The Cost of Living Comparison for the U.S. & China

The Cost of Living Comparison for the U.S. & China
••• china image by Angelika Bentin from

The United States is an affluent country which has one of the highest standards of living in the world. China has, for many years, been left behind economically, but began to pull ahead during the early years of the 21st century. Though still technically a Third World country, China experienced a huge amount of development and worldwide exposure and tourism during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Though China has closed the gap somewhat, as of 2010 a cost comparison between the two shows China considerably more affordable than the U.S. in most ways.


One of the main ways to compare cost of living between two countries is the cost of food. China has an enormous amount of agricultural resources, so it should come as no surprise that food in China overall is drastically cheaper than the U.S. According to the website Numbeo, an inexpensive restaurant meal in America averages around $11.20, while in China it is only $3.69. In China, bottled water comes in at less than 30 cents, while a bottle of water in the U.S. is $1.26 (see references 1). Most groceries in China cost less half the same ones in America, with the exception of dairy products, which are still generally not popular with most Chinese and are often imported.


Rent in both countries depends on location and size of city. Rent costs in a large, cosmopolitan city like Shanghai, Beijing, New York or Boston are much higher than in smaller, less prominent cities. But rent in China is generally cheaper than that for the same kind of place in the U.S. A one-bedroom in a city center may cost around $450 in China, but almost $1,000 in America. A three-bedroom apartment outside the city averages around $1,250 in the United States, but only around $500 in China.


The website Expatistan states that the cost of transportation in Beijing, the capital of China, is more than 50 percent cheaper than Boston’s. A monthly pass for public transportation is around $15 in China but almost $60 in Boston. A three-mile taxi ride may run you $2.50 in China, but more than $13 in America. If you want to buy a car, though, the U.S. has the advantage. In 2010, cars are still a luxury in the People’s Republic, and you will pay more in China than you will in America for the same Volkswagen Golf or equivalent.


Utilities -- electricity, water, gas and Internet service-are almost twice as expensive overall in America than they are in China. Internet service for one month of DSL costs around $15 in China, compared to almost $40 in the U.S., while electricity, garbage service, gas and water combined may only be $22 in China versus almost $200 in America.