Housing Cost Comparison: Boston and Omaha

Worlds apart, Boston, Mass. and Omaha, NE. tell very different stories with publicly available data on housing costs. Since my little brother recently moved to Omaha, I thought it would be worthwhile to draw some comparisons to give myself a more relative understanding of his new home through numbers.

Before jumping straight into the numbers about housing, it first helps to compare the median household incomes of each city. For 2019, the most recent year with data available, Boston — at $79,018 — has a 28.89 percent higher medium annual income than Omaha — at $61,305. However, the median property value in Boston ($627,000) is 256.66 percent higher. In the charts below, you can see that a major contributor to the much higher median value in Boston isn’t just higher prices overall, but a dramatic concentration of properties into the highest end of the price range. A massive portion of Boston’s housing market, 33.7 percent, lies at the $500,000 price point, whereas Omaha’s housing cost distribution makes up a much more gradual and spread-out bell curve. Note that for the charts below, the Y-axis are not a scale comparison to each other.

Property Value Distribution: Boston

Image provided by Data USA

Property Value Distribution: Omaha

Image provided by Data USA

The high cost of property in Boston, when compared to Omaha, is likely one major contributor to the differing ratios of homeowners to renters as well. With such a higher barrier to entry into homeownership and low availability of affordable housing in the low end, only 34.7 percent of Boston’s population are homeowners – compared to 58.4 percent in Omaha. It’s worth mentioning that Boston’s high ratio of renters may also come from its much higher college student population per capita. With a population of 150,415 graduate and undergraduate students in 2019, Boston had a student population of 0.220 per capita, more than double Omaha’s 0.102 students per capita (compiled from this list of colleges in Omaha).

Impressions would seem that, while Boston may be a city of academic opportunities, it doesn’t look quite as promising for young professionals. Withholding the raw numbers, I can say that while my brother’s new income at his first job post-graduation is roughly 62 percent higher than my student job in Boston, his rent is also 48 percent lower. Hopefully he’s saving up to buy a house!

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