Are LA’s sky-high housing costs holding you back from owning a home? Do you long for distinct seasons? In uber-urban Chicago, housing is reasonably priced, and the seasons bring diverse pleasures that Los Angeles just can’t deliver. Not only is Chicago’s public transit excellent, but the Downtown ‘Pedway’ links 40 blocks via pedestrian-friendly tunnels and covered bridges. With so many walkable, bike-friendly neighborhoods, imagine the savings of not having to own and maintain a car.

As you ponder your move, we provide some basic info to help you see if a move to Chicago is right for you.

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What to Know About Moving from Los Angeles to Chicago

Housing and Cost of Living

Moving to Chicago from Los Angeles puts you in the realm of homeownership. The median home cost in Los Angeles is $689,500, while in Chicago, it’s substantially lower at $229,100. If you plan to buy a home, Chicago offers excellent equity growth – with 19% appreciation over the past five years. Even though the appreciation isn’t as incredible as LA’s 43% over the same period, a Chicago home purchase is a sound investment.

Rentals are more affordable too. About 59% of LA residents rent their homes and pay an average of $2,000 for a two-bedroom. In Chicago, 48% rent and pay an average of $1,320 for a two-bedroom apartment or house.

Compared to the average US cost of living index of 100, the overall cost of living in Chicago is 107. In LA, it’s 173, due mainly to the high housing costs. The essential items that cost less in Chicago are food, groceries, and transportation. Health and utility costs are about the same. The family median income in both cities is almost equal – in LA, it’s $61,092, and Chicago it’s a fraction higher at $61,618. Though your paycheck might be similar, it will likely stretch a lot further in Chicago.

Taxes

Chicago taxes are high, and after the 2020 election, the Illinois state income tax may increase.

  • The Cook County property tax rate averages 2.009% on assessed home value. The US average is 1.21%, and in Los Angeles, if you own your home, you’ve been paying an average .793% property tax rate.
  • LA sales tax averages 9.5%. In Chicago, the sales tax is 10.25%.
  • The average California state income tax is 9.3%, whereas Illinois state income tax averages 4.95%. After the 2020 election, be sure to check if Illinois passed a proposed graduated income tax that will mean higher taxes for many residents.

Economy and Job Growth

Both cities experienced sluggish job growth in 2019 –  -0.2% in Chicago and 0.7% in LA. Future growth is predicted to be 35% in LA over the next ten years and 26% in Chicago. 

Despite slow job growth, Chicago and LA share the distinction of having some of the most dynamic economies in the world. Similar industrial sectors that fuel their economies include health care, education, trade, high-tech, transportation, utilities, manufacturing, and finance. Los Angeles ranks as the sixth most competitive financial center in the US; Chicago ranks third.

Transportation and Traffic

Moving from Los Angeles to Chicago will give you the option of living car-free. CTA trains and busses can efficiently and conveniently whisk you around compact Chicago – and that’s why, although the Chicago commute is four minutes longer one way – 28% of Chicagoans use public transportation compared to 10% of Angelinos.

Despite the four seasons, 7% of Chicagoans walk to work compared to 3.5% in LA. The Pedway links 40 blocks in the Central Business District by tunnels and enclosed bridges. Chicago also has a very popular bike-sharing system called the Divvy.

The overall Chicago walk score is 78, transit is 65, and the bike score is 72, but many neighborhoods are exceptionally walkable and have excellent access to public transportation. In Los Angeles, the walk score is 67, transit is 53, and the bike score is 55.

Weather and Climate

If you long for the delights of four seasons, Chicago won’t disappoint. As fall approaches, head down to The Magnificent Mile to shop for a winter wardrobe. The shorts and flipflops you wear on a January weekend in Los Angeles won’t cut it in Chicago’s winter. The January low drops to 17 °F, and the high makes it up 31 °F. In LA, you’re used to January lows of 46 and highs of around 68. Average July high temps are almost the same in both cities. The average July high in Chicago is a humid 83.9 °F. LA’s average July high is a dry 83.6.

Los Angeles only gets 15” of annual rainfall, which translates to 284 sunny days each year. Chicago only gets 189 sunny days, about 38” of rain annually, and 38 inches of snow. LA residents deal with seasonal Santa Ana winds that fuel wildfires. Chicagoans deal with wind-chill that can take temps down to -10 °F. 

Crime Rates

Crime rates in Chicago are higher than both the national average and LA’s rates. 

The national average for violent crime is 23. In LA, the violent crime rate is 29, and in Chicago, it’s over twice the national average at 50. The national average for property crime is 35, and the same in LA. Property crime in Chicago is 46.

Like all big cities, crime does exist, but many neighborhoods are safe and secure. Check online crime maps to see where pockets of crime are most prevalent and learn about the crime types and frequency in the areas you’re considering. 

Culture, Diversity, and Demographics

At 468 square miles, LA is over twice the size of Chicago’s 227 square miles. With Los Angeles’ 4,000,000 residents, the population density is 28% lower than in Chicago. With 2,840,000 residents, Chicago has 11,974 people per square mile compared to 8,427 in Los Angeles. 

Both cities are ethnically diverse but with a different ratio among the population. Chicago is 33% White compared to 28% in LA, 30% African American compared to 9% in LA, 29 % Hispanic compared to 49% in LA, and 6% Asian compared to 12% in LA. Both cities have 0.1% Native American residents.

Since 2000, Chicago’s population has decreased by 6% because many people moved to the suburbs. In contrast, the LA population has grown by 7% since 2000. The majority of residents in both cities are registered Democrats – 74% in Chicago and 72% in Los Angeles.

Geography

Large bodies of water distinctly influence both cities. The Pacific Ocean forms LA’s western border while Lake Michigan forms Chicago’s eastern border. Both the Pacific and Lake Michigan directly impact each city’s climate by moderating the city’s winter and summer temperatures. Lake Michigan can also cause ‘lake-effect’ snow, which boosts the snowfall amount in the city.

Things to Do

Chicago’s extraordinary Art Deco architecture must be seen and appreciated. There are walking tours, but the guided boat tour on the Chicago River is dramatic and fascinating. 

Even in urban Chicago, each season brings various highlights and delights to the forest preserves, parks, cycling and running trails, and the 28-mile lakefront. From the active theater, entertainment, and arts scene, major shopping, and sports, to kayaking the system of canals and rivers, the Windy City truly has something for everyone every day of the year. See more on things to do in Chicago here.

Food

LA may have great food, but wait till you sink your teeth into one of Chicago’s three iconic food groups: beloved Chicago Deep Dish Pizza, Italian beef sandwich, and Chicago-style hot dog. People from all over the world live in food-centric Chicago where you’ll find cuisines in all ethnicities and price points among Chicago’s 8,000 restaurants.

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Best Neighborhood in Chicago

Part of what makes Chicago a great city is its 77 distinct neighborhoods. Each has its own history, personality, culture, and amenities. 

Albany Park

The 52,000 ethnically diverse residents of Albany Park celebrate their differences by coming together in the thriving restaurant scene, locally-owned shops, and neighborhood events. Housing is affordable in this walkable area, and public transportation is convenient. Learn more about Albany Park here.

Hyde Park

Tucked in between the University of Chicago and the Museum of Science and Industry, historic Hyde Park is ethnically diverse. Located on Chicago’s southside along Lake Michigan, classic Chicago architecture defines the style of row houses, cottages, villas, and some mansions. Find out more details about Hyde Park here.

River West

Smaller and more intimate, River West is home to about 3,000 residents who choose this neighborhood for its quieter vibe. Developers have converted warehouses into loft-style condos, plus you can find townhomes and sleek mid- and high-rise condos. People come from all over Chicago for the famous restaurant scene. Here’s where you can learn more about River West.

Wicker Park

Galleries, restaurants, exciting nightlife, and entertainment venues – especially happening music –  make Wicker Park hip and trendy. Young professionals and everyone else who loves living in a thriving urban environment enjoy this neighborhood of about 23,000 residents. Excellent schools and proximity to Downtown add to the allure. Check out more about Wicker Park here.

Lincoln Park

From the extensive park that’s the neighborhood’s namesake to shopping, dining, bars, and clubs, Lincoln Park offers its 67,000 residents convenient and entertaining amenities. Housing ranges from beautiful historic brownstones to vintage apartment buildings, so both prospective home buyers and renters can find something in their price range. Find out more about Lincoln Park here.

South Loop

Single-family homes, loft-style condos, and apartments fill South Loop with a variety of housing types. Chicago’s major museums are close-by, and 319-acre Grant Park hosts events and festivals throughout the summer. Restored historic structures and new buildings add to South Loop’s recent revival as a very desirable neighborhood. Here are more details about South Loop.

Logan Square

If you’re looking for an urban neighborhood that combines family-friendly amenities with an exciting nightlife scene, Logan Square is for you. Eccentric, trendy, and old-school mix together to make Logan Square one of Chicago’s most popular neighborhoods. Learn more about Logan Square here.

Roscoe Village

About 17,000 residents live in bike-friendly Roscoe Village. With its cozy restaurants, hip breweries, and locally-owned shops, you’ll find all the amenities you could want. This urban neighborhood has a relaxed vibe among its charming single-family homes, apartments, townhomes, condos, and converted lofts. Want to know more about Roscoe Village


Cost of Moving from Los Angeles to Chicago

On average, it costs about $3000-$4000 to move from Los Angeles to Chicago. Though this might sound expensive, consider that you are hauling your stuff about 2,015 miles across the country. The total cost of your move will depend on several variables, including your origin and destination zip codes, the time of year you’re moving, the size of your household, and which services you require. The best way to get an accurate estimate is by scheduling an in-home or virtual (no contact) walkthrough with a licensed and insured interstate mover. Get free moving quotes from the best LA to Chicago movers now!

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Patricia McBratney

Between working as a clinical educational therapist and flipping houses, Patty’s lifelong love of horses found her riding the remote... Read More