Kansas was the home of nomadic tribes who hunted bison until American settlers began moving west. The Spanish explored the region as early as the 16th century, and French fur trappers moved into the area to trade with the locals. It would officially become part of the United States with the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, but it didn’t become officially open to settlement until 1854 with the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861 after people from the north and south flooded the area to create a swing state for slavery. It would eventually remain as a free state, but the results were one of the triggers that started the Civil War.
After the conflict, Kansas became the home to several frontier towns. The railroads made them excellent destinations for Texan cattle drives. Farmers came into the region to replicate their successes back east, but a shortage of rain forced them to switch to wheat instead of corn. Agriculture continues to be part of the state’s economy, but manufacturing centers are helping to provide diversification.
List of the Pros of Living in Kansas
1. The cost of living in Kansas is much lower than you’d expect it to be.
Once you get outside of the urban areas of Kansas, the cost of living is remarkably low. It’s 21% lower than the national average, while the median family household earns about $55,000 per year. That makes it possible for almost everyone to have a fit and happy lifestyle. The state does an excellent job of producing food for domestic use and manufacturing needed consumer products, so items cost less since there are fewer shipping charges involved. Lower demand levels also help this situation, especially from a housing standpoint.
2. You can afford to buy a house in Kansas.
One of the prime examples of this benefit is a little town called Coffeyville, which you can find at the junction of Highways 166 and 169 just north of the state line. You’re going to be closer to Joplin than Wichita if you live here, and it’s a drive to reach Tulsa if you go south instead. The benefit here is that the average price of a home is only $53,000, so almost anyone can afford to live here. There isn’t much demand since the average income is only $36,000, but there are jobs available at the local refinery, fertilizer plant, and smelting facility.
During a 2019 review of available properties in Coffeyville, there were listings priced as low as $12,000 for detached single-family homes.
3. Kansas is the home of some of the best barbecue you can find.
Although some people might argue this advantage, Kansas City BBQ is some of the best you can find on the planet. It’s almost impossible to find a bad joint here, but you will find varying opinions about which ones are the best. If you do start living in this state, then you’ll want to visit Arthur Bryant’s on Brooklyn Avenue at least once. Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and Harry Truman have all come to sample the culinary scene.
If you need to venture into Missouri for a little while to enjoy some of this advantage, then that’s okay too. You’re a day trip away from enjoying some time in Branson anyway, and this will give you an excuse to have some good eats along the way.
4. You will get an opportunity to enjoy the local country club culture.
The country club culture in Kansas originally developed because it was the easiest way to find a place for your favorite beer, whiskey, or liquor. The laws from past generations forced you to join a club. There are several facilities that have more than 100 years of history to them, including the Wichita Country Club that offers swimming, pickleball, tennis, and a full fitness facility in addition to golf.
Many of the clubs have affordable membership fees, so you can treat the experience as if you were joining a gym. Since this might be the only place for fine dining for miles around, it’s worth checking out what is available in the town you decide to call home.
5. There are plenty of ways you can have fun in Kansas.
People like to say that Kansas is so rural that there aren’t any entertainment opportunities, but that isn’t true. It can be an adjustment to live in a small town, but you’ll find lots of stuff available within an hour’s drive – and that’s a common distance to travel in any of the Midwestern states. Kansas City offers everything that you’d expect to find in a big city, while Wichita offers over 30 museums, a world-class zoo, theaters, and a botanical garden to explore. There’s even an annual film festival for you to enjoy.
Wichita is also the home of the Tanganyika Wildlife Park, which is an interactive location where you can pet kangaroos or feed giraffes.
6. Kansas has a unique entrepreneurial spirit to embrace.
Wichita State University made a name for itself by making it to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four in 2013. What many people don’t realize is that the institution also houses a fantastic center for entrepreneurship. There have been some big brand names that came out of the state, including Wichita, that have had a global influence. White Castle and Pizza Hut both got their start here.
You’re going to find that spirit alive and well with the food truck scene in Wichita, Kansas City, and a handful of other locations. One of the surprising elements of this scene is the Lebanese cuisine, where you can find some of the best hummus you’ve ever tasted while living in this state.
7. Your commuting time will be less in most places.
If you live in rural Kansas and need to drive to the next town over for work, it might take you 30-60 minutes to get there. The traffic will be light, which means the primary issue for you is distance. Even if you decide to live in the Kansas City metro area, the average commute is less than 25 minutes. It’s the fifth-shortest commute in the United States for an area of its size.
If you live in the suburbs of Kansas City, you can make it into the downtown metro area in about 20 minutes. The public transit system could use an upgrade since it takes twice as long to reach your destination, but it still ranks as a top 5 city for that feature.
If you’re used to the lengthy commutes in Chicago, Seattle, or Los Angeles, then the amount of time you save when living in Kansas is going to feel like a bonus.
8. There is a strong job market to enjoy in Kansas.
You’ll find plenty of agricultural jobs waiting for you in Kansas if that’s your preference, but the state offers more than corn or wheat. Several leading industries, including transportation and trade, are creating a robust employment market that is competitive with most economies in the United States. The unemployment rate in the state hovers around 3%, usually staying a full percentage point lower than what the U.S. median tends to be each month.
The market isn’t the best in the country for employment opportunities, but the state does rank in the Top 20 for jobs. Since you can get away with a lower cost of living, a smaller salary might make the move a tempting proposition.
List of the Cons of Living in Kansas
1. The climate in Kansas can be challenging to manage.
You’ll find three different climates waiting for you in Kansas, so you’ll want to choose where you live very carefully. There are humid sub-tropical conditions in the southern part of the state, a humid continental atmosphere in the central and east, while the west is semi-arid. If you like it hot and dry, the western part of the state is perfect for you. Winters can be cold and icy to remarkably hot.
Wichita can get so hot and humid during the summer months that the heat index rises to life-threatening levels. You’ll get a lot of sunshine here, but it comes at a fairly steep price.
2. Tornadoes are an annual event in Kansas.
Kansas sits in tornado alley, so it is prudent to have a home with a useful storm shelter to use. Sitting in a bathtub or in an inner room doesn’t help much if you’re getting blasted with an F5 tornado. According to the National Weather Service, there have been at least 60 twisters in the state every year since 1996. There were 11 EF3 or greater tornadoes that touched down in 2008, making it one of the worst years on record.
At one point during the 2019 tornado season, there were 12 consecutive days when at least eight tornadoes were reported across the central plains. You will need to listen to news alerts about severe storms when living here to ensure that you stay safe.
3. Traveling in Kansas can be problematic, but not because there is traffic.
Once you get to the western part of Kansas, the number of significant towns diminishes quickly. If you’re outside of the Interstate corridors, then there are only a handful of communities to visit. Kansas might have the third-largest highway system behind Texas and California, but it is necessary to have it because there is no other means of travel available. The only major commercial airport is a Class C found in Wichita. Manhattan Regional Airport is the next largest option. You might need to go to Missouri, Denver, or Tulsa to get to where you want to go.
4. Kansas has a surprisingly high income tax rate for a traditionally Republican state.
You will find two income tax brackets waiting for you when you start living in Kansas. The state is going to take 2.7% on the first $15,000 of taxable income you have, and then another 4.6% on whatever else you make. Married couples have the same rates, but the brackets are doubled for them.
That means Kansas currently ranks as the 14th-highest state for taxes, including property levies, but there are some good deals to find since housing costs stay low. All state tax revenues are used for roads, parks, schools, and fire protection.
5. Excise taxes are possible when you live in Kansas.
If you purchase or bring a vehicle to Kansas when you move, then you’ll be charged an excise tax of somewhere between 6.3% to 7.65% if it was untaxed previously. Registering your vehicle at the county clerk’s office is rather easy, but you’ve got 90 days after moving to get it done. Emissions tests are required, and you’ll have fees to pay. Make sure that you register to vote when securing your driver’s license so that you can participate in local elections right away.
6. You need to be aware of the “specials” that exist for your home.
Housing costs in Kansas are lower than most of the rest of the country. Even in cities like Wichita, this fact remains true. What you need to ask about before finalizing the purchase of a property are the “specials” that come with it. When developers create housing additions or new neighborhoods, then the cost of putting in streets or utilities doesn’t get wrapped into the cost of your new home or the property. The city pays for the work instead. That means you’re going to be paying a monthly cost with interest for up to 20 years in some situations.
That cost is in addition to the utilities and other taxes or fees that come as part of the property itself. It can be enough to move some families out of the “affordable” category, especially when living in an urban area.
7. Expect to travel 2-3 hours to obtain specialized services or attend events.
Although you can avoid this disadvantage by living close to Kansas City or Wichita, you’ll find that traveling becomes a way of life when living in this state. You’re typically 2-3 hours from where you need to be unless you’re settling for a local movie theater. That can include a decent restaurant since several fast-food chains use the rural nature of Kansas to serve as their test markets.
If you want to see professional football, baseball, or soccer, then you’ll need to drive to Kansas City. When basketball is your preference, then your best option is a trip to Oklahoma City.
8. Public transportation outside of Kansas City is non-existent.
If you live anywhere in Kansas besides the Kansas City metro area, then you’re going to need a vehicle. There’s no way to get around that fact. That also means paying a potential excise tax if you purchased one from a private owner instead of a dealership before moving to the state. The reason for this need is the lack of public transportation infrastructure. You won’t find a train, streetcar, or subway anywhere, but Wichita does offer a handful of bus routes.
If you’re tired of life rushing by you at an extraordinary pace, then Kansas offers a respite for you to consider. When you live outside of the metro areas, you’ll discover that the rural nature of this state lends to a peaceful existence.
When you decide to live here, some cities (especially Wichita) want to know if you’re living on the east or west side. Most people rarely leave their side of town to go somewhere else since it took some time for the highway system to develop. Everyone stayed at home, so now it has become part of the local identity.
Living in Kansas can save you some money. There are some job opportunities to find here if you’re willing to look for them. It can also be a lonely, isolated experience if you’re used to being around a lot of people and Kansas City isn’t an option. That’s why considering all of these pros and cons before moving is an essential part of the decision-making process.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.