Known as the "Hawkeye" state, Iowa can be fun place to live. Know more about the state with this list of 25 pros and cons.Known as the "Hawkeye" state, Iowa can be fun place to live. Know more about the state with this list of 25 pros and cons.Local Guide

25 Pros and Cons of Living in Iowa

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Iowa is called the “Hawkeye” state. It got its nickname as a tribute to Native Americans. Newspaper editor, James Edwards, proposed the nickname in 1838. Edwards had a Native American friend, Black Hawk. He also wanted to honor his predecessor, the historical Chief Black Hawk.

“Hawkeye” was also a character in the famous classic novel The Last of the Mohicans (published in 1826) written by James Fenimore Cooper. The French claimed Iowa in 1763. Then, in 1803 it was part of the territory sold to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.

Nowadays, Iowa has a population of 3,155,070 (2019). Des Moines, with 215,636 (2019) people, is Iowa’s largest city. There are good and not-so-good things about living n Iowa, so let’s explore them.

25 Pros of Living in Iowa

Here are some positive opinions from real Iowans about living in the state of Iowa.

Low Cost of Living

The cost of living in Iowa is 16.3% lower than the national average. Housing prices are reasonable. The median price for a single-family home is $141,200 compared to $304,100 for the national average.

The majority of homes in Iowa (64.6%) are owner-occupied. Only 26.3% of the homes in Iowa are rentals, and 9.1% of homes are vacant. The median rent for a two-bedroom home is $793 per month compared to $1,148 for the national average.


If you want a job in agriculture, Iowa is the place to be. Iowans raise more pigs than any other state in the nation. Dairy farms are abundant. Raising chickens for eggs and meat is a popular business. Cattle ranches are common. Corn and soybeans are everywhere. Sustainable farming to sell organically grown produce as part of the “farm-to-the-table” effort is very appealing.

Farming in Iowa is a significant portion of the economy; however, many other jobs are available. There are jobs in manufacturing, transportation, operating heavy machinery, and green jobs in electricity production from wind power and solar. Large employers in the state include the University of Iowa, the grocery chain Hy-Vee, the insurance industry, and the media publishing company, Meredith.


Iowa ranks well for its educational standards. The state has a very high graduation rate from high school. Many students go on to attend college. Iowa has excellent universities that include the Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa.

Low Urbanization

Iowans appreciate having lots of open space and very low urbanization. The biggest city is Des Moines, with just over 215,000 people. The second-largest city in Iowa, Cedar Rapids, has a population of only 132,301 (2019). In many other states, this population level is not considered a small city, more like a large town. For comparison, the Bronx borough of New York City has over 1.4 million people, which is almost half the entire population of Iowa.

There are many small towns in Iowa with a few thousand families living in each one. For those who appreciate a calmer pace, country-living in rural Iowa is pleasant.

Low Crime Rate

The crime rate in Iowa is lower than in the rest of America. There are 20% fewer violent crimes and 10% fewer property crimes when compared to national averages. Iowans are comfortable having dogs as a warning system to let the homeowners know someone is coming for a visit. There is always time for a coffee and maybe a piece of pie for any visiting townsfolk.

Four Seasons

The four seasons are prominent in Iowa and very distinct. There is a beautiful time in autumn when the tree leaves change color. Spring is a wonderful time too. Winters are cold, and it can get down to below zero during January. However, winter sports are fun with eight to ten inches of fresh snow. Summers are hot and humid, with delightful periods of refreshing summer rain. July is the hottest month, and temperatures easily get over 90ºF.

Art Scene

It might surprise people, who do not live in Iowa, that there is a thriving art scene. Naturally, there are arts & craft fairs when the weather is nice. The annual Iowa Arts Festival, held in Iowa City, is popular. There are also art museums, art exhibits, and major artists from Iowa, such as Grant Wood (1891 to 1942), known for his Midwest depictions. Wood’s iconic image called American Gothic of an elderly farming couple with sad faces and showing the man holding a pitchfork is nearly as famous as the Mona Lisa.


If you are planning to go on a diet, reconsider your move to Iowa. Iowans love to eat. Pork barbecue is extremely tasty and popular. Iowans do not make a simple hamburger. At the restaurant called Zombie Burger in Des Moines, a “monster burger” has a breaded, deep-fried, macaroni-and-cheese-filled bun, with three hamburger patties, additional layers of cheese, and bacon.

Farm Living

Living on a farm is not the same as working on a farm. Living on a farm is pastoral and relaxing if you want to take some time out from hectic city life. However, farm work is non-stop. If you are the type that likes to start work at daybreak and work until the cows come home, farm living may be the life for you.

Nice People

So many people in Iowa are nice that visitors are surprised. People will go out of the way to help you, make you feel welcome and completely at home. Then, they will love to learn of your deepest secrets so that they can gossip about them with the neighbors. If you do not mind everyone getting in your business, you will enjoy the kindness of the Iowans you meet.

The Heartland of America

Living in the heartland is what makes Americans feel greet. Iowa is in the center of America. To get the feeling of what is meant by the heartland of America, listen to some music by John Cougar Mellencamp. Mellencamp was born in Indiana, which is just a couple of states east.

The heartland of America is the Midwest. This area includes the states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. The working-class spirit of the heartland is a key part of the Iowan culture too.

Star Gazing

Get out your telescope on a clear night because the night sky is fantastic. If you are out in the fields, away from the lights, the view of the night sky is spectacular. People who live in the big cities in America, with the problem of extreme light pollution, have forgotten how outstanding it is to see the stars at night.

Amateur astronomers can join the club at the Adam Observatory in Ames, Iowa, and get a chance to use the large telescope for a close-up view of Jupiter or Saturn.

Garden Sharing

Iowan gardeners compulsively share. There is an abundance of everything that can be grown in a garden. When harvest time comes, there is so much to go around that it is impossible to eat it all. Iowans love to share what they grow in their garden. Many neighbors make an informal cooperative. They trade things that they grow for some produce from a neighbor’s garden. It is not uncommon to see a handmade sign in the front yard of a house saying that there is something to enjoy being shared for free.

People Will Help When Stranded

In Iowa, leaving someone stranded with road trouble or stuck in the snow is unforgivable. No true-blooded Iowan would even consider doing this. Many people in Iowa who have a pickup truck also have a wench on the bumper that can pull some other car or small truck out of the ditch or snow.

No Toll Roads

Highways are always free in Iowa. If anyone dared to put up a toll booth, Iowans would not stand for it. Interstate 80 (I-80) is a toll road in Ohio as part of the Ohio turnpike. I-80 is also a toll road in Indiana. However, when I-80 crosses the border into Iowa, there is no toll!

Sports and Tailgate Parties

The college and minor league teams in Iowa get all the attention because there are no professional major league teams that make Iowa their home. The college teams play hockey, baseball, basketball, soccer, volleyball, mixed martial arts, wrestling, and American football.

The popular teams are the Drake Bulldogs (all NCAA sports), the Iowa Blizzard (volleyball), the Iowa State Cyclones (all NCAA sports), the Northern Iowa Panthers (all NCAA sports), the Iowa Hawkeyes (all NCAA sports), Iowa stalkers (wrestling), Iowa Stars (hockey), Iowa Wild (hockey), Iowa Wolves (basketball), Quad City Silverbacks (wrestling), and the Sioux City Explorers (baseball). Even if you hate sports, the tailgate parties are fun.


Iowa ranks in the top ten states for being the most pleasant state to drive a vehicle with almost no traffic congestion anywhere. Commute times in the state’s largest city, Des Moines, are usually less than half an hour’s drive from the suburbs. More jobs are now doable from home while working in remote positions because of the pandemic’s impact, so there is less need to drive anywhere.

Retirement Options

The low cost of living and superb healthcare make Iowa a top choice for retirees after Florida and Hawaii. If you do not care about beaches, the retirement lifestyle in Iowa is quite enjoyable. Florida and Hawaii are much more expensive. Plus, you have to deal with the potential threat of hurricanes when living near a beach. Long-term care facilities are more affordable in Iowa too.


When people can safely assemble, there is the annual RAGBRAI event that is a bicycle tour from one part of the state to the other. This tour lasts a week. Many enter just to participate without trying to win. Some get sponsorship to raise money for charity for every mile that they ride. Everyone who is not riding a bicycle follows along in RVs, busses, campers, and private vehicles, creating a caravan that stretches out for many miles behind the bicycle riders.

Many Iowans prefer to use a bicycle when the weather is nice to go around in a small town. It saves money on gas. It is better for the environment, and exercise is good for the health.


People love to hunt in Iowa. Almost everyone who lives on a farm has a rifle. Each hunting season requires a specific hunting permit. Deer season is in autumn. Hunting is competitive. After a day waiting for prey, if you land a big buck, you will want to mount its antlers on your living room wall or pay extra for the taxidermy and mount the full head.

Mushroom Foraging

During spring, it is a terrific time to hunt for wild morel mushrooms. Many grow mushrooms commercially all year round. The mushrooms grow wild during spring. Be sure to take a seasoned mushroom hunter with you who knows how to identify the edible varieties of mushrooms. Eat some and sell the rest to the local restaurants.

If you cannot take the time to go into the forest to hunt mushrooms, the local eateries will have wild mushroom dishes on the menu during spring.


Iowa is the ice cream capital of the world. The Wells Dairy is in Le Mars, Iowa. This dairy makes the Blue Bunny brand of products. It is the largest family-owned ice cream company in America. Come for an ice cream cone and enjoy a stroll on the property with a small lake.

Besides ice cream, you want to try the cheese curds, aged cheeses, cream, butter, specialty kinds of milk, and other delicacies that challenge even the famous cheese-makers of Wisconsin with spectacular flavors.

Famous People from Iowa

The best-known celebrity among the younger ones, who were born in Iowa, is Aston Kutcher. Older adults will appreciate knowing that John Wayne was born in Iowa. Other celebrities born in Iowa include Cloris Leachman, Elijah Wood, Gene Wilder, Andy Williams, and Johnny Carson.

Native American Culture

The Native American tribes in Iowa are very interesting. “Iowa” is a word from the Sioux language. It means “sleepy people.” The Dakota Sioux made Northern Iowa part of their territory in the past. Other tribes in Iowa’s history include the Ioway, the Illinin (from Illinois), the Missouria, and the Otoe. There is only one federally recognized tribe in Iowa today: the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi, with their tribal headquarters in Tama, Iowa.

25 Cons of Living in Iowa

Here are some negative opinions from real Iowans about living in the state of Iowa.

Natural Disasters

Tornadoes, floods, hail storms, and thunderstorms are common in Iowa. May and June are the most likely months to have a tornado. There are, on average, 48 tornadoes each year. You need to either have a storm shelter or know how to get to one nearby, in a hurry, if a tornado is coming.

In 2019, floods kept nearly 20 million acres from being planted. Hailstorms happen that can drop hail as large as golf balls. Thunderstorms and lightning are very frightening. Getting hit by lightning is possible when outside in a thunderstorm.

Severe Winter

In winter, Iowans expect to see plenty of snow. Digging vehicles out of a snowdrift is a common task during winter. January is the coldest month. The wind-chill factor can make the outside air feel as cold as 40 to 50 degrees below zero.

You will need to winterize your home and have a snow removal plan. Every homeowner needs a snowblower to clear their driveway in winter.

Hot and Humid Summers

As cold as it gets in winter, it gets super hot in summer also. With humidity in the 90% range, you will feel like you need to take a shower every half-hour. Even mild exertion in summer outside in the heat will leave you dripping with sweat in a matter of moments. People not used to the summers in Iowa can easily get heatstroke. Try not to schedule any heavy physical activity, such as moving furniture, in the middle of a summer’s day. Watch out for dehydration that will potentially make a person pass out from lack of water in their system.

Mosquitoes and Insects

Along with hot, humid summers come plenty of annoying mosquitoes. You may find you are being eaten alive by “no-see-ums” which are bugs so small you cannot see them. The first things you will notice are many tiny red bumps on your skin that start to itch. In wooded areas, you have to deal with chiggers and ticks. Ticks carry a horrible infection, called Lyme disease, which they can pass on with their bite. If you get Lyme disease, it may take many years to recover completely.

Unpredictable Wildlife

When driving, you must always be on the lookout for animals that suddenly jump out into the roadway. You might see a deer, possum, squirrel, rabbit, or raccoon running in front of the vehicle. There is a tendency to swerve, especially if the driver is not paying attention. This problem causes many accidents. A car may swerve, drive off the road, or hit a tree.

State Income Taxes

People who move from a state like Texas or Nevada, which does not have any state taxes are shocked when they move to Iowa. They may only realize after moving that they have to pay Iowa’s state taxes. If you earn a high amount or take substantial taxable withdrawals from your retirement account, you need to make a tax calculation.

You will want to know how much Iowa taxes you will have to pay to figure out the true cost of living in Iowa. Iowa uses a progressive tax scale that charges higher tax rates to those making more money. Iowa’s state income tax is in the top ten highest rates of all states. The tax rate is 0.33% to 8.53% of income. The highest rate applies to anyone earning more than $74,970 per year.

Rural Towns Lack Entertainment

People used to the over-stimulation of city life may find rural life in Iowa boring. Nightlife is nearly non-existent except in Des Moines. Parties are the barbecue you throw in your backyard. Young people, who grow up in rural Iowa and seek the excitement of big-city life, just want to move away as soon as possible after becoming old enough to leave their parents.

Lack of Privacy

In a small town, everybody seems to know all of your business. What might be intended as taking care of others can be perceived as intrusive or an invasion of privacy. A common fault in a small town is gossiping unnecessarily about others. If you are the kind of person who prefers to be left alone, you will not appreciate small-town living in Iowa. The communities are close-knit, which can feel stifling to some people.

Lack of Diversity

If your heritage is not Caucasian, you may be the only one of a few of your race or ethnic background in a small town. Recently, some Asian American physicians who work in the rural communities’ clinics in Iowa experienced racial prejudice due to the pandemic’s origin in China. Somehow the racists blamed them for the illness because they were Asian (not even Chinese, necessarily). Racism is very bad in Iowa for non-whites. Not everyone is racist, but minorities may experience discrimination in Iowa.

Teenagers Act Out

A lack of things to do causes young people to get creative with partying. They have problems with illegal activities and substance abuse. There is a considerable amount of underage drinking and drug usage amount teenagers in Iowa. Young people can easily get into trouble at parties that those young people create to entertain themselves.

Drug Abuse

The opioid crisis hit Iowans very hard. This impacted teens and older adults as well. Many were prescribed opioids as painkillers by their doctors and then became addicted to them. When their legal supply ran out, they turned to illegal sources. Overdoses from opioids are very high in Iowa. Abuse of crystal “meth” (methyl-amphetamine) is also common.

No Fresh Seafood

Iowa is in the center of the country. It is as far away from the coastline as possible, in both the eastern and western directions. Seafood has to be fresh-frozen after caught and shipped by truck to Iowa. Alternatively, fresh seafood can be flown in by airplane at extremely high prices. When Iowans think of eating seafood, they settle for frozen fish sticks, a can of tuna, or sardines.

Few Large Cities

Des Moines calls itself a city, but it is just a large town. The skyline shows a handful of skyscrapers. It has just over 215,000 people. Many are students attending the University of Iowa. The largest employer in Des Moines, besides the higher educational system, is the insurance industry.

Downtown Des Moines is a Midwestern Bohemia that has plenty of charm. During regular times when people were allowed to assemble, there are small bars, nightclubs, restaurants, and cafés in abundance.

Besides Des Moines, there is Cedar Rapids, with a population of just over 132,000, Davenport with 102,000, and Sioux City with around 82,000. That is the extent of the large cities in Iowa.

People are Obese

Iowa has one of the highest rates of obesity in America. 35% of Iowans are obese compared to the national average of 31%. People living in the state lack a healthy diet and do not get enough exercise. This epidemic of obesity leads to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart problems, stroke, high blood pressure, and many types of cancer. The problem is not only what people eat, but it is also the trend of making unhealthy choices and lack of exercise.

Unhealthy Diet

Iowans eat too much pork, beef, and corn products. High fructose corn syrup is a sweetener made from corn that may cause obesity. It is used in so many processed foods and drinks that it is very easy to have an unhealthy diet that contains too much of added sugar.

Iowans eat a lot of pork, especially bacon, which increases bad cholesterol levels that lead to heart problems.

Corny Humor

If you ever saw the television show called Hee Haw, then you have some idea of what many Iowans think is good humor. Telling corn jokes is a favorite comedic style in Iowa because there is just so much corn grown there.

Here are a few examples:

  • How do you know that corn likes a joke? Because it is all ears.
  • Some people say it is hard to chew popcorn. There’s a kernel of truth to that.
  • What does corn say when it is complimented? Aw, shucks.
  • A bunch of empty corn flakes boxes was found at a murder scene. Do you think it could be a cereal killer?

Iowans know their jokes are corny, but they are also a-maize-ing!

Too Many Scholarly Writers

The stereotypical good ole boy in Iowa, who is not the sharpest tool in the toolkit, thinks that know-it-all writers who do not work with their hands are elite, pretentious, intellectual snobs. The educational system is superb in Iowa. For these farm boys, who are relics from the past, Iowa creates far too many educated people.

Local Slang

Iowans are fond of making up words for things. It takes a bit of practice to get used to hearing the local slang. It is OK to ask an Iowan what something means as long as you are comfortable being laughed at for being an outsider.

Here is a slang cheat sheet to help you understand what is said at the next Iowan barbeque you attend:

  • Cornhole — It is not what you think. This is a fun game played on the lawn at family reunions.
  • Crick — This is a “creek.”
  • Knee High by Fourth of July — This is how the corn grows.
  • Padiddle — If you see a car with a broken headlight, hit it on the roof and say, “padiddle!”
  • Pop — Iowans never call it soda.
  • Pork Queen — A desirable honorary title for a lady.
  • Prairie Lights — A highly regarded bookstore where the know-it-alls hang out.
  • Puppy Chow — This is a chocolate treat made for people.
  • Straw Poll — A survey of Iowans’ thoughts about presidential candidates.


For every event, Iowans bring a casserole. If there is a new baby — casserole. If you are recovering from surgery — casserole. If you bought a new house — casserole. If you got a new stove — casserole. Promotion on the job? — casserole If someone dies — casserole. And the greatest moment of the year is always visiting friends at Thanksgiving with a casserole in hand.

Roadside Stands

There is no need to go to the grocery store to buy vegetables when you can get them directly from the farm at a roadside stand. Do not even think about buying cucumbers, tomatoes, or zucchini during summer. Why would you buy them when all your friends and family have gardens loaded with them?

Ranch Dressing

Iowans put ranch dressing on everything, including pizza and pancakes. Iowans think that the creamy buttermilk flavor goes great with everything, especially if it is deep-fried food. In Iowa, you will almost always find a bottle of ranch dressing on the table. If you are the adventuresome type, go ahead and try it on vanilla ice cream. It is surprisingly good.


Iowans hate it if you make fun of them for using the word “pop,” instead of “soda.” There is no soda in Iowa or cola either. There is just pop. Pop can also be your father. It used to be that giving your kids a pop on their behinds was the proper way to punish them for misbehavior. Now all the kids do is drink pop, eat snacks and play video games. This behavior adds to the statewide obesity problem starting with the overweight Iowan children.

Flat Iowa

There is plenty of natural beauty in Iowa, just no beaches or mountains. Though most of the land in Iowa is flat farmland, it is not all flat. There are also rolling hills and bluffs made of colorful limestone in the state parks. A nice day trip is a visit to Big Creek State Park in Des Moines. In this park, there is some sand along the lakeshore. This is the closest thing that Iowa has to a beach.

The highest altitudes in Iowa are some points along the Mississippi River. The tallest summit is a mere 1,670 feet at Hawkeye Point. Okoboji is another nice outing with lakeside dining, camping sites, and an amusement park for the kids to enjoy. That is pretty much all there is to see.

No Major League Sports Teams

Des Moines is the number one minor league sports city in America. The Houston Aeros moved to Des Moines in 2013 and took the new name of Iowa Wild. The Chicago Cubs have an AAA minor league affiliate called the Iowa Cubs. Cedar Rapids has a minor league baseball team. To see a major league game in person requires traveling up to seven hours to another state.

Serious Politics

Every four years, the Iowa Caucuses begin a new election cycle for presidential candidates. Individual candidates who are campaigning to become the president flood Iowa to appear at town halls and other public events. The broadcast shows are packed with political advertisements up to two years before the next presidential election.

Nearly every Iowan gets involved in political activities because they are almost unavoidable. Iowans pride themselves on being able to set the national agenda. This politics can lead to some very heated debates.

When all is said and done, we love Iowa!

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