Austin vs. Houston: Which City Is Better To Live In?

austin vs houston

The Lone Star State has three major cities that people tend to move: Dallas, Houston, and Austin. When it comes to Houston and Austin, the issue of choosing one of these two cities tends to be a little tough. After all, they look pretty similar on paper and they are both in the same state. So, what’s up with these cities? Which is better?

Houston and Austin both have low real estate costs as well as a lot of amenities such as easy food access and entertainment. However, Austin has more jobs, a stronger economy, and a lower crime rate. As a result, most people prefer to live in Austin. 

Don’t get us wrong. Both Austin and Houston have plenty to offer the right person or family moving in. It’s just a matter of knowing which one will be best for you…

Which City Is Better: Houston Or Austin?

Austin and Houston both have their perks and pitfalls. While the differences may be more subtle than, say Dallas and Seattle, the truth is that you can get a lot of mileage from here. Let’s take a look at all the major factors.

Quality Of Life

Both Houston and Austin offer a rich quality of life that one would expect to see from a major city. There are amenities galore and lots of things to discover around every corner. Since the culture tends to be equally friendly, it tends to be hard to measure out the “soft factors” of each city.

Winner: Tied

Cost Of Living

The difference in the cost of living between these two Texas cities is vast. The city of Houston has a cost of living index of 96.4, putting it slightly below the average cost of living nationwide. Meanwhile, Austin is slightly above the national average, with a cost of living of 114.6, making it about 10 percent more expensive than what you would get in a typical place.

Winner: Houston

Housing Costs

Housing is going to be your biggest expense, no matter where you live. In Houston, housing is over 30 percent cheaper than what you would pay for a comparable home in Austin. As a result, most people who want to own a home head to Houston rather than Austin. If you want to rent, then it makes more sense to head to Austin.

Houston Austin
Average Cost 1 BR Apartment $1,116 $1,411
Median Home Price $185,500 $369,000

Winner: Houston

Job Market

Texas is seeing a massive influx of major companies eyeing its cities, but where the cities are starting to actually get those businesses is starting to vary. Houston and Austin are not growing at the same rate. For one reason or another, Houston is lagging behind most other major cities in the Lone Star State.

It’s hard to tell why Houston is not getting the love it should when it comes to new business. Either way, Houston’s wages are far lower than Austin’s on average. As a result, it’s kind of a struggle here. Higher poverty rates are in Houston, too.

Houston Austin
Unemployment 8% 5.1%
Projected 10-Year Growth 30.9% 47%
Median Household Income $52,558 $71,579
Median Personal Income $29,259 $39,418

Culture

Texans generally have similar cultures from city to city. There’s a lot of Southern friendliness, a deep love of sports, and a lot of excellent taste in food to go around. If you’re a fan of delicious barbecues, Whataburger, and the classic Texan sense of humor, either city is going to have the right social climate for you.

Winner: Tied

Leisure/Entertainment

Both Austin and Houston have similar levels of entertainment. Each city has culturally significant museums, an arts district, as well as several major concert venues. While they are not as big a nightlife city as Dallas, both of the cities in question have a decent nightlife scene as well.

Unlike the stereotype that many Northerners have about Houston and Austin, you don’t have to be a fan of country or jazz to enjoy the clubs here. There are plenty of techno lounges, EDM venues, and hip hop lounges that you can choose from too.

Winner: Tied

Transportation

Both Austin and Houston have been kicking their public transit up a notch, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. Most people in both cities tend to drive their own cars. Sadly, the roadways aren’t evenly built, if you know what I mean. Houston, once again, takes the bottom rung by having a commuting time of 27 minutes. This is above the national average.

Austin, on the other hand, has a below-average commute time of 24 minutes. This means living in Austin is easier on the wristwatch and easier on your car.

Winner: Austin

Demographics

Houston and Austin both have a fairly balanced amount of diversity. However, there are differences here, too. Austin has a white population of 48.5 percent. Meanwhile, Houston has only 24.9 percent of its population composed of white individuals. Houston’s largest portion of the population is Latinx, composing over 60 percent of the population.

While they are both highly diverse areas known for accepting people from all walks of life, we’re going to side with Houston on this.

Winner: Houston

Education

No matter how you slice it or dice it, Austin blows Houston out of the water on every educational front. Austin spends more per student, has fewer students per teacher, and also has better graduation rates than what you would find in Houston. Houston has around 78 percent of its population graduate from high school, while Austin has around 88 percent of its population graduate.

Even when you take a look at after-school programs and curriculum-related standards, Austin quickly takes the prize. If you want your kids to get a good education, stick to Austin.

Winner: Austin

Weather

Both Houston and Austin have warm, dry weather for most of the year. However, there is a slight difference between the two, if you want to get nuanced with it. Austin has slightly fewer rainy days and a slightly more sunny environment. There’s also less humidity in Austin’s air. This makes Austin ever so slightly more comfortable than Houston.

Winner: Austin

Crime Rates

While researching this issue, one thing really stood out to us. Austin is a lot safer than Houston when it comes to both violent and property crime. While both are above the national average, Houston has a much higher violent crime rate. Robberies, thefts, and car thefts are all fairly common.

It’s important to remember that both of these cities have large populations. That means that there is some gang activity in each. Houston, though, has a worse reputation for gang activity than Austin does. Unless their police force steps up, it’s going to be a long road to safety.

Winner: Austin

The Verdict

We really don’t mean to hate on Houston, but it’s really hard to ignore how the numbers make this city look when compared to a city like Austin. By every definition, Austin is a great place to live. It is, in fact, one of the top up-and-coming cities in Texas. Houston, on the other hand, isn’t. It’s a city that’s struggling to keep up in the Texan Renaissance that’s currently happening.

As of right now, it’s clear that moving to Austin is the better choice for most people. This is especially true if you want to have a family in the near future. However, we’re not psychic. You never know what will happen in the future, so don’t assume that Houston is a lost cause yet!

Related Questions

Are there any TV shows that are related to Austin, TX?

This Texan city has a ton of television shows that are meant to relate to the town’s culture…or that just act as a backdrop for it. Some of the more popular titles that are related to Austin’s world include King of the Hill, Austin City Limits, American Crime, and Fear the Walking Dead. Don’t worry, not all of the shows that involve dark elements have anything to do with the real Austin. It’s actually a nice city.

How much do you need in order to live comfortably in Austin?

Though Austin is considered to be a good place to live, you don’t necessarily need to make a lot to cover your basics. In order for a single adults to support themselves, they would need $21,700 according to the MIT lifestyle calculator. Due to the fact that Texas is seen as one of the more affordable states to live in, it’s safe to say that this is a more affordable place to raise kids.

Is 60K considered to be a good salary in Austin?

Absolutely. That’s enough to support a family of five on a single income. However, we want to add a small caveat to this. At the time of the writing of this article, $60,000 was a remarkably good income. The thing that you need to be aware of is that Austin is rapidly changing and the typical salary in the area is getting explosively high. So in a couple of years, that same salary might not be enough for the lifestyle that you want to live right now.

Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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