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My situation:

  • 5th year PhD Candidate in Chicago
  • About to graduate (within a year)
  • Planning to move to NYC for my wife's career after graduation (she is an actress/performer/circus artist)
  • But ALSO planning to work remotely for a Chicago-based company (they have already informally offered me a job upon graduation as long as they have budget to hire me at that time) - I did a 6 month internship with them a year or two ago and have a strong relationship with them

My Question:

If I end up with this company, do you think it is fair to ask for a higher salary based on my cost of living since I will be living in NYC, a more expensive place than Chicago? I know employers don't typically cater to peoples' preferences of where they live when making these decisions, but due to my wife's situation, this is less of a preference and more of a necessity for her career, which I would argue makes it a requirement for me. Do you think that a typical employer would see this as a strong or weak argument for higher pay due to cost-of-living?

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    "as long as they have budget to hire me at that time" They might not have enough money to even hire you and you are planning on asking for more money based on your personal decision to move to a more expensive location?
    – sf02
    Apr 5, 2021 at 15:36
  • "as long as they have budget to hire me at that time" - this is a non argument. Unless you are unique the budget may determine hire situations, but why should I take the more expensive guy who can not come into the office for an occasional meeting when I can have someone local for less money. You basically decide to move to a place that makes you less competitive.
    – TomTom
    Apr 9, 2021 at 12:57

2 Answers 2

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do you think it is fair to ask for a higher salary based on my cost of living since I will be living in NYC, a more expensive place than Chicago?

Fairness isn't really relevant and hard to define. The more relevant question is "do you have enough negotiation leverage to push it through?"

Do you think that a typical employer would see this as a strong or weak argument for higher pay due to cost-of-living?

Very weak. It's your personal life-style choice and not related to anything that's actually required for work. The reverse is not unheard of, i.e. reduced compensation because of remote work from a low cost of living area but with added travel cost (to be in the main office as needed), but I've never seen a remote increase.

It all boils down to how strong of a candidate you are and how much the company is willing to go off-process to get you on board. Keep in mind that you are competing with local & remote candidates at a lower price point.

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    Even "very weak" seem to be a bit too strong :). If that normally would be the case everyone will be "working remotely" from a mansion or a 5 star hotel in Hawaii (or something like that). Apr 5, 2021 at 22:43
  • Yeah, if you were an incumbent superstar you'd have a chance - as a new hire out of college you really don't have any leverage unless there's some very specific reason they want you in an inordinate way.
    – mxyzplk
    Apr 7, 2021 at 3:08
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I suspect most would find it a weak argument, considering THEY are not requiring you to move to NY. The fact that it is not their decision is what matters. How you rationalize it in terms of your preference vs your requirement does not really matter to them.

You certainly can ask. They are human, so they will be understanding. But that doesn't mean their budget will automatically scale up to meet your needs.

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    Keep in mind if they do pay you more because of where you live, they might then have to give raises to everyone. If I had more seniority at a company, and I lived in a state with reasonable taxes, I would be up the moon angry if I found out a new employee made more than me simply because they lived in NY. Eventually, your pay scale will be made public. Your better off getting hired locally in NY, since your income will already be adjusted, for the incredible and unreasonable high taxes.
    – Donald
    Apr 5, 2021 at 23:57

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