Snuggled between the might of the Missouri and the Mississippi rivers, Iowa immediately makes you think of sprawling cornfields and vast, rolling plains. Farmers abound in The Hawkeye State, but don’t be deceived by the small-town, hushed feel the state tends to have. There’s tons to do in Iowa, and if you’re considering calling it home, you have plenty of choices lined up ahead. From urban cities to rural towns, from a bustling arts scene and several festivals to the (in)famous weather—it’s a lot to take in. We’ve boiled down the essentials in our Moving to Iowa guide, so read on for a comprehensive take.
What Should I Know Before Moving To Iowa
Located in the heart of America, Iowa is the 29th largest state. It is home to over 3 million people, numbering 3,167,970 to be exact. The state of Iowa is large, mainly flat, and about 92% is farmland. Considering how large and sparse it is, the population density is low; Iowa covers around 56,272 square miles and has a population density of 54.5 people per square mile. One thing to be noted is that at 89.9%, Iowa has a high population percentage of white people.
Iowa’s farming and agricultural industry is quite important and essential, considering that about a third of the best farmland in the US is on Iowa’s fertile soil. But this is far from some sleepy state with only a grazing horse or two in sight; there’s plenty of life abuzz in Iowa. Most people will associate it with the caucuses that happen here; this archaic gathering takes place every two years, but more important are the wintertime presidential preference caucuses every four years that mark the official opening of another US presidential election contest.
Apart from this political powwow, there are plenty of festivals that take place here and they go way beyond just art or music. Bacon lovers can flock to the world’s premier Baconfest that is the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival in the capital city of Des Moines. The Iowa Craft Brew Festival takes place annually in the Amana Colonies. Literature, movies, maple syrup, kites…no matter what the day or the weather, there’s a festival taking place in Iowa.
There are top-notch entertainment venues like The Des Moines Civic Center and The Englert Theater, complemented by loads of fun museums to drop into. The Des Moines Art Center is renowned for its contemporary art collections, and of course, there’s the Museum of Art in Cedar Rapids. According to the latest official data, around 35.7% of Iowa’s population is rural, and around 39.7% is non-metropolitan. While these are reasonably high numbers, it just goes to show that there’s plenty of urban bustle and modernity to go around in Iowa.
Crime Rate In Iowa
You may already be listing out the many reasons why Iowa seems like a good state to call home, but hold your horses; we need to look at the crime rate. If you don’t already, always prioritize the crime rate of a region before you decide to move there. In terms of the violent crimes in Iowa, the crime rate per 1,000 residents is 2.67, notably lower than the national median of 4. Property crimes are also higher; at 17.34, it is notably lower than the national median of 21. And closing in on the hattrick, the crimes per square mile at 13 is much lower than the national average of 28.3. This makes Iowa a fantastically safe state, but let’s look closer at its cities.
Des Moines, Fairfield, Cedar Rapids, Mason City, and Red Oak are 5 cities that have some of the highest crime rates in Iowa. Capital Des Moines has a violent crime rate of 7.26, and a property crime rate of 41.7, both higher than their respective national medians of 4 and 21. Des Moines does indeed have a high crime rate, so make sure you pick a safe neighborhood if that’s where you want to live. If you want to simply head to a safe city, consider Stockton, Harpers Ferry, Sherrill, Persia, and Ridgeway—these are the top 5 safest cities in Iowa.
One thing that tends to go against Iowa is its weather, although on a brighter note, you get to experience all four seasons in The Hawkeye State. The weather is similar to its neighboring states since they all lie in the center of the continent and share similar topographies. Iowa has a humid continental climate, and its summers are long, humid, and muggy.
Daytime temperatures can hover between 90°F and 100°F, but even in the peak month of July, temperatures rarely go over 100°F. Summer is also usually the rainiest season with June seeing the most precipitation. You could expect some flooding in the summer months when the heat quickly melts away all of the winter’s snow and when it rains more than normal.
Autumn is dry, pleasant, and quite enjoyable as the mercury quickly dips to usher in the start of the winter season. Winters are windy and cold, and temperatures often dip below freezing in the day. It can go around -20°F in the month of January, but thankfully, January happens to be one of the driest months of the year. The snow may be cold, but at least you don’t have to worry about icy cold rain battering down. Spring soon follows with pleasant temperatures, but don’t be surprised if you hear warnings issued for thunderstorms or tornadoes.
The type of terrain in Iowa contributes greatly to its problem of unpredictable weather. There’s not a lot of tree cover, and barely any mountains. Plus, since it’s landlocked, it’s out of reach of the oceanic winds. This results in weather that’s so unpredictable, it has led to a running joke of carrying a set of clothes for each weather in your car. But remember, hearsay about bad weather always tends to be much worse than actuality. If you still have your doubts and want to hear it from the horse’s mouth, get in touch with friends or family who live in Iowa or head to some online forums.
How Expensive Is It To Live In Iowa
An important part when planning a move is crunching a budget and figuring out the expenses. After all, you want to be able to live a comfortable life in the place you call home! Chalking out expenses in a region includes an approximate cost of living, taxes, home and rent rates, and more. Read on for the whole gamut of expenses in Iowa.
Cost Of Living In Iowa
When comparing Iowa to other states according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ data, Iowa comes 11th on having an overall low cost of living. Goods and services in Iowa cost a pleasant 10.8% less than the national average. Overall, if you live in one of Iowa’s eight metropolitan areas, you’ll be paying a higher cost of living. One of these areas with the highest cost of living is the Iowa City metro area. However, though the cost of goods and services is 4.5% higher than the state average, it remains 6.3% lower than the nationwide average. But no matter where in Iowa you’ll live, you’ll have to pay the income tax; the progressive tax system has nine brackets, and rates range from 0.33% to 8.53%.
Healthcare expenses in Iowa are high, but only marginally higher than the national average. The national average for healthcare stands at $4,266, while it’s a few notches higher at $4,531 in Iowa. A family of four will have to spend around $13,699 a year on healthcare. A single adult living in Iowa will spend around $2,945 a year on food, providing the individual in question eats nutritious food bought from a grocery store. Eating out of ramen packets will sure help keep the budget down, but we can’t promise your health will stay unaffected.
Buying A House
The current home value in Iowa is around $142,300, while the median price is $162,985. Homes built in or before 1939 are priced at around $95,300 while homes built after 2014 are valued at around $317,200. Iowa also has an effective property tax rate of 1.53%, among the highest in the nation. But remember that this can differ since property taxes are determined locally.
Renting A House
Planning on renting in Iowa? Your rent will be anywhere between $900 (one-bedroom apartment) and $1,295 (four-bedroom apartment.) Renters looking to save as much as possible should head to Denison in West Central Iowa. The rent here is some of the lowest in the state, plus there’s a high median income to help pay the bills. The average rent for an apartment in Des Moines is $888.
Your average electricity bill when living in Iowa is around $94, while the water bill can come to about $45 to $60, Gas bills come to around $60 each month, and you can expect to pay between $40 and $139 for your Internet and cable bills.
In 2020, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the Residential Utility Disruption Prevention program which helps Iowans who have lost their jobs and income due to the coronavirus pandemic. There are a few things to meet in order to be eligible, including having an unpaid utility bill and having an annual income under 80% of the median family income, based on county and household size. Iowans who are eligible for help can receive up to $2,000 to help pay the bills.
Iowa Economy And Employment Opportunities
Agriculture is certainly a big part of Iowa’s economy, but it isn’t the largest. Iowa’s largest industry would be advanced manufacturing, contributing a whopping $30 billion annually to its economy. Compared to the rest of the United States, Iowa has 9 times the concentration of construction and agricultural equipment manufacturing. Other major industries in Iowa include food and food ingredients, aerospace and defense, finance and insurance, printing and packaging, and construction components. It’s safe to say that the economy of Iowa is a diversified one.
The average annual salary in Iowa is $60k, and the median family income on average is $78,152. Iowa boasts an unemployment rate that’s lower than the national average by nearly half – latest data shows it at 3.6%, while the national average is 6.2%. Iowa is home to some big names like Collins Aerospace, Nationwide, The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, DuPont Pioneer, and ACT. In terms of the biggest employers, Hy-Vee supermarket comes in first, followed by aerospace company Rockwell Collins, Casey’s General Stores, Principal Financial Group, and Fareway Stores.
At 8%, the school dropout rate in Iowa is lower than the national average of 12%. Plus, as of 2019, the graduation rate in Iowa was at a stellar 91.6%, so you know just how much education is valued here. Iowa has a total of 3,356 schools and 60 colleges with Carnegie Classifications. Of these, 19 confer baccalaureate degrees. There’s also Iowa’s statewide system of 15 community colleges.
All residents of the state of Iowa are entitled to free public education up to the age of 21. According to state law, youngsters between 6 and 16 must attend school, either in their assigned “resident” district, through open enrollment to another district, or through homeschooling. Some of the best colleges in Iowa are the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, Drake University, Clarke University, Grinnell College, Cornell College, Luther College, and Coe College.
Getting Around Iowa
Transportation in Iowa is best suited to driving and car-owners, though each county and city has its own modes of public transportation. Overall, the transportation is governed by The Iowa Public Transit Association. Here’s a glimpse of what to expect in terms of transportation in Iowa.
The Iowa Public Transit Association
Iowa has 35 designated public transit systems, each providing local transit services throughout the state’s 99 counties. Of these, 19 are urban systems while 16 are regional. The urban systems provide scheduled route services and Americans with Disabilities Act-approved paratransit services through Iowa’s larger communities. On the other hand, the regional systems have demand-responsive transit services over multiple counties outside the communities.
The Heart of Iowa Regional Transit Agency (HIRTA) was formed back in 1981 and services the 7 counties of Boone, Dallas, Jasper, Madison, Marion, Story, and Warren, all located in central Iowa. HIRTA buses give you the option of door-to-door service, ‘vanpooling’ with other people as well as shuttle services. In-town trips cost $2.50 one-way, while in-county trips cost $5 one-way. You pay $5.00 for shuttle services from Ames to Nevada, Knoxville to Pella, and Ames to Boone. Fares for Des Moines trips differ depending on your pickup location and can be between $10.00 and $25.00.
Buses In Iowa
Buses are the most common and popular mode of public transportation to get around in Iowa, and there are a couple of options depending on where you live. Apart from Greyhound buses, you can also opt for Jefferson Lines, Burlington Trailways or the Megabus that connects Des Moines, Iowa City, and Chicago.
Amtrak has two routes that pass through Iowa. The California Zephyr (Chicago to Emeryville) stops at Burlington, Mt. Pleasant, Ottumwa, Osceola, and Creston, while the Southwest Chief (Chicago to Los Angeles) has only one stop at Fort Madison. Mt. Pleasant is the closest station for those who want to head to Iowa City while Osceola is the closest to Des Moines.
While major cities like Des Moines, Dubuque, and Iowa City have their own bus services, you’ll likely need your own vehicle to get around in Iowa. But remember, the snow and sleet from November to February can make it challenging and potentially dangerous to drive around. Make sure you stock up on the right kind of tires to navigate the weather when moving to Iowa. You also have the option of using ride-hailing services like Uber or Lyft.
Interstate 35 runs north to south right through the center of Iowa while Interstate 80 runs from east to west, making it relatively easy to get around by road. Iowa has a total of 122 airports, of which the only international airport is the Des Moines International Airport.
Best Places To Live In Iowa
The fourth-largest city in Iowa, Sioux City has the perfect merge of modernity and Iowa’s agricultural background. Schools in Sioux City are above average, and with plenty of attractions like Drop Zone and the Orpheum Theatre, it makes for a great place for families. The only problem? Winter is brutal with its low temperatures and chilly weather, so make sure you stock up on those winter boots and mufflers.
The median home value here is $152,035 and the average rent is $725.
Cedar Rapids is the second-largest city in Iowa and has tons to offer. Nature lovers, young professionals, families…practically anyone can call Cedar Rapids home. There are over 70 parks, 12 great neighborhoods, and access to the wonderful Cedar River. With job opportunities and nightlife for the young professionals, loads of art and culture, and plenty of recreation, Cedar Rapids can be quite appealing for those moving to Iowa.
Though around 70% of residents in Cedar Rapids own their own homes, the average rent is quite cheap at $600. The median house value is $159,157.
West Des Moines
Golf course, great business, good employment opportunities, a bustling nightlife scene, and all this at a reasonable price? That’s West Des Moines for you! Families will be thrilled to know that there are well-rated public schools here, alongside plenty of recreational facilities and loads of parks. Of course, these perks have a small catch – the cold winter, and small airports.
The median home value of homes in West Des Moines is $257,851, while the average rent is $990.
Is Iowa A Good State To Live In
Iowa ticks off a few important things when it comes to picking a place to move, namely its relative inexpensiveness, good quality of education, and overall low crime rate. These things put into place a good foundation for a location to be a suitable home. However, there are a couple of things to take into consideration, namely that Iowa’s cities and metro areas aren’t as bustling as other major cities in America. The weather can also get overbearing for someone used to a temperate climate year-round, and driving around in winter is challenging.
Iowa is overall an affordable state to live in, but Des Moines has a high cost of living, and the effective income tax rate can be quite high depending on where you live. Finally, due to a lack of robust public transportation, you can’t get around too much without a car in Iowa. That being said, driving around is easy and convenient since most residents do it, and the commute time is low. Make sure you take all of these things into consideration because Iowa can certainly be the perfect place to call home, but not for everybody.
Is Iowa A Good State To Move To?
With a diverse economy, job opportunities, high-quality schools, and recreational activities, Iowa has all the makings of the ideal state to call home. It is also fairly affordable. However, there is a lack of public transportation and the winter season can be brutal. You also have a high income tax to pay. If these things sit fine with you, then you can definitely consider moving to Iowa.
Is It Expensive To Live In Iowa?
According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Iowa ranks at 11th place for an overall low cost of living. Goods and services cost 10.8% less than the national average, making it fairly affordable. Plus, housing is overall cheaper than other states, but the income tax and property tax rates are a bit high. All in all, living in Iowa is affordable, but may be a tad on the expensive side if you live in one of its metro regions. Even so, it’ll still be cheaper than San Francisco or Philadelphia.
What Are The Pros And Cons Of Moving To Iowa?
Loads of festivals, great food, good employment, and education opportunities, and overall low costs are some of the pros of life in Iowa, while high tax rates, frigid winters, passable public transportation, and a ‘small town’ atmosphere are some of the cons of moving to Iowa.
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