Crappy Economy Got You Down? Live in Philly!

Being young and employed in this city makes the recession seem not so bad.

“Fourteen bucks for three drinks?!” my friend shouts across the bar. “That’s unheard of  in D.C.” We were out in NoLibs, and though she’d only moved from Philly to D.C. three years ago, she was still shocked when the bartender told us the total for a mixed drink and two beers. (She picked up the tab.)

Like me, most of my friends are in their late 20s or early 30s, and the bulk of us are fortunate enough to have been employed regularly since the economy collapsed. There’s no denying we haven’t been hit as hard as our younger counterparts—the 18-to-24-year-old media-bemoaned young adults unemployed at record rates, living on their parents’ couches. But for us slightly bigger kids, Philly isn’t such an awful place to be during a recession.

“If you go out in Northern Liberties or Center City on a Friday or Saturday night, the bars and restaurants are packed. You’re thinking, Where is the recession?” says economist Kevin Gillen, vice president of Center City’s Econsult Corporation. “The economy certainly isn’t any better here than it is in New York or D.C., but the cost of living is cheaper.” Although taxes are comparable to those of our neighbors to the North and South, Philly has far fewer higher-income jobs. And according to Gillen, that’s what helps keep food and rents cheap.

My friend from D.C. is always impressed with my apartment, too. I rent a spacious one-bedroom-plus-den in a brownstone walk-up in Rittenhouse with my boyfriend. It’s more than livable; we’d even call it nice—hardwood floors, a recently updated kitchen, a parking space, could use more closet space … We pay $1,800 a month, plus utilities. (In comparison, the average rent for a one-bedroom­ apartment in a non-doorman building­ on the Upper East Side is nearly $2,600.) Which means we have money left to eat at our favorite sushi place once a week, or go out drinking with friends in Northern Liberties. I know life wouldn’t be so good in D.C. or NYC. Because when it comes to gritting out a lagging economy, if you’re from Philly, there’s really no place like home.

This piece originally appeared in the March 2012 issue of Philadelphia magazine.