Located in the American Heartland between the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, Iowa is a mostly rural state dotted with small towns and the occasional mid-sized city. If you’re moving to Iowa, you’ll find low crime rates and cost of living, plenty of wide open spaces, and friendly neighborhoods focused on family life.
Once you learn about the in-state rivalry among universities, you should find moving to Iowa pretty easy. Here’s some practical advice to keep in mind when moving to Iowa.
Iowa winters can be harsh. Sub-zero temperatures, several inches (or feet) of snow, icy roads and high winds can make moving to Iowa on any given weekend between November and March absolutely impossible.
Summer months, especially July and August, can be dangerously hot and humid. If you’re moving to Iowa during this time, make sure everyone stays hydrated with plenty of water and takes breaks in the shade to avoid heat stroke.
Many of the larger cities and towns in Iowa contain college campuses. This can make finding rentals more difficult at the end of summer and beginning of fall. Late spring is the best time to find a rental property in an Iowa college town.
Cities and Metro Areas
While agriculture is very much a part of the Iowa economy and culture, more than half of Iowans live in urban areas.
- Des Moines: The state’s capital and most populous city, Des Moines is best known for being home to insurance companies, the site of many of the state’s high school sports championship tournaments, and the starting line for the United States’ presidential elections every four years.
- Cedar Rapids: Cedar Rapids is home to one of Iowa’s regional airports and serves as a cultural and entertainment hub for the state.
- Davenport/Bettendorf: With a growing employment rate, this was named the most affordable metropolitan area by Forbes in 2010.
- Waterloo/Cedar Falls: Although generally considered to be one metropolitan area, the two cities are actually very different. Waterloo has a more industrial and commercial makeup, while Cedar Falls has the distinct vibe of a college town.
- Iowa City: Iowa City is a hotbed for liberal activism. It’s also where the Hawkeyes play and where students attend the University of Iowa.
- Council Bluffs: Sharing a river border with Nebraska’s Omaha, Council Bluffs is about one tenth the size of its metropolitan big brother.
- Ames: Ames is home to Iowa State University, and CNNMoney.com ranked the city as the #9 best place to live in 2010.
- Dubuque: One of the most beautiful cities in Iowa, Dubuque is a popular destination for Iowans and other Midwestern tourists.
Cost of Living
One of the advantages of moving to the state is that the cost of living in Iowa is significantly lower than the national average, about 12 percent lower overall. Although specific costs will vary by city, practically everything will be cheaper in Iowa.
Affordable housing prices are a major factor in the low cost of living in Iowa. According to Trulia.com, the average listing price for a single-family home in Iowa is $174,101, higher only than the average listing price in Ohio. Homes in small towns will usually be less expensive than housing in urban areas, and houses in the country can be even less expensive.
Highways and Public Transport
Nearly all transportation in Iowa is done by personal car, truck or mini-van. Public transportation options are very limited, even in larger cities. With the exception of college campuses, most of Iowa is not set up well for walking or biking, in part because of how undesirable these activities would be during the winter. When moving to Iowa, plan to navigate the state by interstate, two-lane highway or gravel roads.
Since the late twentieth century, Iowa has suffered from a phenomenon sometimes referred to as “brain drain.” This describes a tendency for young, educated adults to leave the state in search of opportunities elsewhere. While this trend has been blamed for economic stagnation in the state, it does leave a void waiting to be filled by people looking for jobs in Iowa.
A low cost of doing business has attracted numerous Fortune 500 companies from many different industries to the state. Jobs in Iowa can be found in manufacturing, healthcare, education, insurance, biotechnology and finance.
You’ll be welcomed by four seasons when moving to Iowa.
- Winter: From late November to early March, the state endures frigid temperatures and snow.
- Spring: March to June comes with mild temperatures and the beginning of tornado season.
- Summer: Heat and humidity combine for weather that feels like triple digits. Severe weather in past years has led to damaging floods and tornados.
- Fall: Perhaps the most pleasant season, autumn in Iowa is generally dry and mild.
Iowa is believed to be the birthplace of high school. Secondary schools, which weren’t commonplace around the country, began forming in Iowa in 1910. Today, Iowa has one of the highest high school graduation rates in the country. Iowa consistently ranks top in the nation for SAT and ACT test scores. However, Iowa ranks among the lowest in the nation for teacher pay.
Iowa is home to several colleges and universities, including three public universities:
- Iowa State University
- University of Iowa
- University of Northern Iowa
There’s more to moving to Iowa than packing and unpacking boxes. You’ll need to notify various government agencies of your move and update your license. Here’s a few links to help you get started.