What price comparisons between two different cities tell us about the Chinese economy.

The great Xinjiang blog Far West China (via Shanghaiist) has put together an infographic comparing prices between Urumqi, the region's only major city, and Shanghai, China's largest. Here are cost of living differences measured in five different ways:

 
Though hardly a major data sample, the infographic provides insight into an issue plaguing China's economy: high housing prices in first-tier cities. For example, the minimum wage in Shanghai is only about 50 percent higher than that of Urumqi, and the consumer price index between the two is roughly equivalent.
 

But the cost of a three-bedroom apartment in Shanghai is a whopping six times higher than that of a similar-sized place in Urumqi, at 15,000 yuan (around $2,450 at today's exchange rate). This, unsurprisingly, has had an unfortunate knock-on effect: China's wealthy, who cannot easily move money overseas or safely invest in the stock market, instead park their cash in real estate, buying second and third apartments in desirable cities like Shanghai and causing prices to rise. Meanwhile, less-affluent men often cannot afford an apartment in the city, giving them trouble in attractive a wife, thus causing the country's problem of gender imbalance to grow worse.

This article from Atlantic contributor Christine Tan provides a more narrative description of the struggles even relatively well-to-do young adults have.

And Shanghai isn't even a great deal for foreign English teachers anymore: The average salary in the city—15,000 yuan a month—is the same as a month's rent in a three-bedroom apartment. Teachers in Urumqi, by contrast, make a lot less (6,000 yuan) but their money goes a lot further in the housing market. If only they could spend some of their savings at Starbucks.

Top image: Though consumer prices in Shanghai (pictured) are roughly the same as in distant Urumqi, the difference in apartment rental prices is enormous. (Wikimedia Commons)

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: a commuter looks at a small map of the London Tube in 2009
    Maps

    Help! The London Tube Map Is Out of Control.

    It’s never been easy to design a map of the city’s underground transit network. But soon, critics say, legibility concerns will demand a new look.

  2. Transportation

    How Media Coverage of Car Crashes Downplays the Role of Drivers

    Safety advocates have long complained that media outlets tend to blame pedestrians and cyclists who are hit by cars. Research suggests they’re right.

  3. photo: a Tower Records Japan Inc. store in Tokyo, Japan.
    Life

    The Bankrupt American Brands Still Thriving in Japan

    Cultural cachet, licensing deals, and density explain why Toys ‘R’ Us, Tower Records, Barneys, and other faded U.S. retailers remain big across the Pacific.

  4. Life

    Suburban Jobs Are Growing Fastest, But Urban Jobs Pay More

    New labor data show that the suburbs have the fastest job growth in the U.S. But we shouldn’t assume the future of employment will be suburban.

  5. photo: A vacant home in Oakland that is about to demolished for an apartment complex.
    Equity

    Fix California’s Housing Crisis, Activists Say. But Which One?

    As a controversy over vacancy in the Bay Area and Los Angeles reveals, advocates disagree about what kind of housing should be built, and where.

×