Denver vs. Portland: Which City Is Better To Live In?


denver vs portland

Denver and Portland are two of the most iconic cities in the American Northwest. Portland is the quirky, cool city that birthed thousands of hipsters as well as a TV show called Portlandia. Denver became famous for its wonderful entertainment, blooming cannabis industry, and upscale attractions. Moving to either city can be a good choice, but it all depends on what you are looking for.

Both Denver and Portland are undergoing a massive economic boom, making them enviable cities to live in. Portland is slightly more expensive to live in than Denver. The quality of life in both cities is comparable, though Portland has more rain. Portland has more property crime while Denver has more violent crime.

While one could argue that Portland and Denver both tend to attract the same young, hip, well-to-do individuals, the truth is that one city might be better for you than the other.

Which City Is Better: Denver Or Portland?

It’s honestly a toss-up. Both cities tend to have similar amenities and lifestyles, though some tend to find one preferable over the other. Let’s talk about it.

Quality Of Life

Both Portland and Denver have their perks. When it comes to magazine rankings and similar, though, Portland tends to get the most recognition. It’s considered to be one of the best large cities to retire in, the second-most cozy city, as well as one of the best cities for foodies. Denver, on the other hand, has the fastest-growing income between the two and also scored high for people who love board games.

They both offer a fair amount of quirky charm, but we are going to have to go with Portland for this arena.

Winner: Portland

Cost Of Living

Portland and Denver both have comparable costs of living. And unfortunately, that’s not saying much since both cities are far above the national average. The cost of living index for Denver is 128.7, while the cost of living for Portland is 130.8. This means that a typical American would pay $100 for necessities on average, while Denverites would pay $128.70 for the same stuff, and while Portlandians would pay $130.80 for the same batch of real estate/food/whatever.

Though they both have high costs of living, Denver is still approximately 1.5 percent cheaper. So Denver wins by a hair.

Winner: Denver

Housing Costs

Both cities have a little bit of a housing crisis going on, since prices are rising sharply. Locals in both cities have complained about rising housing costs, especially when it comes to homeownership. However, both are pretty evenly split. Owning in Portland, though, is noticeably cheaper. So we’re going to give this win to Portland.

Portland Denver
Average Cost 1 BR Apartment $1,375 $1,373
Median Home Price $419,600 $426,200

Winner: Portland

Job Market

When it comes to both Portland and Denver, unemployment is at an all-time low. In Portland, the unemployment is 3.6 percent. In Denver, it’s even lower, at a jaw-dropping 2.7 percent. Big firms are hitting both cities with new jobs, especially in the tech industry and IT world. However, creative and cannabis-related jobs are on the rise for both.

Portland Denver
Unemployment 2.7% 3.6%
Projected 10-Year Growth 42.7% 45%
Median Household Income $71,005 $68,592
Median Personal Income $35,459 $39,806

Culture

Both Portland and Denver have their own quirks that make them pretty popular among different groups. Denver has a pointedly Western feeling that people adore. This town tends to be more down-to-earth, though they do love their arts and diversity. They’re sporty, love the outdoors, and also tend to enjoy things like horseback riding.

Portland, on the other hand, tends to focus more on the hipstery stuff in life. Gourmet food, craft beers, and hitting up shopping districts are all common things to do here. With that said, a lot of people tend to love the canna-centric side of Portland as well as the heavy-handed focus on artwork.

Winner: Tied.

Leisure/Entertainment

If you love arts, then you’re going to adore living in either city. Both Portland and Denver are known for their superb street art as well as their heavily-endowed museums. A strong emphasis on outdoor activities such as biking and trails is commonplace, if not downright expected. Gorgeous parks are around every corner in both areas, so you’ll have plenty of places to go.

Denver and Portland also have a lot of great food areas, though Portland is more noted for its selection. Denver is more known for its awesome tabletop gaming.

Winner: Tied.

Transportation

Commuting times for both Denver and Portland are both fairly low. In fact, they are literally tied. As in, most people will have the exact same style of commute no matter what city they choose. The typical commuting time for either city is a very reasonable, low-traffic 25 minutes. Portland tends to have better public transit, though, so it wins this round.

Winner: Portland

Demographics

The demographics of each city are strikingly different, though both cities are fairly young. Denver has high diversity rates, with only 53 percent of the population being white. In Portland, the city remains majority-white, with a population percentage of 72 percent. Lately, Portland has gained a bit of a reputation for racism among certain parts of time. Not a good look, Portland!

Winner: Denver

Education

If you are a fan of education, living in either city will be a blessing. Both cities have a great reputation for education, above average expenditures per student, and tons of after-school activities. However, there are some slight differences that seem to suggest that one town is doing better than the other.

In terms of graduation rates and continuing rates, Portland is a clear winner. Over 20 percent of the city’s population has at least some college under their belt. With that said, both cities boast high school graduation rates above 85 percent, putting them well above most inner-city regions.

Winner: Portland

Weather

We don’t need to really go here, since Portland is legendary for rainfall and having cloudy weather. Denver? It’s more of a sunny and dry place compared to Portland. If you like rain and clouds, Portland will be more appropriate. If you like dryness, Denver will fit better. Both get snow, so in terms of that, there is a clear tie.

Crime Rates

In terms of crime, there seems to be a very big difference between Denver and Portland. Portland currently has a pretty nasty drug problem, particularly when it comes to the nearby homeless encampments in certain parts of the town. The addiction issue tends to cause high rates of property crime, though violent crime is notably below average.

Denver, on the other hand, tends to have the exact opposite issue. Denver has higher violent crime rates, while property crimes are on the decline. Due to the issue of gun control, many people believe that Denver has a mass shooting problem. Violent crime rates in the city reflect this too, via both assault and murder charges.

The truth is that both cities have a crime problem that is worth noting. If you’re particularly worried about getting stuff stolen, then you may want to install a protective device. Something along the lines of a Ring doorbell, ADT, or getting a Slomin’s Shield setup will be more than enough to make your home safe.

Winner: Portland, kinda.

The Verdict

If you take a look at the play-by-play of each city, it’s clear that there is a tie. Both cities have amazing amenities and a lifestyle that would be considered enviable by most people in America. It’s the minor details that can make or break your time here. It’s safe to say that you will enjoy the life you lead in either city. So, have fun. Either pick will do well for you.

Related Questions

How much should you earn in order to live comfortably in Denver?

Denver is one of the more affordable cities that you can pick, but it still requires a bit of cash if you want to maintain a basic healthy lifestyle. According to the current MIT Living Wage Calculator, a single person would need to earn at least $36,192 in order to maintain a basic comfortable lifestyle.

Most families will need well over $60,000 to feel like they are in a good state here. Denver, much like other Northwest cities, is not a cheap place to live. The more money you have, the easier it’ll be to acclimate to the high price tag of everything around you. And trust us, it’s not going to get cheaper, either.

What is living in Portland like?

Living in Portland means that you get to see a lot of quirky, eccentric artists and venues throughout the city. Schools are good, food shopping is convenient, and the restaurant life is nothing short of amazing. Most of the time, the only real complaint that people tend to have involves the weather.

With that said, Portland does have a growing homeless population on one side of town. This has started to cause minor problems. However, they are not violent and do not mean to cause problems. It’s mostly a matter of a city that’s overwhelmed and trying to work on its problems at its own pace.

Is Portland bad for traffic?

Despite Portland’s rapid growth in recent years, it’s not actually that bad in terms of traffic. There are plenty of public transportation options that you can choose from, if you don’t have a car. The city’s walkability is also pretty decent, though you might have a longer schlep than you were expecting.

In terms of commuter distance, there isn’t much that you should worry about. The typical commuting distance for a Portland local is around 25 minutes. This gives you a quick and easy drive to and from work.

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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