Opinion: Unaffordable Cost of Living in NYC - Data Week


By Dane Feldman

Photo courtesy of Kaysha

While The New York Times points out that New York City is a “relative bargain for the wealthy,” it should be noted that the majority of consumer-based goods are wildly expensive in NYC as compared to other cities.

When contrasted with other major cities in the United States, products sold in NYC unequivocally cost more. According to Numbeo.com, a three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant in NYC costs $80 on average. In Washington, D.C., it costs 10 dollars less while in the assumedly equally expensive Los Angeles, a comparable meal costs just $50.

The price of a pack of Marlboro cigarettes in NYC would push any smoker closer to quitting, especially when compared with the price of a pack in other cities. NYC charges $13 on average, while Chicago charges $9.39, D.C. charges $7, and Los Angeles charges $6.

A pair of Levis 501 jeans costs approximately $52.50 in New York, while the same pair of jeans costs $49 in Chicago, $47.50 in Los Angeles, and $42 in Washington, D.C.

Even in Monaco, one of the world’s most expensive cities where mostly everything costs more than it does in New York, grocery prices still cost 6.68 percent less. Not to mention the fact that a pack of cigarettes costs only $7.05 in Monaco.

On Numbeo.com, all cost of living indexes are created in comparison to New York City. Meaning that, if New York is considered the 100 percent, and another city’s rent index is 120, that means the average rent in that city is 20 percent higher than New York.

So, with that in mind, it should be noted that the United States as a whole has a consumer price index of 80.54 and a groceries index of 80.74. Compensating for rent America’s CPI drops to 59.83, mostly because America’s rent index stands over 60 points below that of New York City at 37.39. When looking at those statistics, it can be nearly impossible to argue why anyone would rather live in New York City than live anywhere else in the United States, financially speaking. Even Norway, the country with the highest consumer price index at 173.85 has a rent index of 68.99.

The New York Times article makes some great points about how great it is to be “the typical New Yorker,” but Catherine Rampell is ruling out the average New Yorker. She focuses her piece on the “highly educated, high-income New Yorkers [who] are surrounded by equally well-educated and well-paid people with similar tastes.” Yet, those New Yorkers aren’t the norm. This specific group of people comprises what fresh-faced New Yorkers and other city-dwellers alike have assumed is the norm.

Film, television, and books have glamorized what it’s like to live in New York City, but truth be told, the average New Yorker isn’t spending $480 on “a pair of sensible, unstylish walking flats from Harry’s Shoes.” New Yorkers are probably more likely to spend $129 on a pair of casual shoes from Shoegasm or DSW.

New Yorkers earned a median household income average of $51,270 between 2007 and 2011. Americans as a whole earned a median household income average of $52,762. Yet, during this time 14.3 percent of Americans lived below the poverty line. New Yorkers living under the poverty level reached an unbelievable 19.4 percent.

Who says New York isn’t affordable? Maybe it is for the superfluously wealthy, but perhaps time to take a second look at the numbers.