city of Pittsburgh, PA

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a friendly, welcoming city with a great deal of history and many scenic views.

The city of Pittsburgh is about 300,000 people alone, but with the surrounding cities, the population stands at over 2 million people.

The more people in a city, the greater your chances of finding activities that suit your activity goals. The more concentrated a population, the more likely you will have to face a high cost of living.

For these reasons, and thanks to its proximity to other major cities such as Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C., many people consider making Pittsburgh their home.

However, although there are many positive aspects to living in Pittsburgh, there are some negative parts, too, and anyone who’s thinking of living in the city should take all of these things into consideration before making a decision.

pittsburgh, pa poster

Cost of Living and housing

The cost of living in Pittsburgh is quite low, which is one of the many benefits of living in the city.

From the grocery store to your weekend family fun, expect to pay a bit less for most of your needs and wants.

On average, a single person will usually spend between $800 and $1,120 per month on living expenses, not including rent.

Comparatively, a single person in New York City will spend about $1,400 per month on living expenses.

The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Pittsburgh is about $1,200, which is almost $1,000 per month less than a similarly sized apartment in New York City.

5 story apartment building

Pros: The cost of housing is much less than in similar cities of its size. If you’re fully committed to the east coast as a home base, you can get a lot more house for your budgeted amount than in other areas of the region.

If you’re interested in historical homes, be aware that the oldest house in Pittsburgh is from the late 18th century. If you want an older fixer-upper, you can probably find one.


Cons:: Pittsburgh does have a bit of sprawl going on. It has the room to spread out and is doing so as new housing starts ramping up again.

If you want a brand new house, you can likely find one. Just be aware that it won’t be cheap. You may also struggle with high traffic during your commute.

While even your utility bills will probably be lower than in other regions of the northeast, do be aware that you will probably need a car as a resident of Pittsburgh.

Without one, you will need to do some planning to get from home to work to errands.


Income Tax

Although the cost of living is low in Pittsburgh, this is somewhat offset by a relatively high-income tax rate.

Pennsylvania has a flat income tax rate of 3.07%, and Pittsburgh residents must pay another 3% on top of that.

Although this tax rate isn’t as high as in some other states, it’s still much higher than in many areas.

income tax label with a calculator

Unemployment Rate

Pittsburgh tends to have a medium unemployment rate, and the rate usually hovers around 6%.

However, many jobs are available, particularly in the food service, nursing, customer service, software development, and administrative assistant fields.

Truck drivers are also in high demand in Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately, because the cost of living isn’t very high in Pittsburgh, the average salary isn’t too high, either.

There are few high-paying jobs available in the city, and residents of Pittsburgh make an average yearly salary of just $54,300.

Pros: The jobs market in Pittsburgh is decent. You can find a job with a large company or you can focus on starting your own business.

Side hustles are popular in Pittsburgh, especially if you can manage crowds and get a gig at a sporting venue.

Cons: Because the cost of living is lower in Pittsburgh, your salary may be as well. If you’re a full-time remote employee and can live anywhere you want, Pittsburgh may be that sweet spot!

job market ad in newspaper

Education System

One of Pittsburgh’s biggest advantages is its excellent school system.

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Pittsburgh’s high schools are generally amongst the top schools in the country, and many of Pennsylvania’s highest-ranked schools are located within the Pittsburgh school system.

Pittsburgh school students also have some of the highest math scores in the country, and most students who graduate from Pittsburgh high schools pursue higher education.

Pros: There are many decent schools in and around Pittsburgh. You can find both private and public education to suit your needs. You can also find all-girl and all-boy schools for your children if this is one of your goals.


Cons: If you’re interested in a top-flight private education for yourself or your children, Pittsburgh may not be your city. The difference between good and great is a consideration when making this choice.

kids running into school

Culture

Culture is a very important part of Pittsburgh. Anyone living in the city will be able to enjoy a wide range of options for restaurants, museums, theaters, or music.

Some of the most popular museums in the city include the Andy Warhol Museum, the Carnegie Science Center, the Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

The Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens are also popular.

Because of its historic location, history buffs will also find a lot to love about the city. Anyone interested in learning more about the area’s history can stop at Point State Park, the Fort Pitt Block House, or the Neill Log House, or take a stroll through the Fourth Avenue Historic District.

Pros: You could visit one museum every Saturday and be busy for a long time when you move to Pittsburgh.

Cons: As mentioned, Pennsylvania has a fairly high state income tax, depending on your income of course. Part of enjoying culture is paying for it, and the state of Pennsylvania does contribute to museums in many cities.

Crime

One of Pittsburgh’s biggest drawbacks is its incredibly high crime rate. The crime rate is about 53% higher in Pittsburgh than the national average, and the two most common types of crimes are property and violent crimes.

The violent crime rate is about 49% higher than the national average. About one in 28 people will be the victim of a crime while living in Pittsburgh.

Choosing one of Pittsburgh’s safer neighborhoods, such as The Northside or Oakland, can help you avoid crime, but if you plan to do any exploring in the city, it’s important that you stay alert, avoid any bad areas, and ensure you travel with friends instead of alone.

crime scene tape

Pollution

Pittsburgh also has an incredibly high pollution rate. Pittsburgh is an industrial city, and although this has shaped much of the city’s history, it has also led to high amounts of smog and soot.

Pittsburgh is ranked as one of the most polluted cities in the United States and often receives a failing grade from the American Lung Association due to poor air quality.

If you have asthma or another breathing condition, living in Pittsburgh may not be a good choice.

pollution from steel plant

Weather

Summers in Pittsburgh are generally mild, with warm but not hot temperatures. However, rain is relatively frequent. Winters in the city can be very harsh.

Temperatures during the winter usually range from 23 to 37 degrees, and these chilly temperatures last from December through March. The city also generally gets about 12 inches of snow each year.

Pros: If you love cold winter days, sledding, and skating, Pittsburgh may be your town. For many who love the outdoors, the key is to gear up properly and get out there no matter what, rather than waiting for a sunny day.

There are many parks in Pittsburgh, as well as the zoo and the botanical garden. Hiking trails also abound in and around the city.

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Cons: It does get cold in Pittsburgh. Worse, the spring and fall can be pretty wet and cold. If you have health concerns that are made worse by cold, wet weather, such as joint inflammation, Pittsburgh may not be a good fit.

A Wide view of Pittsburgh city center in snowstorm
A Wide view of Pittsburgh city center in snowstorm

Traffic

Like many older cities, Pittsburgh’s roads were not designed to handle high volumes of traffic.

Anyone commuting in Pittsburgh can expect to get stuck in traffic at some point, and commuters can lose between 18 and 57 hours per year to traffic jams.

Pittsburgh is ranked number 35 out of 20,000 cities in terms of traffic congestion in the U.S.

Sports Teams

Pittsburgh takes its sports very seriously, and most Pittsburgh residents are die-hard sports fans. Pittsburgh is home to several professional teams across a range of sports.

These teams include the Pittsburgh Steelers, who are a professional football team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, a professional hockey team, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, the city’s professional baseball team.

Pros: If you love professionals and college sports, you’ll find teams to follow in Pittsburgh. From the Steelers to the Penguins to the Pirates, you can enjoy rooting and rallying for your team.

Cons: Ticket costs can be a challenge, as can parking at and traffic around these sporting venues. If you don’t like sports, living in Pittsburgh may, on occasion, be a hassle as you work around traffic congestion.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - PNC Stadium
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – PNC Stadium

Friendly People/Family Fun

Pittsburgh is known for its friendly, welcoming people. Many people who move to Pittsburgh immediately feel at home thanks to the welcoming attitude of their neighbors, coworkers, or classmates.

However, Pittsburgh communities do tend to be close-knit, and it can feel challenging to break into friend groups where everyone grew up together or already knows everyone else.

Pros: The city of Pittsburgh offers many places to have low-cost fun with your family. The Carnegie Science Center, the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, and the many parks in the city will give you the chance to enjoy time together, get some fresh air, and protect your budget from hard hits.


Cons: There are many family events that will be quite costly. If you want to take the family to a Steelers game or another professional sporting event, you may spend upwards of $1,000 for a family of four.

Dining Out

You can find about any food you want in Pittsburgh. Moroccan, Thai, Spanish, Italian, and of course, French are all available for a fair price.

Pros: Large selection of restaurants and options for family dining.


Cons: If you have children, choose your family-friendly restaurants carefully. One of the weird aspects of restaurant design is the recent choice to create large, open barn-style buildings.

Many of the kid-friendly restaurants in Pittsburgh (and elsewhere) are now painfully loud.

couple dining out

Building Your Dream

Pros: The goal of our working days is to build some security. Whether you want to pass wealth onto your children or just enjoy a nice retirement, your career and investments in Pittsburgh can make that possible.

Because the cost of living is lower, you can buy (and sell) more houses. You may be able to invest in properties that will provide you with an income in retirement.

The ability to build up your bank account is a strong impetus for living in Pittsburgh.

Cons: Even if you eventually own your home outright, you’ll still be living in a region that runs very cold in the winter. If you find that your tolerance for real winter fades as you age, it may be time to consider splitting your year and wintering further south.

You can return home to Pittsburgh during warmer weather.

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