Arkansas is located in the south-central region of the United States. The state is known for the Ozark Mountains and is the home of former president Bill Clinton and the headquarters of Walmart. Arkansas also has many nicknames, including the Wonder State, the Natural state, and the Land of Opportunity,
The state has a population of about three million, and its borders run along Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Along the eastern edge runs the Mississippi River. Its capital city, Little Rock, is located centrally.
Its stunning views and landscape often draw in visitors, but if you are looking to live somewhere like this long term, this may be the state for you. There are many pros and cons of living in Arkansas, so it greatly depends on what specifically you want in a new home state.
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
If you hate traffic and want to easily be able to get where you need to go, then Arkansas has you covered. The state has an extensive roadway system, coming in at 13th in the nation. Four interstates run through Arkansas leading to surrounding states and areas. There are also four commercial airports here. You can always easily get to wherever you want or come home quickly thanks to the transportation network.
2. Fantastic Weather
Arkansas has a mix of weather due to its location. The further north you go, the colder the climate. Northern Arkansas may see snow and does get quite cold in the winter months, but the southern areas tend to be warmer with less chance of snow events. Even when the state sees snow, it is nothing like more northern states.
The real draw is the temperatures, which are moderate by US standards. Highs on average are under 90 degrees in the summer, and low temperatures rarely go below 30 degrees in the winter.
3. Southern Charm
While Arkansas isn’t quite in the south since it is more central and slightly north of the deep southern states, it still maintains the charm you would expect in the south. What this means is people here have manners, and they use them. You will often hear people using “ma’am” and “sir” to address others.
They are welcoming to strangers, but a bit reserved. It can take a long time to become a local as far as old-timers are concerned. However, that doesn’t mean they won’t be friendly and treat you like a neighbor from day one.
Part of the southern charm is the religious undertones. Christianity is prevalent, and Arkansas is often thought of to be in the Bible belt. Going to church is one of the most common social events. Common Christian values of kindness and charity are often on display. Even if you are not religious, you will still benefit from the values.
4. Amazing Outdoor Experiences
As you know, Arkansas is a beautiful state. It has many natural elements that make it a top vacation spot and could be just what makes you want to call this state home. Imagine having over 9,700 miles of waterways to explore or 600,000 acres of lakes to sail on.
Outdoor activities include hiking, hunting, camping, boating, and biking, along with many water activities, such as tubing and canoeing. The geographical variety is simply amazing, too. There are a variety of mountains and bluffs here, including Fiery Ledge, White Rock Mountain, and Roark’s Bluff.
Plus, you can explore caves and caverns, including Blanchard Springs Caverns. So, from the sky to the underground, Arkansas has something for everyone who loves the outdoors.
5. Affordable Cost of Living
One of the biggest draws to living in Arkansas is the cost of living. It often makes top 10 lists for the low cost of living. You can expect to pay less here for housing, utilities, and groceries. Healthcare is also low as is transportation.
If you are moving from a different state, the chances are good that you will find everything costs less in Arkansas so your money goes a bit further. This enables you the chance at a higher quality of life. You can expect expenses to come in anywhere from 10% to 15% lower than most other states.
6. Small Town Atmosphere
When considering the pros and cons of living in Arkansas, its rural nature may be one or the other depending on your tastes. We’ll consider it a positive. Because it is so rural, the whole state has a small-town atmosphere.
Even in the big cities, such as Little Rock, you won’t find the same crowds as you would in other states. The population of Arkansas is low, which helps to keep it feeling rural and small no matter where you are.
This is ideal if you are an introvert who doesn’t like crowds or overpopulated areas. If you just want to get away, then the homey and close-knit nature of this state should be quite welcoming.
You’ll also find the small-town feeling extends to businesses. There are many small mom-and-pop type places throughout the state. After all, Walmart started as a small family store.
7. Low Property Taxes
Speaking of the overall cost of living here, you will also benefit from low property taxes. If you want to buy a home, this is important as some states have incredibly high tax rates. In Arkansas, you can expect to pay below the national average.
The state has the fifth-lowest property taxes in the country. The median tax rate is about .063%, and in most cases, taxes come in annually below $800. Of course, it does depend on your exact location as each area sets its taxes and how much land you own, but regardless, you should never have sticker shock when you get your tax bill.
8. Higher Education Options
Arkansas is home to 40 colleges and universities. The University of Arkansas is home to the Razorbacks. During football season, you will hear a lot about the team, so make sure you brush up on your college football so you can be a part of the discussion.
The University of Arkansas is the state’s largest and has a main campus in Fayetteville. It offers about 100 undergraduate options and 100 master’s degree programs. It also has 30 doctoral degree options.
Arkansas State University is the second-largest school. It has the main campus in Jonesboro. The on-campus crowd is rather small because the school has a nicely designed online program. Many students take advantage of that and conduct their studies via the internet.
9. Great Food
As mentioned, Arkansas isn’t a southern state since it is more south-central in location, but it does take on many southern characteristics, and lucky for you one of them is the food. It is a haven for a foodie.
The southern-style cuisine offers up some of the best home cooking you could ever want to put in your mouth. You can explore all types of foods, including some southern favorites, such as chocolate gravy, possum pie, fried green tomatoes, and fried chicken.
In the more western areas, the food starts to take on influence from Texas. You may find tamales and tacos with a Tex-Mex flair.
Plus, no matter where you go, expect some amazing barbeque and plenty of fish. You won’t go hungry anywhere in the state since good food is found in all corners.
10. Central Location
Arkansas is in an interesting location. It is right on top of Louisiana, making it southern, but also right by Oklahoma, putting it in the central part of the country. It often takes on influences from all the surrounding states, which makes it a unique melting pot.
This central location also puts you in the perfect spot to explore. You can easily be in another state in a matter of hours, which will give you options. You can go deep south and head across the river into Mississippi or go southwest and take a trip to Texas. If you want to explore the plains go northwest into Oklahoma.
It’s easy to get from Arkansas to various large cities if you hunger for some nightlife or a little more action. You can quickly get to Nashville, St. Louis, Memphis, Tulsa, or Dallas. Even the Gulf Coast isn’t too far if you wish to explore beyond the state’s 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 are a rising trend with incidents happening at six for every 1,000 people. Property crimes, which is the other crime indicator that figures into the overall rate, are also high at 31 for every 1,000 people.
To put those numbers in perspective, one out of every 32 people will experience a property crime, and every one out of 180 people will become a victim of a violent crime in this state.
You should keep in mind that you can protect yourself by moving to a safer area and using security systems on your home and vehicles. Look for an active police force in the city in which you choose to live as this will generally help keep crime rates lower.
2. Below Average Education System
While higher education is a good thing in Arkansas, the state isn’t doing as well with its educational system for post-secondary students. The biggest hurdle for the schools is funding. There is a complete lack of proper money flowing into the schools, which makes it difficult to provide an adequate education.
It often ranks in the lower quarter of states for education. More high-quality teachers will often leave to work in other school systems that provide higher wages and better environments. If you have children, it may be best to look into the private schools in the area in which you will move for a higher quality educational option.
3. Very Rural
For some people, the idea of not going out at night or not having things to do close by is horrifying. If this is you, then you may not enjoy life in Arkansas. The majority of the state is very rural. You will have to drive a while to get to any place, including grocery stores.
Unless you live right in a city, you should expect to spend a lot of time in your vehicle getting to and from places. It can make it difficult if you like to go out in the evenings or if you prefer to be close to amenities.
Also, due to the extensive road network, the rural nature of the state means it is easy to get lost. You could find yourself driving for hours down road after road trying to figure out where you are and how to get home.
4. High Poverty Level
Like most rural areas, Arkansas struggles with poverty. The lower cost of living often means employers pay less. The rural nature means there aren’t as many employment options, especially those that pay a living wage.
The state comes in at 46 out of 50 states when it comes to children living in poverty. It has about a 15% poverty rate, which means one in about every six people is below the poverty line.
5. Insect and Animal Dangers
The natural beauty of the state comes at a cost. There are plenty of insect and animal hazards of which you need to be aware. The worst of them is the mosquito, which will make its home anywhere it finds a standing water source.
You will have to take precautions to protect yourself against these insects and to remove anything that could become a habitat for more breeding. Remember, these biting nuisances can carry diseases that could make you or your pets sick.
The natural landscape is also home to many animals that could be a danger. These include venomous snakes, such as cottonmouths, copperheads, and rattlesnakes. You may also be at risk for encounters with bobcats and black bears.
6. High Obesity
With the love of fried cuisine, it probably is no surprise the state has an obesity problem. About one-third of the population here qualifies medically as obese.
The good thing is it isn’t contagious, so as long as you maintain a healthy lifestyle, you won’t end up a statistic. However, if healthy living is important to you, it could be something that deters you from living in the state.
7. Lack of Public Transportation
While Arkansas has a lot of great roadways, it doesn’t have a lot of public transportation. This is largely due to the state’s rural nature. It is difficult to maintain a system when there are miles and miles between cities.
You will find some options in the bigger cities, but they are still quite limited. What this means is you will need a vehicle if you want to live here or you will have to be ready to walk a lot.
8. High Sales Tax
Despite the low cost of living, the state will get you with the high sales tax. The Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration explains the sales tax rate in the state is 6.5%, and each locality can add to that rate to increase it. In some areas, the rate is almost 10%.
You may also have to pay a supplemental tax on top of the general sales tax for certain goods. For example, alcohol products sold at restaurants have an additional 10% tax. You will get a break on food items, which only has a 1.5% tax.
However, even if you purchase things outside of the state, you should expect a state compensating use tax imposed on your purchases.
9. Natural Disaster Risk
Arkansas is also in a location that is at risk for various natural disasters. The state and its surrounding states have the highest number of disasters each year. These include regular flooding, high winds, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tropical storms. It also is prone to droughts.
The state does a decent job helping people recover after an event, but even still, you may want to research the background of the specific area within the state that you want to move to.
Related: Pros and Cons of Living in Hot Springs, Arkansas
10. Low Ranking Healthcare System
The healthcare system in the state is behind that of other states. There have been improvements made recently, but it still ranks in 48th place for medical services when compared to other states. This does not mean poor healthcare quality.
The ranking is mainly due to funding and lack of technology. While care may not be state-of-the-art, it is usually adequate and will provide for basic needs. You may have to go out of state for specialty care, though.
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