Seattle vs. Chicago: Comparison on Cost of Living, Crime & Safety, Education

Thinking about Seattle vs. Chicago as your next move? Well, you’re in the right place as we compare both cities!

Both cities offer unique advantages and challenges, making them appealing for different reasons.

This report aims to provide a comprehensive comparison of Seattle and Chicago across multiple dimensions, including financial aspects, safety, career prospects, educational quality, and climate conditions.

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Seattle vs. Chicago Quick Summary:

Avg. 1-Bedroom Rent$1,995/month$2,195/month
Avg. 2-Bedroom Rent$2,768/month$2,718/month
Avg. House Cost$823,900$364,900
Income TaxNo state income tax4.95%
Property Tax1.025%6.697%
Sales Tax10.25%10.25%
Avg. Grocery Bill/Month$399.69/month$327/month
Avg. Healthcare Costs$5,040/year$6,468/year
Overall Crime Rate63 per 1,000 people32.51 per 1,000 people
Violent Crime Rate32.3 per 1,000 people8.70 per 1,000 people
Property Crime Rate76.9 per 1,000 people23.82 per 1,000 people
Police Response Time9.5 minutes5.8 – 12 minutes
Ambulance Response Time11 minutes6 minutes
Avg. Annual Salary$75,569/year$73,828/year
Minimum Wage$18.69/hr$15.80/hr
Unemployment Rate3.4%4.0%
University Rankings#29 in US#14 in US
Graduation Rates86%82.9%
Avg. TemperatureModerate, WetVariable

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1. Cost of Living

While Seattle and Chicago offer similar amenities and lifestyles, Seattle tends to be more expensive in housing but offers savings in areas like income tax and healthcare.

Chicago provides a more affordable housing market but comes with higher property taxes and healthcare costs.

Both cities exceed the national average in most categories, making them pricier options for relocation

Avg. Cost of 1 Bed Room Rent


Seattle’s average 1-bedroom rent of $1,995/month is a bit more affordable than Chicago’s $2,195/month.

For singles or couples, this could mean a savings of around $2,400 annually if you opt for Seattle.

The national average for a 1-bedroom apartment is around $1,620/month, making both cities more expensive than the U.S. average.

🏙️ See the 20 pros and cons of living in Seattle here!

Avg. Cost 2 Bed Room Rent


The average rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in Seattle is $2,768/month, only slightly higher than Chicago’s $2,718/month.

The difference is marginal, so your decision may hinge on other factors like proximity to work or quality of local schools.

Both cities are above the national average of approximately $1,945/month for a 2-bedroom apartment.

Avg. Cost of A House


Seattle’s housing market is notably more expensive, with the average house costing $823,900 compared to Chicago’s $364,900.

This stark difference could be a game-changer for potential homebuyers, especially those looking for long-term investment.

The national average home price is around $408,800, making Seattle significantly more expensive and Chicago more affordable in comparison.

Income Tax

No state income tax4.95%

Seattle offers the advantage of no state income tax, whereas Chicago residents are subject to a 4.95% state income tax.

This could translate to substantial annual savings, especially for high-income earners, if you choose Seattle.

Property Tax


Chicago’s property tax rate of 6.697% is one of the highest in the nation, dwarfing Seattle’s 1.025%.

This could add thousands of dollars to your annual housing costs and is a crucial factor to consider for homeowners.

Sales Tax


Both cities have a high sales tax rate of 10.25%, which is above the national median of around 7%.

This could impact your daily and luxury spending alike.

Avg. Grocery Bill per Month


Seattle’s average grocery bill is $399.69/month, which is higher than Chicago’s $327/month.

While not a massive difference, it could add up over the year. Both are above the national average of approximately $386/month.

Average Healthcare Costs

$5040/year for a single adult$6,468/year for a single adult

Healthcare in Seattle costs around $5,040/year for a single adult, slightly less than Chicago’s $6,468/year.

If healthcare expenses are a significant concern for you, Seattle offers a more affordable option.

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2. Crime & Safety

Safety and security are top priorities when choosing a place to live, and the crime rates and emergency response times in Seattle and Chicago offer contrasting profiles that could influence your decision.

Overall Crime Rate

63 per 1,000 people32.51 per 1,000 people

Seattle’s overall crime rate is notably higher at 63 per 1,000 people compared to Chicago’s 32.51 per 1,000 people.

This is counterintuitive given Chicago’s reputation, but it’s essential to note that crime can be localized within cities.

The national average is around 46 crimes per 1,000 people, making Seattle higher and Chicago lower in comparison.

Violent Crime Rate

32.3 per 1,000 people8.70 per 1,000 people

Surprisingly, Seattle has a much higher violent crime rate at 32.3 per 1,000 people, compared to Chicago’s 8.70 per 1,000 people.

This could be a significant consideration for families or individuals prioritizing personal safety.

The national average for violent crimes is approximately 4 per 1,000 people, making both cities higher but Seattle substantially so.

Property Crime Rate

76.9 per 1,000 people23.82 per 1,000 people

Seattle also has a higher property crime rate at 76.9 per 1,000 people, more than triple Chicago’s 23.82 per 1,000 people.

If you’re concerned about theft, vandalism, or burglary, this is a crucial factor to consider.

The national average for property crime is around 24 per 1,000 people, making Seattle significantly higher and Chicago about average.

Police Response Time

9.5 Minutes5.8 Minutes – 12 Minutes

Chicago’s police response time varies widely, ranging from 5.8 to nearly 12 minutes depending on the district.

Seattle offers more consistency with an average response time of 9.5 minutes.

While the national average is around 10 minutes, the variability in Chicago could be a concern depending on where you live.

Ambulance Response Time

11 Minutes6 Minutes

In medical emergencies, every second counts. Chicago has a faster ambulance response time, averaging 6 minutes, compared to Seattle’s 11 minutes.

The national average for ambulance response time is approximately 8 minutes, making Chicago faster and Seattle slower in this regard.

3. Career & Employment

Amazon Spheres

Career opportunities and employment conditions are crucial considerations for working professionals, especially those contemplating relocation for job prospects.

Seattle offers higher average salaries and a lower unemployment rate, making it potentially more attractive for career-focused individuals.

Those who are looking to work within the tech industry will prefer Seattle as the city has giants like Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing, Expedia.

Average Annual Salary


Seattle offers an average annual salary of $75,569, which is slightly higher than Chicago’s $73,828.

Both cities exceed the national average salary of around $56,000, making them attractive options for professionals.

However, the slightly higher salary in Seattle could be a deciding factor for those maximizing their earning potential.

Minimum Wage


Seattle’s minimum wage stands at $18.69/hr, significantly higher than Chicago’s $15.80/hr.

Both cities are well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr, but Seattle’s higher rate could be particularly beneficial for entry-level or lower-wage workers.

Unemployment Rate


Seattle boasts a lower unemployment rate of 3.4% compared to Chicago’s 4.0%.

Both are below the national average of approximately 4.4%, indicating healthy job markets.

However, Seattle’s slightly lower rate may offer a bit more job security.

4. Education

University of Washington

Education is a cornerstone for personal and community development.

Those who put emphasis on a good education and learning environment will find both Seattle and Chicago above the national average – making either one a good choice.

University Rankings

University of WashingtonChicago
#29 in US#14 in US

Chicago universities hold a higher national ranking, coming in at #14 in the U.S., compared to Seattle’s #29.

For students aiming for top-tier educational opportunities, Chicago may have the edge.

Graduation Rates


Seattle has a slightly higher high school graduation rate at 86%, compared to Chicago’s 82.9%.

The national average is around 85%. Seattle’s above-average rate may indicate a stronger K-12 educational system, which could be a deciding factor for families.

5. Weather and Climate


Weather and climate can profoundly affect your daily life, from the clothes you wear to the activities you can enjoy.

Seattle’s climate is generally more moderate, with wetter Fall and Winters. Chicago’s winters can be harsher and often described as brutal which could be a significant factor for those sensitive to cold.

Average Temperature

Fall45°F – 58°F40°F – 45°F 
Winter40°F – 50°F22°F – 33°F
Spring53°F – 69°F40°F – 71°F 
Summer69°F – 75°F73°F – 82°F

Seattle offers a more temperate climate with milder winters and cooler summers, making it ideal for those who prefer moderate weather.

Chicago, on the other hand, experiences a broader range of temperatures with colder winters and warmer summers.

Weather Characteristics

mild temperatures, considerable cloudiness, and a pronounced rainy seasonVariable climate with cold winters, warm summers.

Seattle is known for its mild temperatures, considerable cloudiness, and a pronounced rainy season.

This could be appealing to those who enjoy the outdoors but prefer to avoid extreme temperatures. Chicago has a more variable climate, featuring cold winters and warm summers.

The city is also known for its wind, earning it the nickname “The Windy City.” Both cities offer distinct experiences for outdoor enthusiasts, but Chicago’s climate may require more adaptability due to its seasonal extremes.

The potential for severe weather events like snowstorms in Chicago could also be a consideration for those deciding between the two cities.


Cost of Living: [1], [2]. [3]. [4]. [5]. [6], [7], [8], [9
Crime: [1], [2], [3], [4]
Career & Employment: [1], [2], [3], [4], [5]
Education: [1]. [2], [3]

Both cities have their pros and cons, and the best choice ultimately depends on your personal priorities, be it financial, educational, or lifestyle-related.

This report aims to serve as a guide in weighing those factors to make the best decision for your circumstances.

See still not sold on Seattle? See how Seattle compares with New York City, Portland, and Houston.