The expense of sprawl

August 26, 2014

It’s expensive to live in a big city. But what if it’s more expensive to live in a small city? The Citizen’s Budget Commission, a non-profit financial watchdog organization in New York, took a look at housing costs in US metro areas recently, then added in transportation costs. By these two metrics, New York City (and most dense metro areas with good public transportation) is one of the cheaper urban options.

This is what housing and transportation costs look like for a typical household in various urban areas around the country (New York is highlighted because that’s  the CBC’s focus)*:


Added together, that looks like this:


Obviously more goes into the cost of living than just these two data points, but it does highlight just how expensive urban sprawl can be.

(h/t City Lab)

*What’s a “typical household”? From the report: “This policy brief uses data for what HUD defines as the “typical regional household.”2 This household is a statistical creation based on average values for selected characteristics – median income, household size, number of workers in the household, and commuting patterns for the workers – of households in the area. For example, a typical household in New York City has 2.69 people, 1.2 commuters, and annual income of $63,915.”



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This assessment is true if and only if you have to travel to a city to work. If your work is outside the city, living there does you no good.

Posted by majkmushrm | Report as abusive

New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC and a few other U.S. cities have extensive, very good railway and bus mass transit systems.

Millions of workers in these metropolitan areas use the transit systems everyday to get to and from work and for other travel as well.

This substantial lowers a resident’s cost of transportation in these metropolitan areas. In fact, many individuals in these cities find they can along just fine without the cost of owning and the cost of operating an automobile.

Posted by GetToTheTruth | Report as abusive

The high cost of real estate in large cities probably increases the rents that the local businesses have to pay. The higher rents probably get reflected in higher prices for food, clothing, and services like gym memberships. Insurance costs might also be higher in a large city.

Why doesn’t this article look at the total cost of living in a large city versus a smaller city? Shouldn’t those statistics be available?

Posted by nose2066 | Report as abusive

Why has this article selectively picked two costs instead of the total cost of living for comparison?

Posted by nose2066 | Report as abusive