10 Top US Cities Compared by Months of Work to Pay Rent

Here’s how many months you’ll have to work to pay the rent in the ten biggest cities in America: Anywhere from two to 11.5 months of the year.

The trend seems to be that the higher the population, the longer people have to work to pay the rent. It’s not really a surprise that people in bigger cities pay higher rents. What may come as more of a shock is that the income levels in bigger cities don’t make up for the increased rent as much as the conventional wisdom would expect. Quite the contrary in fact.

Using median rent prices and median incomes doesn’t always work with high fidelity because there’s a high number of studio apartments in every city, dragging the average and median rent costs down. In most of our chosen cities, the typical rent payment didn’t get much more than a live-in shoebox. In San Jose California there weren’t even any apartments available at all for the “typical” rental price. For that reason, we started with median prices but dug a little deeper, looking for actual apartments for rent that matched our data.

1. New York, NY: 5 to 11.5 Months

With a population of over eight million people, New York has a median household income of about $51,000 and a median rent cost of $1,100. At that rate, the typical New York family would have to work only three months to cover their rent for the year.

rent in ten cities new york

A typical single renter in Manhattan will work 5 months to pay for the one room studio beyond this door.

These numbers don’t tell the whole story. In Brooklyn, for example, the average rental unit goes for $2,700. A family living in Brooklyn and making New York’s median income actually has to work seven and a half months to make rent. In Manhattan where the average rent is about $4,000, a family making the typical income would work all but two weeks of the year to cover their rent.

What about that median rent? A little searching found an apartment for $850 in midtown Manhattan. It’s a one room studio. Hardly digs for a family. A single renter could nab it, but since the median single income in the city is about $25,000, even a typical single person renting this studio would have to work five months to pay for it.

2. Los Angeles, CA: 4 to 5 Months

With California’s notorious reputation for expensive rents, shouldn’t it take longer to earn the rent in LA than in NYC? Maybe not. There’s a lower population density in LA. More land means more sprawl and more places to live, though many of them might not be attractive options.

rent in ten cities los angeles bad area 1250

Paying the median rent in Los Angeles won’t always get you into a nice neighborhood. A two-bedroom here goes for $1,250 a month.

Los Angeles metro has a population of almost four million, a median household income of about $47,000 and median rent of just over $1,200. That would put the typical resident of Los Angeles working about 3.7 months to pay the annual rent. A little searching digs up a two bedroom for rent for the median price. It’s not in the best neighborhood, but a family of two or three could in fact live in it.

rent in ten cities los angeles nice area 1650

The median rent of about $1,700 near the Hollywood Hills will get you this two bedroom apartment.

Again, medians can be misleading. Someone living in a nice neighborhood works longer. The average rent for an apartment in some of the nicer areas of the city is $1,700 a month, forcing the typical family to work about 5 months of the year to pay the rent. A two-bedroom apartment for this price in a nice neighborhood can be had, but they’re few and far between. To the right is a place for the median rent near the Hollywood Hills.

3. Chicago, IL: 3 to 5 Months

rent in ten cities chicagoThe windy city is home to almost three million people. Its median household income is just over $45,000 and the typical rent payment is $855 a month. That means the typical Chicago resident works 2.75 months to pay rent for the year.

Rents in nicer areas of town like Calumet Park on the West side of the lake are considerably higher at around $1,000 to $1,500 a month. Someone living there would work three to five months to cover the rent.

4. Houston, TX: 2 to 8 Months

rent in ten cities houstonHouston’s population of just over two million makes it the fourth largest city in the United States. With a median household income of about $43,000 and a typical rent payment of $683, the typical couple in Houston works just over two months to pay rent for the year.

An apartment in downtown Houston, however, averages $2,560. The typical family living downtown would therefore work more than 8 months to afford their annual rent.

5. Philadelphia, PA: 3 Months

rent in ten cities philadelphia needs updates

This rental unit in Philly goes for the typical rent price but may need updates and is in a shared house.

Philadelphia has a population of about a million and a half. Its residents typically pay $724 a month for rent and make a combined household income of just over $35,000. The typical couple in Philadelphia has to work about three months to pay the annual rent.

An online search turns up several two bedrooms for the median price in the city. One of them, in a so-so neighborhood, is a house share that needs updates.

6. Phoenix, AZ: 2.5 Months

rent in ten cities phoenix exterior

A two bedroom rental in this complex costs about $765 a month in Phoenix.

Phoenix, Arizona has a population of about 1.5 million, a median household income of $44,000 and a median rent of $765 a month. That puts the typical resident of Phoenix working 2.5 months a year to earn rent.

While the apartments available for that price aren’t the Ritz Carlton, they’re livable. We found several two bedrooms in various neighborhoods for the median rent price.

7. San Antonio, TX: 2 Months

rent in ten cities san antonio 16 results

16 results for the median rent price in San Antonio. Nab one of these and work just over two months to earn the rent.

San Antonio, Texas has 1.4 million residents. The typical household pulls in $45,000 a year and pays $691 for rent. That means the median San Antonio resident works 2.2 months a year to pay their rent.

While there are apartments for that price in the city, a search turned up only 16 two-bedrooms that met the criteria within the city limits.

8. San Diego, CA: 3 Months

rent in ten cities san diego two results

Two results here for half the median rent in San Diego. Live in one and work only 1.5 months to earn the rent for the year.

In San Diego, the population sits at about 1.3 million and the median household income is $62,000 a year. The median monthly rent is $1,324, which means the typical San Diego renter works just over 3 months a year to cover the annual rent.

There are 22 two-bedrooms in San Diego for the median price. They’re neither mansions nor closets, but they’re mostly clustered in the Southern part of the city.

The good news? There are two-bedroom apartments for less than half that price in San Diego that aren’t too shabby. The bad news? There’s only two of them for rent. Better hurry.

9. Dallas, TX: 2.6 Months

rent in 10 cities dallas median

A rental unit in Dallas available for the median rent. Live here and work 2.6 months to earn the rent for the year.

In Dallas, with a population of 1.2 million, a median household income of $41,000 and a median rent payment of $728, the typical family works 2.6 months to pay the rent.

Dallas doesn’t fare too badly on a reality check of the numbers above. A search for rents in the typical price range found dozens of good options all over the city. Some even had three bedrooms.

10. San Jose, CA: 2.5 Months (?)

San Jose, California has a population of about a million. It also has a median household income of $80,000 and a median rent of $1,400. The typical San Jose family therefore works about 2.5 months to cover the rent.

rent in ten cities san jose no results medianHere’s the shocker though: a search for two-bedroom rents in that price range in the city found no matching results on Zillow. Not one. Reducing the search criteria to rents with one bedroom turned up a single result. 0 bedrooms? Three results. So how can San Jose have a median rent of $1,400 but nothing available for that price range? Maybe it’s like a giant game of musical chairs and nobody dares to get up.

rent in ten cities san jose 0

Three results for rental units for the median price in San Jose with zero bedrooms.

Raising the rent criteria to $1,700 a month turned up 20 results. Boosting it again to $2,500 turned up 70. At that final rate, a San Jose resident would toil for 4.5 months to earn the rent.



Brooklyn Rental Market Report – MNS.com

Houston Rents Continue to Climb – Houston.Culturemap.com


Images: Streeteasy.com, Apartments.com, Zillow.com, Google Maps.