Arkansas serves as a home for more than 3 million people as of 2018. The name of the state comes from the Osage language, representing a diverse geography and group of people that stretch from the Ozarks to the Ouachita Mountains. There is also the densely forested region called the Timberlands. It was admitted to the Union in 1836 as a slave state, with cotton plantations making most of the delta at that time.
Arkansas is one of the states that chose to secede from the Union, doing so in 1861 to join the Confederate States of America. It would be recognized as a state once again in 1868 during Reconstruction. The combination of a poor cotton market and monoculture led to economic declines that would continue until World War II.
President Eisenhower famously sent 1,000 active-duty troops from the 101st Airborne Division to escort minority students as they entered school in 1957 as integration took place. The governor of the state and the city of Little Rock decided to close their high schools instead of eliminating segregation.
If you’re thinking about a move in the future, then there are several pros and cons of living in Arkansas that are worth considering.
List of the Pros of Living in Arkansas
1. The transportation network in Arkansas is extensive.
The Arkansas Department of Transportation oversees one of the most extensive networks of roads and highways in the United States. There are four interstate highways for drivers to use, along with almost 3,000 miles of railroad tracks. You can also use one of the four airports in the state for commercial flights. The overall network is the 13th-largest in the country even though the state often ranks at or near the bottom in many funding categories. This advantage makes it a lot easier to get to where you need to be on any given day.
2. The weather in Arkansas is fantastic.
You’ll discover that the weather in Arkansas tends to be mild and comfortable throughout the year. The summer season can get a little warm when you’re in the northern counties, but the south-central location above Louisiana helps to regulate things. Winters can sometimes get a little cold, but it is nothing close to what states like North Dakota or Michigan experience. The average temperature in the summer for Fayetteville doesn’t even reach 90°F, while the lows in January don’t dip below 40°F.
3. Manners are a way of life when living in Arkansas.
The easiest way to get on the good side of locals when you first move to the state is to pronounce the name correctly. It might look like “Our Kansas,” but it is really “Are Can Saw.” Once you get past that first trial, you’ll find that Southern hospitality is the real deal here. Manners are a way of life, and it isn’t just for show or to maintain a reputation. People prefer to be polite and proper, throwing out numerous “sirs” and “ma’ams” while engaging with each other. Most of the stereotypes that you hear about people from this state are from those who have never visited, so expect to see a diverse set of neighborhoods and communities to enjoy.
4. There are plenty of opportunities to get outside to start exploring.
Arkansas offers over 9,700 miles of streams and rivers to explore. There are also 600,000 acres of lakes to enjoy. It might not be a coastal state, but locals take full advantage of all of the water that is at their disposal. Some of the highest-rated locations for fishing are here, such as the Cache and Buffalo Rivers. Floating is a popular pastime as well, which means you sit on top of an inner tube and let the river or stream take you to your destination. Don’t forget to bring your favorite adult beverage and some sunscreen to make it an enjoyable day.
5. Arkansas is one of the most affordable states to live in the U.S. today.
Arkansas consistently makes the national top 10 lists for affordability in the United States. When 100 is listed as the median for the country, the cost of housing, groceries, and utilities tends to hover around 90. You’ll also find that healthcare costs and transportation needs tend to be a little cheaper as well. Employers might not offer as much in wages when you start living here compared to other parts of the country, but your money can stretch a lot further because of the structure of the economy. If you already have a little cash stashed away, then you can enjoy a high quality of life here.
6. You can usually avoid chain stores and restaurants in the state.
Arkansas emphasizes the small-town charm that lets you walk down the street in peace or have the kids play in the yard without fearing for their safety. Downtown areas throughout Arkansas are filled with mom-and-pop shops that offer everyone a chance to support the local economy. Even though Walmart has its headquarters here, the emphasis on providing help to the small business owner is one of the advantages that anyone can enjoy when living here. You get to experience this advantage without a significant increase in your spending needs to take care of the basic costs of living.
7. Little Rock is a culinary dream destination.
Even though Arkansas and Little Rock sometimes have the “reputation” for being regressive, their food scene is one of the most complex in the country. You’re right in the middle of powerhouse cities like Dallas, Memphis, Kansas City, and St. Louis. That means you can find almost anything you want to enjoy when you start living here. There’s a lot of chicken-fried steak and typical Southern fare, but you can also grab some amazing pizza, fantastic barbecue, and there are some excellent pies.
You’re also very close to several big cities if you need to take a break from the state for a little bit. If traffic is light, then you can make it to Memphis in about two hours. Dallas is about five hours away. That’s assuming you can pull yourself away from the fried catfish or farm-fresh foods that are available in many local restaurants.
8. Sports culture is a way of life in Arkansas.
There aren’t any professional teams from the Big 5 sports operating in Arkansas because of its population density. That doesn’t mean you can enjoy a game or two after you move here. There are a handful of minor league teams operating throughout the state, so having a night out with the family is affordable and fun. Razorbacks football is a popular event, and going to a Travelers baseball game is surprisingly cheap.
Hunting is a way of life in this state as well. Many families have their children obtain a license at the minimum age to make each outing a memorable experience for everyone. If you need a pro sports fix, NBA games are just a couple of hours away thanks to the Grizzlies.
9. Property taxes are below average in Arkansas.
When you start living in Arkansas, then you will discover that the annual property tax payment is significantly lower than the national average. The statewide median is only 0.63%, which makes it the tenth-lowest rate in the country. Out of the 75 counties in total, 68 of them see homeowners with an annual payment of less than $800. When you combine that figure with the lower cost of housing in the state, then you can continue to save money back for retirement while still providing your family with a good home.
10. There are numerous recreational opportunities to enjoy in Arkansas.
The to-do list that is available when you want to have some fun is extensive when you start living in Arkansas. You can go camping, swimming, cycling, or dig for diamonds. No matter what your ability, age, or interest happens to be, there is something that you’ll love to do here. When you combine this advantage with the numerous employment opportunities in agriculture, teaching, and technology, there are many ways for you to create a good life for yourself when you call this place home.
11. You have access to world-class hospitals in Arkansas.
Some of the best healthcare facilities in the United States are located in Arkansas. The University of Arkansas Medical Sciences is frequently ranked as one of the best facilities in the country. It is also listed as a Level 1 Trauma Care Center. There are several VA options around the state to use, along with local providers who can offer the general practitioner care that you require. This advantage is one of the primary reasons why retirees look to this state as one of their top destinations when there isn’t a need to go to work every day.
List of the Cons of Living in Arkansas
1. The average crime rate in Arkansas is higher than the U.S. median.
Violent crime is somewhat common in Arkansas, and it is a trend that is continuing to climb. The current rate is about six incidents for every 1,000 people. That means your risk of becoming a victim in an incident is about 1 in 180. Property crime rates occur at 31 per 1,000 people, which is significantly higher than the U.S. average. Your chances of experiencing that issue are about 1 in 32.
You’ll need to take significant steps to protect your home and property if you start living in Arkansas. A modern security system is necessary. You’ll also want to use common sense when traveling to ensure that you can remain safe. Most of the dangerous areas in Little Rock are around I-630.
2. Arkansas offers a below-average educational system for families.
The educational system in Arkansas has a very poor track record for success. It is chronically underfunded to the point that teachers in the state struggle to make ends meet because of their low salaries. Political interference in the classroom also creates a unique set of disadvantages for families to manage. Once you get outside of the K-12 system, the University of Arkansas and Arkansas State are some of the best institutions in the country. You may want to have a plan for private schooling if you are moving here with your family.
3. Much of the state is rural with poverty a significant issue.
Arkansas has always been a state that focuses on its rural culture and roots. You can find metropolitan centers like Little Rock offering modern amenities, but a majority of the state continues to be wilderness. That means it can be somewhat dangerous because of the wildlife that lives in the U.S. South. From the poisonous snakes (cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, and copperheads) to the alligators, you’ll need to use some common sense when wandering somewhere unfamiliar.
The poverty rate is quite high, with one out of every 5.5 residents not meeting income standards. Arkansas ranks 46th out of the 50 states with an 18.1% rate, with children under the age of 6 experiencing a 29.4% rate. The trend is heading downward, but it is still about five percentage points higher than the rest of the country.
4. The mosquitos are some of the biggest you’ve ever seen.
There are some locals who will joke that the mosquitoes in Arkansas are so large that the state should make them the official bird. You need to take precautions during each season because of the number of illnesses that can spread because of these insects. You’ll need to pay attention to your tick-prevention efforts as part of this disadvantage as well. Since 2014, there have been issues of Chikungunya reported because of the Aedes mosquito in the state. There are issues with West Nile and Zika that can occur. The only method of prevention is to not get bitten in the first place, which means you’ll need to drain standing water and have repellent available at all times.
5. Obesity rates in Arkansas are higher than average.
Country cooking can be a positive attribute to consider when moving to Arkansas. It can also be the cause of an expanding waistline if you don’t take care of yourself afterward. Over 1 in 3 people in the state have a BMI that classifies them as being obese. It is the third-highest percentage in the United States. Go ahead and enjoy the chicken-friend approach to almost everything, but you must remember to have it in moderation so that you don’t become another statistic in this category.
6. There are a lot of strange laws in Arkansas that are sometimes enforced.
Every community has its fair share of unusual laws that can leave you scratching your head. What makes Arkansas unique is that there are law enforcement institutions that will enforce the penalties on some of the unusual legislative items that are on the books. Did you know that it is illegal in the state to sound your vehicle’s horn at a sandwich shop after 9 pm? Fayetteville says that it is illegal to kill any living creature, so enjoy trying to trap the mosquitoes in a catch-and-release restaurant. The state even says it is illegal to raise your voice to your children when dining at a drive-in restaurant.
7. You won’t find many public transportation options in the state.
If you live in the rural areas of Arkansas, then it is going to be up to you to find a way to reach your intended destination. Even if you call Little Rock home, the public transportation options are rather limited. You’ll have access to some taxis, a metro, and Uber is active. Most people just end up walking to where they need to go, especially if they live in one of the state’s larger communities. You’re going to need a vehicle if you want any hope of being able to go outside of your regular route between home, work, and running errands.
Arkansas truly earns its nickname as the “Wonder State.” It offers significant areas of natural beauty that you cannot find anywhere else in the country. You can enjoy quiet moments in the Ozarks, fish in crystal-clear creeks, or enjoy a leisurely afternoon floating on a lake.
Job prospects must be a top priority when planning your move. The minimum wage is above the national standard, but it is much lower than what you’ll find in other places across the United States. The unemployment rate is usually about 0.5% to 1% above the median as well, so finding an opportunity first is almost essential. Most of the fastest-growing jobs are in the healthcare industry, which further limits some of the opportunities.
With the average home listed below $200,000, the pros and cons of living in Arkansas are worth considering. You can even find a one-bedroom apartment in Little Rock for less than $800 per month. If you’re looking for ways to save money, then this state is the place to be.
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.