Situated in the south-central region of the United States, Arkansas is renowned for its picturesque Ozark Mountains. Notably, it serves as the birthplace of former President Bill Clinton and hosts the global headquarters of Walmart. The state proudly embraces several monikers, such as the Wonder State, the Natural State, and the Land of Opportunity.
As of 2023, Arkansas boasts a population of approximately three million residents. It shares borders with Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. The Mississippi River forms a natural boundary along its eastern edge. Little Rock, the state’s capital, is strategically positioned at its center.
Arkansas’ breathtaking landscapes and scenic views consistently attract visitors. For those considering a permanent move, the state offers a unique blend of advantages and challenges. Ultimately, the decision to settle in Arkansas hinges on individual preferences and lifestyle aspirations.
11 Things You’ll Love About Arkansas
There are many things to love about living in Arkansas. It may not be the flashiest state, but it makes up for that in offering you things that make living here comfortable and affordable.
1. Extensive Transportation Network
Arkansas, with its commitment to efficient travel, offers a robust transportation infrastructure, ranking 13th nationwide as of 2023. The state boasts an extensive network of roadways, including four major interstates that facilitate easy access to neighboring states. Additionally, Arkansas is home to four commercial airports, enhancing its connectivity. This comprehensive transportation system ensures residents and visitors can swiftly reach their destinations or return home with ease.
2. Fantastic Weather
The state’s climate showcases a diverse range due to its geographical positioning. In northern Arkansas, the weather turns colder, often bringing snow during winter months. In contrast, southern Arkansas experiences milder winters with a reduced likelihood of snowfall. The climate’s appeal lies in its moderate temperatures relative to the rest of the United States.
Summer highs typically stay below 90 degrees Fahrenheit, while winter lows seldom drop below 30 degrees, offering a comfortable living environment year-round.
3. Southern Charm
While geographically central and slightly north of the deep southern states, Arkansas encapsulates the quintessential southern charm. This charm is evident in the courteous manners of its people, where terms like “ma’am” and “sir” are commonly used in respectful address. Residents are known for their welcoming nature towards newcomers, albeit with a hint of reserve. Integration into local communities may take time, but newcomers are often treated neighborly from the outset.
Arkansas’ southern charm is also rooted in its religious landscape, predominantly Christian, often considered part of the Bible Belt. Churchgoing is a significant social activity, reflecting the common Christian values of kindness and charity prevalent in the community. These values enrich the social fabric, offering a sense of communal warmth, even to those who may not be religiously inclined.
4. Amazing Outdoor Experiences
Arkansas, renowned for its natural beauty, continues to be a prime destination for outdoor enthusiasts in 2023. With over 9,700 miles of waterways and 600,000 acres of lakes, the state offers a rich playground for nature lovers. Activities like hiking, hunting, camping, boating, biking, tubing, and canoeing are abundantly available.
The state’s geographical diversity is particularly striking, featuring a range of mountains and bluffs such as Fiery Ledge, White Rock Mountain, and Roark’s Bluff. Additionally, Arkansas is home to numerous caves and caverns, including the famed Blanchard Springs Caverns. This diversity ensures that whether you’re a sky-gazer or an underground explorer, Arkansas has myriad options for outdoor pursuits.
5. Affordable Cost of Living
Arkansas consistently ranks among the top states for its low cost of living, a significant factor attracting new residents. Housing, utilities, groceries, healthcare, and transportation are notably more affordable here than in many other states.
For those relocating from elsewhere, the cost differential is stark, often resulting in 10% to 15% lower expenses compared to the national average. This affordability significantly enhances the quality of life, allowing residents to enjoy more with less financial strain.
6. Small Town Atmosphere
In Arkansas, the rural essence contributes to a pervasive small-town atmosphere, even in larger cities like Little Rock. The state’s modest population density maintains a sense of spaciousness and tranquility, ideal for those who prefer quieter, less crowded environments.
This rural charm is evident not only in the community dynamics but also in the local economy, where small, family-owned businesses thrive, echoing the humble beginnings of global giant Walmart. Such an environment is particularly appealing to introverts or those seeking a respite from the hustle of more populous areas.
7. Low Property Taxes
The financial benefits of living in Arkansas extend to property taxes, which are among the lowest in the United States. The state ranks fifth-lowest in property tax rates, with a median rate of about 0.063%, often resulting in annual taxes below $800. While rates vary depending on location and property size, the overall tax burden remains significantly below the national average.
This low property tax rate is a boon for homeowners, easing the financial aspects of property ownership and contributing to the state’s overall affordability.
8. Higher Education Options
As of 2023, Arkansas boasts a diverse array of higher education institutions, with 40 colleges and universities enriching the state’s academic landscape. The University of Arkansas, famous for its Razorbacks football team, is a centerpiece of state pride, especially during the football season. It stands as the state’s largest university, with its main campus in Fayetteville, offering approximately 100 undergraduate programs, 100 master’s, and 30 doctoral degree options.
Arkansas State University, the second-largest in the state, has its main campus in Jonesboro. It offers a robust online program, attracting a significant number of students who prefer virtual learning, making its on-campus population relatively smaller in comparison.
9. Great Food
Arkansas, while not traditionally southern but more south-central, embraces many southern cultural aspects, especially in its cuisine. It’s a paradise for food enthusiasts, offering an array of southern-style dishes. From chocolate gravy and possum pie to fried green tomatoes and iconic fried chicken, the culinary variety is vast. In the state’s western regions, influences from Texas emerge, with dishes like tamales and tacos showcasing a Tex-Mex twist.
Arkansas is also celebrated for its exceptional barbeque and a variety of fish dishes, ensuring that regardless of location within the state, delicious food is always accessible.
10. Central Location
Arkansas occupies a unique geographical position. Nestled above Louisiana, it shares southern characteristics, while its proximity to Oklahoma places it in the central United States, creating a melting pot of regional influences. This central location makes Arkansas an ideal starting point for exploring the surrounding states.
Residents can easily access a variety of landscapes and experiences, from the deep south in Mississippi to the southwestern vibes of Texas, or the plains of Oklahoma. Major cities like Nashville, St. Louis, Memphis, Tulsa, and Dallas are within a convenient travel distance, offering diverse urban experiences. Additionally, the Gulf Coast is not too far for those seeking adventures beyond the state’s inland waterways.
11. Lively Art Scene
While Arkansas may be rural and seem rather folksy, it also has a cultured edge. The art scene here is rather impressive. The larger cities of Little Rock, Texarkana, Fayetteville, and Conway have regular exhibitions and host theater tours often.
The Arkansas Arts Center, located in the capital city, is home to the top repository for written work in the country. You can explore American art at the Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, or take in the galleries in Hot Springs or Eureka Springs.
10 Cons About Living in Arkansas
All places you live will have some things that are not so desirable, and Arkansas is no different. There are some important negatives about the state you might want to consider.
1. High Crime Rate
KAIT 8 reports Arkansas made a WalletHub list of the worst states in which to raise a family, coming in at number six. In large part, this ranking was due to the crime rate. The average crime rate in the state is over the national average.
Violent crimes in Arkansas are on an upward trajectory, occurring at a rate of six incidents per 1,000 residents. Property crimes, another significant component of the overall crime statistics, also register high at 31 incidents per 1,000 people. To contextualize these figures, this means that one in every 32 individuals is likely to be affected by property crime, and one in every 180 is at risk of falling victim to violent crime.
However, it’s important to note that safety can be enhanced by choosing to live in safer areas and employing security measures for homes and vehicles. Opting for locations with active and efficient police forces can also play a crucial role in mitigating the risk of crime.
2. Below Average Education System
In contrast to its commendable higher education offerings, Arkansas faces challenges in its pre-secondary educational system, primarily due to insufficient funding. This financial constraint hampers the state’s ability to provide an adequate level of education, often relegating it to the lower tier of national educational rankings.
The state’s educational system grapples with the migration of high-quality teachers to other regions that offer more competitive salaries and conducive working environments. For families with children, considering private schooling options within the state might be a prudent choice to ensure access to higher-quality education.
3. Very Rural
Arkansas’s predominantly rural landscape may not align with the preferences of those accustomed to a more urban lifestyle. The state’s vast rural areas often mean that amenities like grocery stores are not immediately accessible, necessitating longer drives for basic needs.
Residents outside of urban centers should be prepared for significant travel time in their daily routines, especially if evening outings or proximity to services is a priority. Additionally, the state’s extensive road network, while comprehensive, can be challenging to navigate in such rural expanses, increasing the likelihood of getting lost amidst the scenic but isolated routes.
4. High Poverty Level
Reflecting a common trend in rural regions, Arkansas faces significant challenges with poverty. The state’s lower cost of living is often offset by lower wages, and the rural environment limits the availability of well-paying jobs.
As of 2023, Arkansas ranks 46th among the 50 states in terms of child poverty rates, with an overall poverty rate of approximately 15%. This statistic implies that about one in every six individuals in Arkansas lives below the poverty line, highlighting a critical socio-economic issue.
5. Insect and Animal Dangers
Arkansas’s rich natural environment, while beautiful, comes with its own set of challenges in the form of insect and animal hazards. Mosquitoes, thriving in areas with standing water, pose a significant concern. Residents need to take proactive measures to protect themselves and their environment from these pests, which can carry diseases affecting both humans and pets.
Moreover, the state’s varied wildlife includes potentially dangerous species such as venomous snakes (cottonmouths, copperheads, and rattlesnakes) and larger predators like bobcats and black bears. Awareness and caution are essential for safe coexistence with these natural inhabitants.
6. High Obesity
Arkansas’s fondness for fried and rich cuisine contributes to a notable obesity issue, with approximately one-third of its population classified as medically obese as of 2023. It’s important to recognize that obesity is not contagious; maintaining a healthy lifestyle is key to avoiding becoming part of this statistic.
For those for whom health and fitness are priorities, this aspect might be a consideration when deciding to settle in the state.
7. Lack of Public Transportation
Despite its extensive roadway infrastructure, Arkansas’s public transportation options are quite limited, a consequence of its predominantly rural character. The challenge of establishing an efficient transit system across vast distances between cities is significant.
In larger cities, public transportation exists but is somewhat restricted in scope and frequency. Consequently, residing in Arkansas typically necessitates owning a vehicle, or alternatively, being prepared for extensive walking.
8. High Sales Tax
While Arkansas offers a lower overall cost of living, it compensates partially through a relatively high sales tax. The base state sales tax rate is 6.5%, with localities having the option to add additional percentages, bringing the total in some areas close to 10%.
Special taxes are also levied on certain items; for instance, restaurant-sold alcohol products carry an extra 10% tax. Food items are taxed at a lower rate of 1.5%. Furthermore, purchases made outside of Arkansas are subject to a state compensating use tax, impacting residents’ overall tax burden.
9. Natural Disaster Risk
Arkansas’s geographical location makes it susceptible to various natural disasters. The state, along with its neighbors, frequently experiences a high incidence of natural calamities, including flooding, high winds, tornadoes, earthquakes, and occasional tropical storms. Drought conditions are also not uncommon.
While the state has systems in place to aid recovery post-disaster, it’s advisable for potential residents to thoroughly research the specific area they intend to move to, considering the local risk and history of natural disasters.
10. Low Ranking Healthcare System
Arkansas’s healthcare system, despite recent improvements, continues to lag behind most other states, ranking 48th in terms of medical services as of 2023. This ranking, it’s important to note, does not necessarily reflect the quality of care provided.
The primary issues contributing to this low ranking are related to funding constraints and a relative lack of advanced technology in the healthcare sector. While the care available in Arkansas typically meets basic health needs, it may not always incorporate the latest technological advancements found in more highly ranked states. Consequently, residents may find it necessary to seek specialty medical care outside of Arkansas for certain complex health conditions.
This list of pros and cons of living in Arkansas may not cover every single factor, but it does a good job of giving you an overview of life in this state. Every state has its good and bad points, so it is a personal decision as to what matters most for you.
One person’s ideal area may not be another’s. You should consider all the pros and cons as a whole while making your final decision about moving to Arkansas.
Related: Pros and Cons of Living in Alabama