Is New York really cheaper than Miami?
The Center for Neighborhood Technology recently issued a report suggesting that compact cities with high housing costs (such as New York or San Francisco) might actually be less expensive than otherwise cheaper but car-dependent areas such as South Florida and Southern California. As provocative as this report is, it seems at first glance to be the opposite of my own personal experience: I am definitely saving less in New York than I was in Jacksonville. How come?
*I don't work downtown. If I worked in the urban core I could take a subway to work, and the subway is of course far cheaper than car ownership. But because my job is in sprawl, I have to spend about $200-300 per month in commuter train fare, which means I am not much better off than if I had brought my car to New York.
*I am in a business where wages don't keep pace with the cost of living. I earn about 30 percent more in nominal dollars than in Jacksonville- an amount quickly swallowed up by taxes and rent. But in some occupations, wage differentials are much greater; for example, in the finance industry New Yorkers probably earn far more, if only because there are occupations in New York that probably don't exist in Jacksonville.
This doesn't mean that CNT's insights are misguided; it does mean, however, that your occupation and where you work within a city may affect your prosperity more than what city you live in. And in particular, "job sprawl" to suburbia means that even if you live in an urban area you may be subjected to suburban-style transportation costs.
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