Moving to Philadelphia from NYC: Is it Worth it for WFH Employees?

Posted on Apr 27, 2021


COVID-19’s impact on the workplace is still being felt - a recent Gallup poll found that an incredible 56% of the U.S. workforce reported working from home “sometimes” or “always” in January. Unsurprisingly, the shift in working more from home - and going out less frequently - has caused plenty of Americans to re-evaluate their living situations. 

Big cities like NYC and San Francisco were cities with some of the highest cost-of-living standards - so when the opportunity arose for employees to flee their tiny, expensive apartments, many of them chose to leave.

As a result, hundreds of New Yorkers have been moving to nearby Philadelphia this year in search of more space and affordable housing, without giving up the benefits of living in a major city.

Is the move worth it? Here’s what you should consider. 

Working from Home:

New York City:

One of the big benefits of being a WFH employee in New York is the number of co-working spaces available. Even when people have entire houses to work from, a co-working space can provide the sense of home/work division and can also allow for “in-person” connections between co-workers and others, which can help foster better work and networking relationships (and to some extent, mental health). New York has easily over 100 co-working spaces. The sheer number of co-working spaces available also means that NYers don’t need to walk far to “commute”! 

It’s likely that the very reason co-working spaces have proliferated so much, though, is because New Yorkers were tired of working in their bedroom or from a cramped living room. The cost of living is high in New York, and the pandemic was rife with stories of multiple roommates having to work from a single shared living room.

On the plus side for those looking to buy a home: COVID-19 had a dramatic impact on New York’s housing market and prices plunged. Buy now though, because this trend is unlikely to last forever.

Philadelphia:

Philadelphia is nothing to sneeze at when it comes to co-working spaces: this is one of the largest cities in the U.S. and home to a wide variety of corporate headquarters and tech startups that hire WFH employees. While it can’t boast New York’s volume, there’s a variety of intriguing spaces to choose from, including options like Thrive Philadelphia - which is dog-friendly, offers onsite parking, and complimentary coffee. Depending on which guide you consult, Philly has approximately 30 co-working spaces spread throughout the metropolitan area. 

While the Philadelphia co-working world may still be in its early development stages, Philly housing offers more opportunity to comfortably work from home - which provided a welcome relief during the shut-down days of the pandemic when traditional WFH locations like coffee shops and libraries closed their doors. Plenty of young professionals are able to afford one-bedrooms or even modest two bedrooms in the city, especially if they can be flexible on the location.

Cost of Living

Most people know that New York is one of the most expensive American cities to live in, so it’s probably not surprising to learn that it has a higher cost of living than Philadelphia. Depending on your familiarity with the two, though, you might be surprised by just how different the cost disparity is.

According to data from bestplaces.net, to maintain the same standard of living as someone making $68,820 in Philadelphia, one would need to earn approximately $130,000 in New York - a fairly sizable difference. (their data does not include child care or taxes, and assumes home ownership).

Cost of Living Indexes (100 = the U.S. average)

Overall Index

  • Philadelphia: 101.2
  • New York: 187.2

Food and Groceries 

  • Philadelphia: 102.5
  • New York: 116.6

Utilities

  • Philadelphia: 107.7
  • New York: 150.5

Tax Rate* (for single individual making $80,000/year)

  • Philadelphia: 3.07% to state, 3.8809% to city
  • New York: 6.09% to state, 3.876% to city

*Calculated using SmartAsset's paycheck calculator

Housing

Housing might represent the most striking difference, especially for employees who now have the option to work from home. While it is still quite feasible for a young professional to buy a home with an office space in it in Philadelphia - even on their own - the same isn’t true in New York. 

Housing index

  • New York: 294.3
  • Philadelphia: 66.3

Median Home Price

  • New York: $765,000
  • Philadelphia: $260,000

Median Rent

  • New York: $3,628 
  • Philadelphia: $1,672

Median Apartment Size

  • New York: 702 sq. feet.
  • Philadelphia: 801 sq. feet

Network Effect

One thing that might swing you in favor of NYC is the sheer availability of opportunities. Thousands of national and international companies have opted to headquarter there in order to retain talent. Even if you’re allowed to work from home, being able to come into an office sometimes can help boost your chances of landing a job with a top company.

Number of Businesses Per City

  • New York: 200,000
  • Philadelphia: 29,100

Fortune 500 Company Headquarters

  • New York: 54
  • Philadelphia: 14

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia has even fewer businesses per capita than most similar-sized East Coast cities (possibly because the Philly metro area is more decentralized than other cities, meaning that additional jobs are located beyond the city limits in areas like KOP).

While nearly 30,000 businesses still indicates a thriving local economy, there is nearly unlimited career opportunity in New York for most industries -  whereas in Philadelphia certain employees may find their industry is under-represented. 

If you’re starting out in your career, New York may be a better city for meeting industry contacts organically. Even though New York is expensive - and you will probably live in a much smaller apartment - career-minded individuals may find it difficult to put a price on how valuable this contact is.

That said, Philadelphia is home to multiple top-rated schools and universities that continue to help propel the city upward with young talent and new ideas. And for young entrepreneurs who are looking to make their own mark - rather than simply get hired at someone else’s company - Philadelphia may be the perfect place. 

According to a new report by startup research firm Startup Genome, Philadelphia is the top emerging startup ecosystem in the U.S. Among its global peers, Philadelphia also came in #8 for total early-stage funding, with an estimated $276.7 million invested in early-stage startups from 2017 to 2018. 

For young professionals eager to accelerate their careers, startups can be a great way to learn fast and potentially get in on a future top company on the ground floor.

Transportation

Whether you need to commute to an office, get to a coffee shop, or simply meet up with friends, transportation can make a big difference in your life. NYC is famed for its subway system, but at the same time, complaints about it are at an all-time high. Still, NYC's MTA offers unparalleled access to all corners of the city sans vehicle.

Though Philadelphia doesn’t have as extensive a transportation system, it’s a small enough city that about 71% of residents are able to commute to work without a car, and the regional rail system extends far out into the surrounding suburbs. 

Average Commute Time

  • NYC: 43 minutes 
  • Philadelphia: 51 minutes

Cost of Public Transportation Monthly Pass

  • NYC: $127
  • Philadelphia: $105 (for zone 1: additional zones are more expensive)

So: Should I move to New York City or Philadelphia if I WFH?

It's hard to go wrong with either NYC or Philadelphia - both are vibrant East Coast cities with plenty of job and networking opportunities. And at the end of the day, Philadelphia to New York is only an hour and a half away by train!

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