25 Pros And Cons Of Living In Alabama

Alabama, also known as the Yellowhammer State or Heart of Dixie, anchors the US southern region both geographically and culturally. Its residents are fiercely loyal and enthusiastic about their state and their football. And for a good reason—Alabama has a rich past, an active present, and a future that’s sure to keep the South squarely at the fore of American politics.

But Alabama isn’t just one part of the whole nation—it has its own exciting features. Since the time of the Louisiana Purchase, this state has played a key part in the history of this country. It’s located on a border between so many distinct regions, cultures, and peoples. That makes Alabama the state that truly is a melting pot.

In the following list, we’ve put together the 25 pros and cons of living in Alabama. If you’re planning to move to this vibrant state or simply passing through on a trip, we think you’ll find everything you need to know here. Let’s get started!

Alabama Higher Education Ranks Above The National Average

A photo of a gate at the University of South Alabama. It shows a brick gate with the flags of the university flying

Though Alabama has yet to develop a K-12 education system that compares well with the national average, its many colleges and universities number among the best nationally. This is due, no doubt, to the massive influx of funds that comes from successful football teams. Nevertheless, you’re sure to find an excellent program at Auburn, Alabama, or other schools.

Science, engineering, and business are the subjects that draw students nationwide. Plus, the University of Alabama at Birmingham leads many national charts for its medical school. Living in Alabama, you and your children will have more opportunities than in neighboring states.

The Food Is Excellent Everywhere 

Let’s face it: the food in the South is hard to beat regardless of what kind of foods you like. Long summer evenings spent enjoying a rack of ribs, and a few local beers with friends and family are just part of life in the state. True, other southern states have their own food culture. But Alabama is the melting pot where all the local delicacies meet in one tasty point.

Barbecue is a local specialty, but Alabamans will also woo you to live in the state with their excellent seafood. Locals take pride in their stretch of the Gulf Coast, and they make the most of it with their unique spicy take on fresh shrimp, crab, and other succulent dishes. 

Low Cost of Living 

Not only is Alabama a great state to call home, but it’s also one of the cheapest states in the country to live in. If you and your family are looking for a home base to live and grow up in, it’s hard to beat Alabama’s low cost of living. Currently, residents pay up to 12% less for goods and services than neighboring states.

Keep in mind that salaries in Alabama are also low, so new residents may not notice a drop in their expenses right away. For instance, restaurant workers can receive an hourly wage of $2.13 plus tips in the state. The best way to enjoy Alabama’s low cost of living is perhaps as a state to retire in. Then, you’re sure to experience a drop in costs right away.

Property Taxes Are a Fraction of the US Average 

Similar to the low, low cost of living in the state, Alabama’s property tax rates are exceptionally inexpensive. On average, an Alabama household only pays $528 on property taxes per year. That’s about a quarter of the rate Americans pay nationally.

With lower property taxes, Alabama is a welcoming state for people looking to buy, rent, or build a new large home for a large family. Indeed, with taxes so low, it’s hard to imagine a better state for families who want to move from a pricey coastal town to the south. Plus, you can purchase land for just a little more near the coast. It’s the best of both worlds. 

Football Is a Religion Here 

A group of young female Alabama football fans stand together to get their photo taken. They are wearing red football t-shirts and holding pom poms

For a lot of Americans, the first or second thing that comes to mind when they think about Alabama is football—college football, in particular. In the state, it’s not an exaggeration to call football the state religion. The University of Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers are as close to national institutions as Alabama has to offer.

Football is the foundation for social life, conversation, and serious thought for the nearly five million Alabamans. Saturdays in the late summer to late fall are the high holy days in the state where businesses, highways, and the economy reroute themselves for football. 

Of course, if football isn’t your primary interest, then Alabama has much more to offer. It’s just important to know that the majority of Alabamans invest a lot of time and passion in the sport.

Visit The Scenic Gulf Coast

Alabama gives its residents and visitors access to about 60 miles of the Gulf Coast. Unfortunately, this stretch of the Gulf of Mexico isn’t as well known to Americans as the two coasts, but it’s all the better to keep it a secret. Why? The beaches are often open, clean, and offer wide views of the stunning Gulf waters.

Tourists arrive in droves during the high vacation season between May and Mid-October, so plan around that period if you prefer more peace. But if you want to live in Alabama, the best sites to check out are West Beach, Orange Beach, and the park at Dauphin Island. 

Prepare To Celebrate With Frequent Festivals

 Like its sister state Louisiana, Alabama is a place that loves to celebrate holidays and special events with public festivals and parties. Alabama’s version of Mardi Gras may not get attention on the same scale as New Orleans, but it deserves mention as the site of the very first Mardi Gras parade in the US. And that’s just one example of AL’s history of fun.

Even better, lots of small and medium-sized Alabama towns keep up their local variants on holiday parades. There’s the Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo, the Athens Grease Festival, and many more get-togethers across the state. Visit Alabama to enjoy some of the most exciting parties and fests in the country—stay to enjoy them year-round.

Take A Load Off In This Laid-Back State

In Alabama, time passes a little slower than elsewhere in the country. The people take their time, speak more slowly, and enjoy their food and conversation at ease. Of course, not everyone in the state acts the same way. If you prefer a faster lifestyle, then Birmingham or another larger city will welcome you. But the state, on the whole, is laid-back and relaxed.

Lots of states get labeled for the way their residents live—California, Hawaii, Texas, just to name a few. But the Alabama lifestyle is truly unique. The pros and cons of living in Alabama are many, but the slow afternoons and relaxed chats with neighbors are hard to put on the spectrum. If you love to relax with friends and neighbors, you’ll fit right in.

Alabama Offers A Blend Of Country And City Living 

A photo of the Skyline of Birmingham Alabama taken from Railroad Park. It shows a small waterway, parklands, and sky scrapers in the distance

The largest population center in Alabama, Birmingham, contains about 212,000 citizens. After that, only four other cities have over 100,000 residents. Yet, the total Alabama population ranks 24th in the country. How is it possible that a state with such a small city population still contains so many residents? The answer lies in Alabama’s huge number of thriving small towns.

The Yellowhammer State, as it’s nicknamed, is blessed with a great selection of small to medium-sized towns. Residents have access to a blend of quiet residential living and active city excitement. Not many other states offer such a mixture of rural and urban.

Related: Is Tennessee a Good State to Live In?

Super-Affordable Housing

In Alabama, it’s not uncommon to find homes for sale under $110,000 with new, quality construction. Rents under $800 are available all around the state, making it an exciting location for new families. Housing rates have been on the rise recently, but they’re much more affordable than national averages.

If you’re thinking about living in Alabama, housing shouldn’t be much of a concern. However, many cities and suburbs still need better infrastructure, transportation, and schooling. So, keep the big picture in mind. Low-cost housing might still require increased education and gas expenses.

A Traditional State That’s Still Known To Be Quirky 

Alabama is steeped in a rich tradition of conservative thinking, religion, and family values. The local dialects are special (and sometimes difficult to understand at first!), and the music is beautiful. Alabama is a great place to visit or live if you appreciate solid, good old values.

But the traditional Alabama doesn’t tell the whole story. Innovators and young activists are taking part in a redefinition of the Cotton State. Though churches and traditional spirituality are still at the core of social life in many towns, new legacies and new traditions are popping up too. 

The Manufacturing Job Market Is Booming

Coming to Alabama for a job? It’s an excellent time to make a move and join up with the thousands of locals who are finding good-paying occupations. Alabama leads the nation in steel pipe and cast-iron production. In fact, it’s the only state that has the resources to do so. 

Manufacturing positions are available in the state if workers are willing to do a challenging job. Plus, if you have vocational training specific to manufacturing markets in Alabama, the state can be very welcoming to skilled laborers. Alabama has a struggling unemployment rate currently, but manufacturing is one sector that is still thriving.

Alabama Has Good Music In Its Blood 

A photo of the band Alabama Shakes performing at SXSW music festival

Since the days after the Civil War, Alabama has produced melodies and popular tunes that passed from ear to ear all across the country. More recently, country and country-rock music have defined the state’s musical taste, with songs like “Sweet Home Alabama” perhaps the most prominent. In Alabama, you’ll be sure to find top-quality country music venues.

But it’s not only country music that floats down the main streets of this state. Musicians like Jimmy Buffett and Aretha Franklin also came from Alabama and redefined musical genres in step. Birmingham boasts the Jazz Hall of Fame, plus visitors won’t have to look far for music scenes in EDM and Metal either. 

Almost Year-Round Short-Sleeves Weather 

In the South, you just have to get used to the heat. Alabama, in particular, has a near-tropical climate for the months between May and October. For many people, the sweltering, humid, but gulf-freshened weather is to die for. For others, it can be clammy and damp.

Among all the compliments and complaints of the Alabama summer, one truth shows up. That is, everyone gets an excuse to wear relaxed summer clothing, sandals, and toss the long-sleeved shirts in the closet for months. If you’re thinking of coming to the state for the weather, be prepared for nine months of heat and nine months of open-toed shoes.

Come To Alabama For The History

Every American with knowledge of the period between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement knows how central Alabama has been in US historyÇ. Within the state’s borders, atrocious acts have been followed by human triumphs and political debates. Come to Alabama for the climate and friendly people—stay for the history.

It’s hard to avoid the history of bloodshed and revolution whenever you enter a historic building or read a plaque in every town square. Alabama is the home of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s walk to Selma and Rosa Parks’ historic commencement to the Civil Rights Movement. Alabama is a state of extremes, both bad and good. It’s worth living in to experience it. 

A State With Dozens Of Unique Climates

Alabama sits on a unique geographical region in the US. In the south, the land is flat like a floodplain. The weather there is sunny, humid, and prone to extreme rain and thunderstorms. But if you want to move to Alabama but avoid all the famous muggy weather, there is a solution. Drive just two miles to the north, and you’ll meet the mountainous region.

Northern Alabama is very little known across the country. It’s hard to understand why because the weather is temperate, crisp, and the mountains even get snow in the winter. After you move to Alabama, tell anyone who thinks the whole state is all humid about the north. That’ll surprise them!

Alabama: The Beer State

A closeup photo of several glasses of craft beer sitting on wooden bar.

As the advent of microbreweries and local craft beers keeps growing in popularity, the demand for unique flavors and blends grows as well. Alabama has been at the forefront of the craft beer movement from the start, and brewers in the state are some of the most innovative out there.

Alabama has over 50 distinct breweries within its borders. No matter where you decide to visit or move in the state, you’ll never be far from a beer maker producing unique brews. 

Show Off Your Taste For Barbecue

In the Heart of Dixie, food isn’t just something you eat and forget. Its culture, its families, its tradition, and love. As you get closer to the Gulf Coast, the fare tends to be more seafood-based. But barbecue is a state specialty. 

Ask anyone who has been living in Alabama a few years, and they’ll tell you that the state’s barbecue and deep-fried delicacies like fried pickles, okra, and steak are unbeatable. Plus, they’ll also probably admit that they put on a few pounds! Nevertheless, Alabama’s barbecue is great across the board. To get the real AL BBQ treatment, though, you need to cross the unbeaten path and visit a small town (or a farmer’s market) for the real deal.

Cons: 

Alabama Ranks Low On National Quality Of Living Surveys

Unfortunately, Alabama falls very low in virtually every national economic survey. A 2017 study showed that widespread crime and violence in the state make it the eighth most dangerous place to live in the US. Additionally, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranked the state 49th in the nation for safety, housing, and health.

The state also ranks near the bottom of the list of states for income levels, environmental engagement, and access to broadband internet. Clearly, the state’s leaders have fallen behind their constituents’ needs.  

Severe Weather Is Common

Alabama isn’t the only southern state to experience a long severe weather season. From late spring to late summer, the state is subject to rather violent thunderstorms and pop-up rainstorms. 

The weather is a consequence of the state’s location near the Gulf and its unique position in Hurricane alley. Luckily, the state rarely experiences Tornadoes and winter weather. Yet, the number of hurricanes that contact the AL coast is on the rise.

Public K-12 Education Is Under-Funded 

The Alabama State Board of Education has repeatedly come under fire for the under-performing status of public schools in the state. The board has stated that education is not a state priority at present. If you’re planning on moving to Alabama, keep in mind that it may be difficult to find a great school for your children without taking a private option.

According to USNews, Alabama’s public school system ranks 47th in the nation. The state board has fallen behind the nation (Florida, only two states away, ranked third). 

Be Ready To Encounter Pests And Dangerous Animals

Living in a humid, semi-tropical climate like Alabama’s means that, eventually, you’ll have to meet insects and animals. Florida may get all the credit for alligators, but Alabama is just as buggy and wild as its neighbors to the east.

Alabama can become infested with cockroaches in particular. It happens in the summer primarily. The fact is, residents get used to the seasonal confrontation with the creepy-crawlies. After a while, many visitors also accustomed themselves to it. All that’s left to do is gator-proof your home!

Many Counties Restrict Alcohol Sales

Alabama isn’t a blue state from top to bottom, but every county but nine restricts the sale of alcohol at certain times of the week. Many states have selected counties that will refuse to sell liquor on Sundays, but Alabama makes it especially hard to purchase alcohol.

Every county has its own unique restrictions, so there’s no guarantee that you’ll be out of driving distance to purchase beer and wine. Nevertheless, local drinkers often have to stock liquor for the weekends.  

Southern Speech Can Be Difficult To Decode 

The nineteenth-century world of southern belles and dapper dandies lives on today in Alabama in the form of speech patterns and dialects. Regardless of whether you find the southern accent pleasing, Alabama slang and phrasing can take some time to understand.

Though southern speech can often seem courteous and friendly, many phrases actually conceal insults and slights that northerners wouldn’t notice. “Bless your heart” and “Roll Tide” are two such phrases. At times, they’re honest while at other times, these words operate like swear words. Living in the south means learning about a new culture from ground zero.

High Obesity And Poverty Rates

As late as 2018, Alabama ranked as the state with the sixth-highest poverty rate. Recently, the Alabama economy has fallen further as agricultural markets moved out of the state. Jobs can be hard to find unless you have manufacturing training, in which case salaries are good. 

High obesity rates go hand in hand with a drop in wages. The local cultural attraction to fried foods is one thing, but obesity is also the result of stagnant salaries. Presently, over 30% of Alabamans are obese. 

Conclusion

The pros and cons of living in Alabama may seem to balance each other out. It is a state with such diverse natural beauty, vibrant music and culinary scenes, and gripping historical sites. But it also struggles to educate youths, pay living wages, and combat obesity. What is the final verdict on the Heart of Dixie?

The Heart of Dixie is still a heart—it beats, it changes with time. Alabama is just the same: a proud state with a proud heritage. With time, the pros and cons of our list will surely change. 

See anything we missed? Let us know in the comments below!

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