Why People Are Moving to the Midwest

According to government figures, 87 million Americans, or 27 percent of the total population, live in coastal areas, with more than 32 million along the Pacific coast and 41 million in Atlantic coast communities. Now, though, many are considering moving to the Midwest.

But where? And why? In this article, we find out.

First, we discuss the allure of the Midwest (why you might want to relocate there). Then we deep dive into the most popular states and why they are hot destinations right now.

But first, what do we mean by the “Midwest.” The most common definition is the states that sit north of the Ohio river between the Rocky and the Appalachian Mountains. Many people refer to the region as the U.S. “Heartland” because no part of the region borders the ocean.

You can think of the Midwest as classic America. It’s home to sprawling farmland, modern and competently run metro areas, and thriving industry. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of crowded and sometimes perilous coastal city life and experience genuine contentment, it’s the place to be.

Why Move To The Midwest?

There are plenty of reasons why people are moving from California to the Midwest. Here’s a rundown.

It’s Incredibly Affordable

Coastal cities, such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Miami, and Boston, have dramatically increased displaced populations over the last few decades. At the same time, housing prices in these areas are unaffordable for many. (For instance, the average property price in San Francisco is now over $1.42 million). And then there are taxes, crime, and skyrocketing consumer prices.

Meantime, the population of the Midwest has remained relatively stable. This is one reason why the region is much more affordable.

Quality housing supply in the Midwestern states increases appropriately with demand. There is plenty of excellent undeveloped real estate, and home prices are incredibly affordable relative to other parts of the country. According to official figures, the average Midwest home sold for $287,000 in August 2022 compared to $525,000 nationwide.

Of course, some states of the Heartland are more affordable than others. If you’re hunting for value, Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, and Nebraska are your best bets.

The cost of living is also considerably lower than in other parts of the country. Groceries, utilities, transportation, gas, and healthcare are all significantly cheaper. Here’s a table that shows the cost of living index for the top Midwestern states compared to the country as a whole.

Cost of living in select U.S. States (U.S. = 100)

State Cost of living index (Q2, 2022. U.S. = 100)
Kansas 86.4
Missouri 88.6
Indiana 88.9
Iowa 89
Nebraska 91.5
Ohio 92

Moving to the Heartland means that you could potentially reduce your cost of living by 8 to 14 percent compared to the national average, and significantly more if you are coming from jam-packed east or west coast cities. In New York, the cost of living index is 136.8. In California, it’s 139.8; in the District of Columbia, it’s 154.5.

It Lets You Get Close To Nature

Getting closer to nature is challenging in coastal cities. And while there are opportunities to get away from it all, they are more difficult to find, thanks to higher population density.

That’s not the case in the Midwest, however. Here, you can often experience beautiful and diverse geography from your front door. 

These four states, for instance, are home to thousands of premier lakes and streams, providing excellent fishing, sailing, and watersports opportunities. You’ll also find plenty of hiking destinations, perfect health and fitness centers, and lots of options for cycling with very little traffic.

Several national parks call the Midwest home, including the vacation spots like Okoboji in Iowa and Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Then there are Scotts Bluff National Park, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, and the Voyageurs National Park. There are eight official national parks in the greater Midwest region, all of which offer camping, fishing, and other outdoor pursuits.

There Are Many Good Schools

Many parents believe that coastal areas offer the best schools. However, that’s not always true. The Midwest is home to many excellent public and parochial school systems with high academic attainment.

For instance, the Sumner Academy of Arts and Science in Kansas City and the Blue Valley High Schools in Overland Park and Olathe. In Iowa, Ames High School and both High Schools in Ankeny are rated excellent, as is Dowling Catholic in Des Moines. Metro Academic and Classical High School in St. Louis and Lincoln College Prep in Kansas City are ranked #1 and #2 in Missouri.  The Nebraska metro, both Elkhorn South and Elkhorn High Schools, are ranked #1 and #2 in that state.

It has Thriving Suburban Communities

Suburban communities are more accessible in the Midwest, even for people on a modest budget. Metropolitan areas in the Midwest, like Des Moines, Iowa, are exploding with high-quality industries like Microsoft, Google, and Amazon as new modern suburbs expand to accommodate thousands of professional families arriving from the no longer workable east and west coasts.

Larger communities remain strong. Omaha, for instance, has two suburbs, Papillion and Gretna, which are considered some of the best neighborhoods to live in Nebraska. St. Louis has four suburbs in this category: O’Fallon, St. Charles, St. Peters, and Florissant. And Kansas has seven: Overland Park, Olathe, Independence, Lee’s Summit, Shawnee, Blue Springs, and Lenexa.

Suburban communities often center around great schools, youth sports, and famous food and cuisine. Street get-togethers are not uncommon. People also take part in annual state fairs, the most famous of which include:

 

It Has Low Crime

Large American cities are currently suffering from a recognized incidence of gang-related crimes, property, and drug-related and socio-economic crimes. Some of the largest cities in the Midwest, such as Kansas City, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, St. Louis, and of course, Chicago, are among them.

The fact is that the further out from major cities you move, the lower the violent crime rate, regardless of the state in which you live. Statistics, for instance, claim Kansas has a high violent crime rate, but some sections within Kansas City drive most of those data. Some states in the Midwest, such as Illinois, have created low or no bail laws that some believe tend to increase all types of crimes across the board.

For the most part, however, states in the Heartland maintain strong law enforcement efforts that tend to mitigate most categories of crime, and these metros can boast lower overall criminal activity. The Des Moines, Iowa, metropolitan area has a population of over 710,000 while experiencing less than 20 homicides for the year as of October 2022.

The Midwest’s Hottest States

While there are 12 states in the Midwest, some are more popular than others. Top of the list is Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and Nebraska. But why?

Iowa

People moving from the east coast to the Midwest often settle down in Iowa for its affordability and low housing costs. However, the most significant pull is job opportunities.

Iowa’s state economy is diverse. Therefore, job seekers across industries find it easy to move there. The state is looking for workers with experience in agribusiness, finance, insurance, sales, biosciences, information technology, and manufacturing. And while wages are slightly lower than the national average, they are often more than offset by an even lower cost of living.

Good transportation is another reason people move to the state. The average commute time is 20 minutes, thanks to lower population density and quality infrastructure.

Kansas

People move to Kansas for its low unemployment rate and job opportunities. Kansas currently ranks as the number one wheat producer in the U.S. and number three in cattle production. It’s also home to significant logistics businesses, employing more than 117,000, and a large, thriving professional services industry and aircraft manufacturing with over 60,000.

Education in the state is also exceptional. The University of Kansas is the 24th-best public university in the country, specializing in journalism and psychology. And Wichita State University is widely considered to be one of the most affordable in the country.

Missouri

Missouri, like Minnesota, is a popular relocation destination for its home affordability, low cost of living, short commute time, and the fact that it has all four seasons. Currently, there are numerous job opportunities in the state, all paying reasonably high wages. There is high demand for healthcare workers, translators, personal care assistants, web developers, and machinists.

Nebraska

Lastly, people move from coastal regions to Nebraska because of its low real estate prices, high affordability, and low tax rates. Property taxes, for instance, are just 1.8 percent, near U.S. states’ bottom of the league table.

The top industries in the state are agriculture (for cattle production), food processing, manufacturing, machinery, electric equipment, printing and publishing, biosciences, and renewable energy. Berkshire Hathaway is the state’s biggest employer, followed by Union Pacific Railroad and Cabela’s. There are also career opportunities in Valmont Industries, Kiewit, and the Government of Nebraska itself.

Conclusion

Moving to the Midwest provides many benefits for individuals and families seeking to relocate. The overriding theme is a lower cost of living, but there are other perks. These include better access to nature, shorter commutes, and, in most cases, a significantly lower crime rate.

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