21 Pros and Cons of Living in Indiana

The name Indiana means “Land of the Indians”, so it should be no surprise to learn that Native Americans (Shawnee, Miami, Illin, and others) occupied this land when the French first arrived in the early 1700s.  By 1800, most of the Native Americans had lost their land titles via purchase, treaty, or illegal seizure. Indiana joined the Union as the 19th state in 1816 and the state capital was moved in 1825 to present-day Indianapolis.

Today, the state is still largely rural, except for the large city of Indianapolis and several medium-sized cities like Fort Wayne, Evansville, South Bend, and Carmel. 

In the following, we will talk about the pros and cons of living in the Hoosier state to help you decide if the state is a good match for you.

An aerial photo of downtown Indy. A traffic circle surrounds a tall statue. Tall buildings can be seen on all sides.

Is Indiana a Good State to Move to?

Affordable housing, alone, might be reason enough to move to Indiana. There is no doubt that folks are happy with the cost of living in the state, and most have found jobs that pay what they need to survive in the state.

If you are looking for a nice city life, then Indianapolis and its suburbs are worth consideration. Indianapolis is trying to build itself to be like Chicago, but smaller and with better winters. While every big city will have big-city problems, it is hard to find a review online that is not complimentary of Indianapolis.

If you are looking for a nice rural life, then Indiana has a ton of options. Just realize you are moving to a slow-paced, simple, conservative lifestyle. There are plenty of reviews online from folks who escaped the Indiana rural life in hopes of finding something more than miles and miles of flat cornfields. 

What’s it Like Living in Indiana?

Living in Indiana is pretty much the same as living in any other Midwest “fly-over” state. 

On the upside, the population is not very dense so it feels like you have some space to breathe, and traffic is light. Crime is low because corn outnumbers the bad guys. Schools are decent and Universities are great. Sports offer a nice distraction from the corn. 

The downside is having to look at all of the corn as you drive to the Cracker Barrel for the 4th time this month where you’ll enjoy the fried chicken and yet another discussion of conservative politics.

A photo of two modern barns with red roofs, surrounded by green crops.

13 Benefits of Living in Indiana — Pros

We will first look at the benefits of living in the Hoosier state. 

1. Low Cost of Living and Cost of Housing

Overall, the state of Indiana has a cost of living that is 18% lower than national averages. This is driven primarily due to the fact cost of housing is 40% below average. The median home price for a house in Indiana is $186K versus the national average of $231K. The cost of renting is equally low, at an average of $700 versus the national $1,100.

74% of Indiana residents own their home, which is one of the largest homeownership rates in the country. 

Income levels in the state are a bit below average with individuals at $27K versus the US $31K and households at $52K versus $57K nationally. These lower salaries are more than offset by the impressively low cost of living, so overall your dollar will go further in Indiana.

2. Low Taxes

Indiana’s low cost of living can also be attributed to its reasonable tax burden. At a total tax burden of 8.9%, the state is ranked 11th in the country for the lowest taxes in the country, and just a few tenths of a percent away from being in the Top 5 in the country. 

3. Low Crime in Rural Areas

Overall across the state, the stats for Indiana show the state has an average level of crime, ranking 22nd best in the country. 

However, half of Indiana’s crime takes place inside the capital city of Indianapolis. Unfortunately, the city of Indianapolis is ranked as the 10th worst city in the US for crime. 

If you remove Indianapolis from the state statistics, it shows the rural areas of Indiana have very low crime rates. So if you are willing to live away from Indianapolis, the state has plenty of very safe towns to choose from.

4. Good Universities

A photo of the statue and gold dome at the University of Notre Dame

Residents of Indiana have access to several top-rated universities including Notre Dame (Top 95% in the US), Purdue (Top 88%), and Indiana (Top 82%).

In addition, the state has several well-ranked Liberal Arts colleges such as DePauw (Top 80% in the US) and Wabash (Top 75%). 

If you prefer smaller schools, Indiana has some of the Best Regional Universities in the Midwest with Butler (#1 in the Midwest) and Evansville (Top 93% in Midwest)

5. Sports 

Not only do Indiana universities offer top-ranked education, but they are also well known for their college sports. 

Basketball is big in the state with Indiana University and Butler having Division I teams that often make it a few rounds deep into the NCAA Championship Tournament. Indiana State, alma mater of Hall of Famer Larry Bird, also has occasional good seasons. 

On a professional level, Indiana has the Pacers basketball team, which once regularly featured Hall of Famer Reggie Miller. 

In college football, it is often Norte Dame that gets the most attention, which has been playing football in South Bend since 1887, making it one of the oldest football programs in the country. 

In professional football, the state is home to the Indiana Colts, a frequent playoff contender, and the longtime home of future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning. 

Finally, if you prefer your sports to be faster, the state is home to the famous Indy 500 and NASCAR Brickyard 400.

Overall, Indiana ranks 16th in the nation for the best state to be in if you are a sports fan.

6. Hamilton County is Top-Rated

Hamilton County, a suburb on the northern border of Indianapolis, has been ranked the #3 Best County in all of America. 

This is one of the more expensive areas in Indiana to live in, but the cost of housing is still around average for America ($263K Hamilton versus $231K US). Residents in this county enjoy a salary nearly double what is found elsewhere in Indiana ($47K individual and $98K household). 

The school systems in Hamilton are excellent, ranking 12th best in America. Crime stats show crime to be well below national averages. Hamilton ranks in the Top 90% of several other categories such as buying a house, raising a family, staying healthy, and being a young professional.

7. Public Schools are Average

Overall, the state expense per student of $11K is just below the US average of $12K. Indiana is ranked 34th in the country for education spending. Not great, but also not awful.

On the positive side, Indiana has over 300 schools (out of 1965 total) ranking 8 out of 10, scattered throughout the state. New residents looking for good schools will have plenty of towns to choose from. 

8. Weather is Average

A photo of a red covered bridge. The trees in the background are showing autumn foliage

Indiana is considered to be in a humid subtropical climate region, with temperate winters, warm summers, and rainfall distributed evenly throughout the year. Summer highs average around 85 degrees and winter lows around 19 degrees. Rain, snow, and sunshine are similar to national averages. Residents of the state experience all four distinct seasons.

Please note, the above comment does not apply to the very northern region of Indiana (e.g. Gary, South Bend, and Michigan City). The close proximity to Lake Michigan makes this area wetter, producing “lake effect” snow. These areas can get up to 80 inches of snow a year, about four times the amount of snow received in the rest of Indiana.

9. Religious, Conservative Values

Outside of the few big cities, Indiana residents are strongly Republican. They are also very religious, with 72% of residents attending a Christian church. 

If this sounds like your kind of people, then Indiana may be a good fit for you. Just don’t bother looking for a happy hour to buy cheap liquor, or try to buy alcohol on a Sunday morning. And you’ll need to take a drive into a big city if you want to find any sort of adult entertainment. 

10. Diversified Economy

The unemployment rate in Indiana is around 2%, which is about half of the national rate. Manufacturing companies find the state appealing due to its lower salaries and taxes. As a result, Indiana has been able to avoid most of the Rust Belt economic collapse.

Indiana is the largest steel-producing state in the US and the second-largest auto manufacturing state. “Indiana’s other manufactures include pharmaceuticals and medical devices, electrical equipment, transportation equipment, chemical products, rubber, petroleum and coal products, and factory machinery.”

The Top Employers in the state are diversified across universities, hospitals, tech manufacturing, drug manufacturing, steel, auto, and more.

A woman and three kids paddle a canoe across a calm lake

11. Water Recreation

Indiana doesn’t have any mountains or much forest, but they do have plenty of natural water resources, with a border on Lake Michigan, over 900 other lakes, and 24K miles of river. Its largest lake is Lake Monroe at nearly 11K acres in size and its deepest lake is Lake Wawasee at 120 feet deep.

Activities include boating and kite surfing on Lake Michigan, river tubing, canoeing, kayaking, cave exploration, scuba diving, fishing, and plenty of freshwater swimming.

12. Traffic Isn’t Bad

Indiana is ranked 2nd best in the nation for being a good state for drivers, with a low cost of ownership, decent traffic, and reasonable safety.

It’s not surprising to learn the rural area have decent traffic flow, but even the city of Indianapolis ranked in the Top 10% for cities with the least traffic congestion.

As a result of smooth flowing roads, the Indiana resident enjoys a 23-minute commute time, just below the national average.

13. Hoosier Hospitality

Indiana has been ranked 6th in the list of most friendliest states. Reviews from residents often mention the friendly nature of its people. Indiana is probably a good place to have car problems on the side of the road, as you’ll likely find someone to help, and the repair costs will be cheaper than average.

8 Drawbacks to Living in Indiana — Cons

Next, we will look at the other side of the coin and give reasons to be hesitant about moving to the Hoosier state.

14. Few Forests and Parks

A corn field. Lots of corn

One hundred years ago, Indiana lost most of its forest land due to overharvesting for wood and clear-cutting for farms. The state now has a total of just 156K acres of forest. Compare this to a state like Arkansas which has 19 million acres of trees.

The Indiana government has a policy of providing at least one park within 60 miles of every resident. Compare this to the City of Portland, Oregon which has a park within one-half of a mile of every resident.

As a result, the state ranks 33rd in the nation for states for parks, with just 0.81% of its land protected as a park. Compare this to California which has parks on 7.49% of its land, nearly ten times more than Indiana. 

The cities of Indianapolis and Fort Wayne are ranked dead last across 98 cities for providing parks to residents. 

15. It’s Kinda Boring

Indiana ranks the 13th most boring state. Residents of Indiana get to experience miles and miles of flat corn land. They often live in small towns featuring one restaurant and a pizza joint. Their social life revolves around church and high school sports. Their lives become slightly more exciting when it is time to load up the car and drive 1+ hours to visit the area Walmart.

16. Air Pollution

A photo of ugly strip mining in the front, an ugly smoking plant in the back, dark grey skies above

It may be best that Indiana lacks access to public parks because the state’s air isn’t great to breathe. The Indianapolis area ranks in the bottom 5% for having the worst particle pollution and in the bottom 20% for the worst ozone.

The reason for this air pollution is because the state is operating 24 coal power plants, including the largest plant in the country and the worst polluting plant in the country. 

17. No Green Energy

Given the fact the state has invested heavily in coal mining and its 24 coal power plants, it is of little surprise to learn Indiana is not investing much into sustainable green energy. It currently ranks as the 8th worst state for green energy, getting just 6% of its electricity from sustainable sources.

18. Drug Addiction

Perhaps the boredom of miles and miles of corn is bringing out the worst in people; Indiana ranks as the 9th worst state for drug problems. The state rated fairly high in addiction and fairly low in treating this addiction. 

Indiana also ranked 15th for having the most drug overdose deaths and has one of the highest numbers of opioid prescriptions. 

19. Lack of Diversity

Overall, 83% of Indiana residents are White and 9% are Black. But note, the vast majority of African Americans live in a few of the big cities, leaving the rural areas to be almost entirely White.

Also, only 2% of the population practices a religion other than Christianity.

20. Poor Public Transportation

Indiana is a very car-dependent state, and it ranks as the 17th worst state for public transportation infrastructure. Much of the public transportation that does exist is in the larger cities, so rural folks will have very limited public transportation options.

21. The Food Scene is Blah

Indiana ranks as the 14th worst state for its restaurant food scene. This score would probably be a lot worse if Indianapolis wasn’t included. The state really doesn’t excel at any one genre of food. Try the Sugar Cream Pie and fried tenderloin, but stay away from the fried brains. If in doubt, the state has a generous number of Cracker Barrel restaurants to enjoy.

FAQ’s: Is it Cheaper to Live in Indiana or Illinois?

In most cases, Indiana will be cheaper to live in than Illinois. The median home price in Indiana is only $186K versus $216k in Illinois. The total cost of living in Indiana is 18% less than the national average, and Illinois is only 7% cheaper than average. 

FAQ’s: Are People from Chicago Moving to Indiana?

Yes, with the increase in remote working, nearly all big cities have seen an exodus of people leaving for lower cost of living areas. One article about the Chicago exodus had the headline “Miss the food, not the taxes” which sums up the situation pretty well. 

The median sales price for a Chicago home was $268K while a similar home in Northwest Indiana goes for $195K. Also, the Chicago property taxes of 2% are double the Indiana property tax.

Also, remember that Indiana is physically close to Chicago. Many of these escapees are moving just a little over the Indiana state line, where they can get a cheaper house and still be within an hour’s drive of Chicago attractions. 

FAQ’s: What is the Safest Place to Live in Indiana?

You should be safe in any neighborhood in Indiana except some bad parts of Indianapolis. The city of Indianapolis is ranked as the 10th worst city for crime. 

The safest place to live is probably in a tent in the middle of a huge cornfield where there is nobody around for miles – – because corn doesn’t commit crime. 

If corn tent living is not your idea of a dream life, then you will need to do further research to find a location that checks all of your boxes. Indiana is full of safe towns, so you’ll need to make your decision on other factors, such as schools, commute, etc. 

Related: 21 Pros and Cons of Living in Chicago