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Cost of Living in the US and China Essay

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Updated: Dec 31st, 2021


The 21st century has seen the emergence of China as a global economy giant and it has even surpassed Japan which has for long enjoyed the status of a leading economy only second to the US. Many people accept the fact that the Chinese economy will continue to rise and will soon be competing with that of the US, written on paper, this is no mean task if the current economies of the two economies is anything to go by. Statistics for the fiscal year ending 31st December 2009 indicate that the Chinese GDP stood at $4.99 trillion during the third quarter of the same year, a far small figure in comparison to that of the US, which stood at $14.266 trillion. This is despite the fact that the US economy had registered a -2.4% GDP while China’s GDP growth was 9.1% (Economy Watch, para 1).

The US economy, as earlier stated, is way above that of China and is projected to retain its ranking as the world’s largest economy for many years to come. China’s main source of economic growth is its population of 1.3 billion, most of who are poor; however, this population is set to decline, thanks to the one child policy. In contrast, the US population is speedily rising and according to census results, the population is expected to peak 570 million by 2100. The GDP per capita, which gives a rough value of the value of goods produced per person, is $3.677 in China while that of the US is $46,442 and this implies that more Americans are involved in nation building (Johnson, para. 2).

Cost of Living in China

As earlier said, the main force behind the Chinese economy is its large population base of unskilled labor force, most of who are poor. Despite the economic progress that has been made, the benefits are yet to trickle down to the Chinese citizens. Inequalities exist in the country in terms of access of basic amenities and even income mainly due to the liberalization of the markets. Per capita income (annual income per household) is approximately $2,000, a very low figure in comparison to global standards, this places it at 107th out of 179 nations (JustLanded, para. 6).

The cost of living in the country in the country has increased with economic progress that China has undergone recently. Shanghai, Beijing and Hong Kong are some of the cities with the highest standards of living in the world. Rents for high-rise apartments can go as high as $ 10,000 per month or more. Education too does not come cheaply and if one moves within the ‘higher circles’ of the society, he must be prepared to pay Western prices at classy restaurants and other places.

However, the cost of living can be quite cheap if one opts to live on the bottom and lower circles. Rail transport is the main mode of transport in the country and the length of the rail network has quadrupled since the mid 20th century. This rail network covers the entire nation. Larger cities have, in addition to the rail network, a metro system either developed or in the process of development. The rail network offers a cheap mode of transport in the country, a large proportion of the population own bicycles that are used for short-distance journeys. The agricultural sector is the largest source of employment in the country, almost 40 percent of the total workforce is employed in this sector, implying that agricultural goods come at a fairly cheaper price, most households in the largely rural areas also practice subsistence farming. Other items such as clothes come cheaply due to the vast number of industries that make fabric.

Despite the low cost of living, China faces a shortage of housing facilities attributed to the large population and to the government policy of directing funds to its industries. Access to clean water is also a challenge due to the population factor that has led to a scramble for the available water resources, many residents have turned to bottled water. Besides, environmental degradation has occurred on a large scale, partly contributing to a water shortage, soil erosion and desertification.

Cost of Living in the US

The cost of living, just like that of China, follows on location and lifestyle. Big cities such as Los Angeles, California and New York have high living costs. Being the richest country in the world, the American workforce is one of the best paid in the world and this is bound to push up the cost of living, hence its number one global ranking in terms of economy and quality of life come as no surprise. The cost of food, household materials and luxury also vary between the states but most Americans can afford these quite comfortably.

Food and drinks are available cheaply at retail food outlets most of which sell hotdogs, waffles and pretzels. On average, one spends 7 to 13 dollars a day on food. However, having meals in luxurious hotels at the heart of the city can cost up to 700 dollars. Clothing can also be cheaply obtained from 99-cent shops, flea markets and bargain stores that are spread around the country. A number of Chinese-made clothing is also available cheaply on designated areas. Designer labels are also available in stores for those who can afford them (Moveforward, para. 11).

Housing in the cities can be very expensive, some of which may cost as much as $ 3,750 per month, however, the city suburbs offer a cheaper alternative. In fact, residence in the city is enjoyable as there is more space than in the cities. The cost of purchasing homes fell due to the recent global recession and this allows most of the residents to make home purchases.

College education is very high as compared to that of China with annual college fee ranging from $10,000 to $60,000. Generally, the cost of living in America is quite high and even though the salaries are high, other expenses such as transport, housing, electricity and water take up much of this income.


Even though the US economy is almost thrice that of China, the cost of living in the former is way above that of the latter. This is due to the costs associated with supporting a large economy such as government taxes, maintenance, expansion and construction of new infrastructure such as transport and communication networks. Apart from that, the US has a high military spending, making up almost a half of the world’s total military spending.

Going by the facts and figures presented above and with a choice of the two countries, the best country to live in would be China for a low-income earner while the US would be suitable for a mid-level of high-income earner.

Works Cited

EconomyWatch. . (N. d).

Johnson, David. China v the United States: The economic comparison. 2007.

Just Landed. . 2010.

Moveforward, Cost of Living in the united States. 2009. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Cost of Living in the US and China." December 31, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/cost-of-living-in-the-us-and-china/.


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