Like many other states in the U.S., people began to migrate to Idaho because gold was discovered in the region. The Nez Perce and Shoshone tribes were living there for thousands of years before, surviving by hunting local wildlife and planting farms with beans and corn. It’s remote location and challenging geography made this state the last one to be visited by European colonists.
Lewis and Clark, along with their guide Sacagawea, explored the region starting in 1805. Only 5 years later, fur traders would begin working in the area after Fort Henry was completed. As more families began to take the Oregon Trail to move west, some settlers decided to stop in Idaho, with the first permanent settlement occurring in Franklin in 1860.
Idaho was long claimed by Britain and the United States simultaneously. When Elias Pierce discovered gold at Orofino Creek, there was a significant push to make the area an official U.S. territory. In 1890, it would join the Union as the 43rd state.
List of the Pros of Living in Idaho
1. Housing prices in Idaho are exceptionally competitive right now.
The average value of a home sold in the state in 2017 was just over $160,000, according to information published by Zillow. That means the average mortgage payment for households in Idaho was a little over $1,200. If you want to rent a single-family home in the state, then you can find a place for about $750 per month.
The larger cities tend to see higher rental prices, so you will want to look for deals just off of the Interstate corridors if you want to save some money. Rural communities sometimes offer 3-bedroom apartments for as little as $100 per month. Even in Boise, there are 1-bedroom choices that can be under $500 per month still.
2. There is a housing boom happening in Idaho.
The homes in Idaho are fairly new, with most of them built since 2000. There is a population shift happening to the state because it is so affordable. You’ll find that Dover, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, and Boise all offer some unique opportunities to find a place to call home.
If you want to live outside of the typical urban area, then central Idaho has some options to consider as well. Although you will need to drive more because of the remote locations of homes, there is plenty of space to keep to yourself. This advantage means you can avoid traffic, people walking their dogs on your lawn, and the other hassles of city life.
3. The job market in Idaho is extremely competitive today.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the unemployment rate across the entire state of Idaho was just 2.9%. That is compared to the 4.1% rate that was the average for the United States during that time. Although the current minimum wage of the state is pegged to the federal level (which is only $7.25 per hour), the overall cost of living is significantly lower here as well. This structure may make it more challenging to travel across the country, but you can have a comfortable life at home.
4. Almost anyone can find a job if they want one in Idaho.
The significant job sectors that you can find in this state are agriculture, healthcare, and government positions. 15% of the workforce in Idaho is currently employed in some type of agricultural work. Because the central part of the state is mostly ranches, farms, and meadows, you need to have someone around to take care of everything. Potatoes are a significant crop for the state.
Many of the positions do not require a specific degree or skill for employment either. Although you can sacrifice a little in the wages you earn, there are fewer barriers to employment here than in other states. This structure can depress some wages, but it can also stretch a good-paying job’s income much further.
5. Idaho is a reasonably safe place to live.
Because Idaho is a state that is filled with open spaces, you will find that it is a reasonably safe place to live. Even when you make one of the urban centers of the state your home, Boise, Twin Falls, and other cities still have lower crime rates compared to similar settings across the year. One of the reasons why there are fewer issues with crime throughout the state is that Idaho invests numerous resources into its law-enforcement community. At one point, Boise had the most police officers per capita than any other city in the country.
6. The cities in Idaho make an effort to be clean and organized.
If you have traveled around the United States, then you have likely encountered issues with litter and trash when you visit some of the country’s largest cities. When you visit a place like Boise, Idaho, you will receive a very different experience. There is a conscious effort to ensure that cleanliness is present on a daily basis. You will not experience the disarray that a lack of organization provides when you live in the urban or suburban centers.
The attitude is a little different in the country. You will find the occasional property which looks more like the scrapyard then it does a farm or ranch. Most people, however, take pride in what they have and do their best to maintain its value.
7. People in Idaho are almost friendly to a fault.
When you live in Idaho, then you will find that there is a certain friendliness present in your interactions with others even though there is an isolationist spirit present in the state as well. If you have something happen with your vehicle while driving to work or on a shopping errand, then it would be rare to go through the experience without at least one person trying to help you out. Simple conversations can turn into an extensive discussion about where a person lives, where they moved from if they’re not from the state, and even how many children they plan to have.
8. Your outdoor activities in Idaho are almost unlimited.
Whether you prefer paragliding, skiing, or whitewater rafting, Idaho is a state that offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. The Snake River Canyon recreational zone will let you find hiking trails, go exploring on off-road vehicles, and enjoy some quiet spots where virtually no one will interfere with your adventure. Snowboarding, kayaking, snowshoeing, tubing – if you can think of it, then you can find it here.
Although you won’t have the same beach vibe living in Idaho that you can find along the East or West Coast in the United States, you will discover that every community provides a specific activity that can make for the perfect weekend adventure.
9. Idaho experiences all four seasons every year.
When you move to this state, the variations in the seasons will become evident immediately. The winters are a bit colder than some people might be used to experiencing, with snow a frequent occurrence in January and February. The summers can also become humid and hot, even though the state is in the northern quadrant of the continental 48. You can always find a mountain to climb or hibernate near a lake on a warm day if the heat becomes too much of an issue. If you love the idea of living somewhere that gives you all four seasons, then Idaho is the place where you will want to be.
10. Country music is a way of life when living in Idaho.
Although you will find numerous genres of music available throughout the state, country music is the preference for a majority of the 1.8 million people who live in Idaho. There is such an enthusiasm for this entertainment option that most of the significant acts throughout the year will make a stop in Boise – if not several other cities in the state. It is an atmosphere that still offers the benefits of the big city when you move to one of the urban centers, but it is also a land where everything feels like a small town, even if it is not.
The impact of this attitude and atmosphere is strong enough that even visitors start getting involved with it after spending a day or two in the state. You will find friendly smiles, a quick wave, and plenty of opportunities to socialize if you are willing to seek them out.
11. Everything is accessible when you live in Idaho.
As long as you avoid the traffic jams that happen during the morning and evening commute, you will discover that everything in Idaho is very accessible. Even when you live in Meridian, Boise, or Pocatello, it will only take you 15 to 30 minutes to drive across town. That makes it easier to get the things that you need, take the family out to dinner, or enjoy a night out on the town. You’ll have access to movie theaters, bars, and live music venues in most communities, although you might need to drive one town over for some of them. That makes it a lot easier to get out of the house to enjoy the big skies and clean air that are offered in abundance here in this state.
12. You can still get a sports fix when living in Idaho.
Although professional sports are virtually non-existent throughout the state, you can take advantage of what Boise State offers if you like the idea of catching a game. Tailgating is a way of life in Idaho, even at the high school level. There is a lot of fun to be found when getting together with friends for a warm meal on a cool night, and then cheering on the hometown team. If you want to catch professional baseball or football, then you’ll need to head to Seattle or Denver. You can also catch MLS games down in Salt Lake City.
List of the Cons of Living in Idaho
1. People in Idaho tend to embrace an isolationist spirit.
Idaho might be called the Gem State, but you will find people sometimes joking that they should call themselves the Isolationist State. There is a definite desire to be left alone when it comes to your business. The state has one of the lowest population density rates in the country, and many people embrace the idea that your business belongs to you and no one else. There are still plenty of chances to socialize with others when you live here, but there are also numerous times when you and your family will be on your own unless you specifically seek out a conversation.
2. Idaho is growing exceptionally fast.
Many people are discovering that there are wonders in Idaho waiting for them to discover. Cities like Boise are seeing rapid growth to the extent that the infrastructure cannot handle the additional traffic. Two-lane roads are common throughout the state, which means you can have insane traffic jams even in small towns when school or work start letting out. Even if you have access to the interstate, there are only a handful of exits for each community, which means you are traveling places where you don’t really need to be just to get where you are going.
3. There is a cultural concentration found throughout Idaho.
Although almost every town in Idaho has a decent Mexican restaurant, you will find that the population is not as diverse as the outward appearance might suggest. Even in Boise, the main cultural influence tends to be European, though this is changing especially with the groups of traveling workers tending to the agricultural needs here. If you identify with a minority group, moving to Idaho could mean that you won’t find a lot of restaurants or activities representative of your heritage, culture, or perspective.
4. If you don’t like guns, then Idaho is not the place for you.
The Second Amendment is taken seriously when you live in Idaho. That isn’t because everyone and their neighbor is itching to have a gun fight with someone. Hunting is a way of life here, and there is a robust emphasis on one’s right to defend your property and loved ones. It is an open carry state, which means anyone can own and use a gun even if they don’t know how to use it. You do not need to hold a license to carry the firearm either, so you will need to get used to seeing holsters around hips – even when you live in Boise.
Even in conversation, you’ll find that there are three primary subjects that always spark a passionate debate: trucks, gears, and guns. If you’re not into that, then it can be a challenge sometimes to live here.
5. The housing markets are changing in the larger cities in Idaho.
Because there are so many people trying to move to Idaho right now, some of the cities are seeing an explosion in the price of housing. Homes that were selling for less than $200,000 just a couple of years ago are now in the $400,000 range. You can still find starter homes where you can raise a family, but it is becoming a challenge to do so if you want to live in one of the state’s cities. It is not unusual for people from California to sell their homes, and then purchase with cash and pay above offer to get the property that they want.
You will need to be prepared with a mortgage ready to settle with a financing package immediately to prevent someone from coming in over top of you. Even then, sellers know that cash buyers come up to the state frequently, so even fair offers are sometimes rejected.
6. There are limited shopping opportunities found in Idaho.
If you like the idea of shopping for luxury brands, then you will need to go out of state or order items online to satisfy your retail therapy cravings. You will find the typical stores like Walmart and The Home Depot throughout Idaho, but your other options are somewhat limited. Because of the population movement into the urban areas, this disadvantage is improving somewhat, but it is still something to consider before you decide to live here full time.
7. Idaho is a state that is politically consistent.
Idaho consistently votes for conservative principles, regularly electing Republicans that do not always share liberal views in the United States. You can find pockets of like-minded people throughout the state, especially in Boise, if you do not share the conservative agenda, but it is not like living in Washington, Oregon, or parts of California. If you have an alternative view of the world, people here won’t overly criticize you. They will just let you be and not include you in their circle of friends.
8. Public transportation does not really exist in Idaho.
If you don’t own a vehicle and are thinking about moving to Idaho, then you will want to take care of this disadvantage right away. Unless you live in Boise or one of the other large cities, then your options are almost non-existent. Uber and Lyft are rarely found in the rural areas of the state. When you do have access to a bus or rail option, then the systems do not run very efficiently.
This issue extends to some of the traveling infrastructure in the state as well. The airport in Boise is more of a regional hub, despite the size of the city compared to the rest of the state. If you want to fly somewhere outside of the region, then you’ll need to book a connector through Seattle, Portland, Denver, or Salt Lake City.
9. Some levels of government only focus on tradition.
There are a lot of preconceived notions with which to contend when you start living in Idaho. Small towns and their governments tend to focus on tradition or power more than how the world starts evolving. If you offer a perspective that is different, then it is not unusual to be shot down. There is a certain reluctance to even consider the idea of change, especially when evaluating ideas like occupational licensing. It can be a place where economic refuge occurs, but this state is not going to change because the people who move here want them to happen.
The pros and cons of living in Idaho can give you an idea about whether or not this state can meet your needs. Although the unemployment rate is low, there are relatively few jobs that fall outside of healthcare, government positions, or agriculture. If your profession falls outside of those industries, then you can find it to be a struggle to receive a paycheck that reflects your full worth.
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.