenge for residents in both cities is accessing affordable medical care.
In NYC, the ubiquitous presence of healthcare facilities has led to some hospitals and clinics becoming heavily specialized, with their areas of expertise ranging from joint disorders to pediatrics. Due to the competitive nature of these institutions, patients who can access health care benefit from more modern facilities and the latest treatment techniques. Pharmacies are widely available in the metropolitan area, with locations in almost any supermarket, mall, or main shopping street. Private insurance is a must-have to receive the best healthcare in the city. Although all patients are legally entitled to emergency services, hefty fees still apply, and it’s not uncommon to be denied long-term healthcare if you don’t have the proper medical insurance. The average NYC resident pays $2,395 in a year towards an employer-sponsored health insurance policy, while a family of four can pay anywhere from $7,153 on average.
LA also offers high-quality healthcare, with world-renowned hospitals such as California Hospital Medical Center, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Los Angeles, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Keck Hospital of USC, and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center all located within the city. Like in NYC, services are extremely expensive, and health insurance is an important investment. Based on data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, a full-time working adult in the metropolitan area spends up to $2,545 annually on medical care. For a family of two adults and a child, the cost rises to $8,011 per year.
Both NYC and LA have severe traffic congestion issues, with both cities appearing in the top 10 list of cities with the most congested metro areas. In fact, New York City topped the 2021 list, with the average commuter losing 102 hours in traffic, compared to 62 hours lost by LA drivers.
In NYC, travel times were 35% longer than during free-flow traffic conditions, while in LA, they were 33% longer. The day of the week with the worst rush hour in NYC in 2021 was Friday, between 4 PM and 5 PM, being the most congested time to travel. Friday was also the busiest day on the road in LA, but the rush hour in the city in 2021 was between 3 PM and 4 PM.
New York City has the largest public school system in the country, known as the New York City Public Schools. It comprises over 1,700 separate primary and secondary schools and around 1.1 million students. It also includes nine specialized high schools that cater to academically and artistically gifted students. The metropolitan area has more than 120 higher education institutions, with more than 600,00 students enrolled. More than half a million of the students are in the City University of New York (CUNY) system alone as of 2020. NYC is also home to multiple notable private universities, including Columbia University, New York University, and Barnard College.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) serves most of LA and several surrounding towns and cities. It has a student population of about 800,000 and includes a wide variety of elementary and high schools. LA is home to three public universities (California State University, Los Angeles, California State University, Northridge, and the University of California, Los Angeles) and numerous private colleges, including Marymount College, University of Southern California, and Los Angeles Film School.
10. Access to nature
In sprawling urban areas like NYC and LA, access to nature is an important consideration to keep in mind. According to a study by Geotab, the calculated green space per person in LA is 423 sq feet, while each person in NYC would get about 146 sq ft. The disparity in the number of green spaces accessible to city residents could be attributed to the disparity in population. Because NYC is more densely populated, access to nature is more limited.
When considering whether to move to Los Angeles or New York City, it’s important to compare the tax rates in the two cities. Sales taxes are higher in LA (9.5%) than in NYC (8.9%). Contrarily, income taxes in NYC are higher (10.1%) than in LA (8.0%).
Pros and cons of living in LA vs. NYC
Pros of living in LA
1. The city offers plenty of outdoor activities for residents to enjoy
The city has a unique combination of beaches, trails, and parks. Furthermore, the consistently good weather conditions allow residents to enjoy these offerings throughout the year.
2. Numerous job opportunities
Many job opportunities exist in different industries, especially in production and entertainment. The city also offers infrastructure support for independent entrepreneurs, startups, and freelancers.
3. Diverse population
LA has one of the most diverse populations in the country, with a wide range of cultures, personalities, and perspectives to experience.
4. Incredible food scene
Explore culinary options from all corners of the world, from Ethiopian delicacies to Japanese dishes.
Cons of living in LA
1. Astronomical housing prices
Owning a home is a dream for many, but in LA, it is far from attainable for most. This is because houses are costly, and renting is often the more affordable option.
2. Difficult to find parking
Finding parking in LA can be incredibly difficult. The parking signs in the city can be exceptionally complicated, and parking is costly.
Pros of living in NYC
1. It’s one of the most important cultural capitals of the world
NYC is home to numerous museums, historical libraries, fascinating monuments, and other cultural significance spots.
2. Vibrant social scene
NYC has a thriving social scene, with a wide variety of swanky restaurants, bars, and social clubs, to mention a few. The city also has one of the most fascinating fashion scenes, making it an ideal destination for fashion lovers.
3. Efficient public transport
The NYC public transportation system is generally reliable and affordable. The city has 28 subway services that run through all the boroughs except Staten Island, which is served by the Staten Island Railway.
4. The city never sleeps
NYC is truly a 24-hour city – with great bars, concert venues, and jazz clubs. You’ll always have something to discover at night.
Cons of living in NYC
1. Rent prices are high
It’s expensive to rent an apartment in NYC. For the best experience as a renter, opt to look into shared living options or stay away from expensive boroughs like Manhattan.
2. The weather is hard to get used to
Summers in NYC are hot, muggy, and sometimes even stinky. The winters are on the opposite end of the spectrum, with bone-chilling cold making the outdoors feel unbearable during the season.
When it comes to deciding whether to live in NYC or LA, it all comes down to your personal taste. To help you make a suitable decision, consider weighing the pros and cons of living in both cities.