Families Spend $9,000 More a Year to Live in City vs. Suburbs

Basic living expenses, like mortgage payments and child care, cost families significantly more in urban vs. suburban neighborhoods, according to Zillow and Care.com

City living comes with a premium in most major metros, especially for families with kids. Nationally, families spend an average of $9,073 more per year to cover basic housing and child care costs in the city than in the suburbs, according to a new Cost of Living analysis from Zillow and Care.com (NYSE: CRCM; www.care.com), the world’s largest online platform for finding and managing family care.i

To help with budgeting this home-shopping season, Zillow and Care.com identified three common living expenses (property taxes, mortgage payments and child care costs based on rates listed on Care.com) and calculated how much they cost around the country.

Nationally, families living in the city spend $43,652 a year on housing and child care. Yet, in the suburbs they spend just $34,579. New York, Chicago and Dallas have the highest variance between urban and suburban living, with city dwellers paying as much as $71,237 more a year, or nearly $6,000 extra a month. However, city living is not always more expensive. In Philadelphia and Baltimore, families could pay up to $14,000 more a year to live in the suburbs.

While high property taxes and rising home prices are usually the reasons why city living is more expensive, child care can also play a part. In Minneapolis, child care is nearly $4,119 more a year in the city, but housing costs are actually $189 cheaper.

“Deciding whether to live in the city or suburbs is a personal choice, but when you do the math, it’s easy to see why moving to the suburbs is about more than just a bigger yard – it can also save you a lot of money,” says Svenja Gudell, Zillow chief economist. “More than a third of families exceed their initial budget when buying a home, according to the Zillow® Group Consumer Trends Report, so before embarking on a move, consider the cost of living beyond just the home’s sticker price.”

In addition to potentially cheaper living costs, the median suburban home is nearly 280 square feet larger. Meanwhile, reported commute times are roughly the same between urban and suburban residents.ii

“Figuring out where your family will live and grow is arguably one of the most exciting and daunting times in a parent’s life,” added Joyce Hodel, data scientist at Care.com. “While moving to the suburbs often brings significant cost savings, city living can still be the right choice for some families and is less expensive in certain metro areas. The Care.com and Zillow Cost of Living Report aims to help families understand how their family’s housing and child care costs may change before making that big family move.”

ClassificationMetro Classification Property Taxes
and Mortgage Payment
Annual Child Care
Costs (Child
Care Center
for 2 Kids)
Total
Annual
Housing
and Child
Care
Expenses
Suburban
vs. Urban
Living
Cost
Difference
Median
Sq. Ft.
Median
Commute
Time
(Minutes)
United States Suburban $15,006 $  19,573 $34,579 ($9,073) 1,654 27.7
United States Urban $22,271 $  21,381 $43,652 1,375 26.9
Atlanta, GA Suburban $13,569 $  17,236 $30,805 ($12,557) 1,988 30.6
Atlanta, GA Urban $22,435 $  20,927 $43,362 1,611 28.3
Austin, TX Suburban $17,279 $  18,989 $36,268 ($11,522) 1,988 26.3
Austin, TX Urban $25,661 $  22,129 $47,790 1,416 21.9
Baltimore, MD Suburban $15,568 $  19,493 $35,061 $  10,790 1,525 30.9
Baltimore, MD Urban $5,904 $  18,367 $24,271 1,292 30.9
Birmingham, AL Suburban $13,338 $  20,820 $34,158 ($696) 1,523 25.7
Birmingham, AL Urban $16,498 $  18,356 $34,854 1,360 23.1
Boston, MA Suburban $24,483 $  27,078 $51,561 ($8,076) 1,666 30.6
Boston, MA Urban $32,130 $  27,507 $59,637 1,262 27.9
Chicago, IL Suburban $28,408 $  20,386 $48,794 ($18,472) 1,532 30.2
Chicago, IL Urban $45,335 $  21,931 $67,266 1,241 31.9
Cincinnati, OH Suburban $15,267 $  16,613 $31,880 $5,514 1,604 24.1
Cincinnati, OH Urban $12,607 $  13,759 $26,366 1,420 22.2
Cleveland, OH Suburban $15,134 $  17,513 $32,647 $9,034 1,572 24.3
Cleveland, OH Urban $7,625 $  15,988 $23,613 1,356 23.7
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX Suburban $14,342 $  16,373 $30,715 ($14,128) 1,893 26.8
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX Urban $24,417 $  20,426 $44,843 1,639 24.6
Denver, CO Suburban $44,875 $  21,184 $66,059 $3,635 1,642 27.1
Denver, CO Urban $40,564 $  21,860 $62,424 1,215 24.9
Houston, TX Suburban $12,584 $  15,268 $27,852 ($5,368) 1,964 28.3
Houston, TX Urban $16,538 $  16,682 $33,220 1,700 25.9
Las Vegas, NV Suburban $15,934 $  17,711 $33,645 $7,318 1,800 23.4
Las Vegas, NV Urban $10,481 $  15,846 $26,327 1,478 24.5
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Suburban $34,943 $  21,280 $56,223 $407 1,608 28.5
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA Urban $34,042 $  21,774 $55,816 1,386 28.3
Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL Suburban $16,298 $  16,860 $33,158 ($1,943) 1,483 26.8
Miami-Fort Lauderdale, FL Urban $16,437 $  18,664 $35,101 1,222 27.5
Milwaukee, WI Suburban $14,100 $  21,246 $35,346 $8,227 1,419 22.7
Milwaukee, WI Urban $7,431 $  19,688 $27,119 1,271 22.2
Minneapolis-St Paul, MN Suburban $14,899 $  19,970 $34,869 ($3,930) 1,351 24.7
Minneapolis-St Paul, MN Urban $14,710 $  24,089 $38,799 1,250 22.8
New Orleans, LA Suburban $25,180 $  14,165 $39,345 $836 1,792 25.6
New Orleans, LA Urban $  23,675 $  14,834 $38,509 1,661 21.1
New York, NY Suburban $  28,668 $  23,253 $51,921 ($71,237) 1,704 32.6
New York, NY Urban $  101,590 $  21,568 $123,158 1,428 35.2
Philadelphia, PA Suburban $  19,439 $  19,575 $39,014 $13,859 1,760 27.5
Philadelphia, PA Urban $7,402 $  17,753 $25,155 1,254 29.6
Phoenix, AZ Suburban $32,097 $  17,110 $49,207 $6,567 1,792 26.7
Phoenix, AZ Urban $  26,893 $  15,747 $42,640 1,560 23.7
Pittsburgh, PA Suburban $10,988 $  17,185 $28,173 $4,258 1,452 26.4
Pittsburgh, PA Urban $6,916 $  16,999 $23,915 1,420 25.3
Portland, OR Suburban $21,909 $  19,938 $41,847 ($7,998) 1,625 24.9
Portland, OR Urban $26,575 $  23,270 $49,845 1,452 25.6
Providence, RI Suburban $16,394 $  20,473 $36,867 $6,974 1,483 25.3
Providence, RI Urban $12,389 $  17,504 $29,893 1,296 22.8
Sacramento, CA Suburban $19,555 $  18,873 $38,428 ($10,822) 1,683 26.4
Sacramento, CA Urban $25,847 $  23,403 $49,250 1,428 23.3
San Antonio, TX Suburban $11,378 $  16,135 $27,513 $2,474 1,770 24.3
San Antonio, TX Urban $8,126 $  16,913 $25,039 1,418 23.8
San Diego, CA Suburban $30,996 $  21,398 $52,394 $4,555 1,633 24.8
San Diego, CA Urban $27,803 $  20,036 $47,839 1,336 24.4
San Francisco, CA Suburban $46,087 $  26,177 $72,264 ($12,560) 1,596 30.2
San Francisco, CA Urban $52,730 $  32,094 $84,824 1,315 29.6
San Jose, CA Suburban $59,539 $  27,991 $87,530 $1,628 1,565 25.2
San Jose, CA Urban $55,388 $  30,514 $85,902 1,525 23.7
Seattle, WA Suburban $21,289 $  22,003 $43,292 ($11,376) 1,816 28.8
Seattle, WA Urban $28,349 $  26,319 $54,668 1,592 26.8
Washington, DC Suburban $21,425 $  21,660 $43,085 ($12,832) 1,724 35.2
Washington, DC Urban $28,134 $  27,783 $55,917 1,292 34.1

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