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15 HONEST Pros & Cons of Living in Pennsylvania (Local’s Take)

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Pros and cons of living in Pennsylvania
Pros & Cons of Living in Pennsylvania | (Shutterstock/f11photo)

Thinking about living in Pennsylvania? You’ve come to the right place.

I lived in the Keystone State for 8 years and have definitely learned a few things about daily life in Pennsylvania.

Home to a population of nearly 13 million, Pennsylvania is the 5th most populous state in the country. The state is best known for industry (coal, steel and railroads), the Philly cheese steak and the City of Brotherly Love — there’s so much to love about living in Pennsylvania.

But I don’t want to get ahead of myself, so let’s cover everything you need to know about moving to Pennsylvania based on firsthand experience. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions, I’m here to help!

About my experience living in Pennsylvania

I moved to Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, to be exact) in my early 30’s and ended up living in Pennsylvania for a total of 8 years. There were so many things I loved about the state, but also a handful of things that didn’t sit right with me.

Ultimately, as a single female, I made the decision to move out — but not without some great memories. Read on for my personal experience below.

Largest Cities in Pennsylvania

  • Population: 1.6 Million
  • Average salary: $65,000
  • Median home price: $250K
  • Population: 303,000
  • Average salary: $60,500
  • Median home price: $225K
  • Population: 126,000
  • Average salary: $54,000
  • Median home price: $257K
Pros & Cons of Living in Pennsylvania (Table of Contents)
Table of contents (Moving to Pennsylvania)

Pros of Moving to Pennsylvania

#1. Locals are authentic and friendly

It didn’t take long after moving to Pennsylvania for me to realize how authentically friendly locals are. I’ve found it fairly easy to make friends with peoples because striking up conversations (or being approached for conversations) hasn’t been challenging.

Overall, I’d say Pennsylvanians are hardworking, down-to-earth, compassionate and caring folks that would go out of their way to help you out. I’ve seldom experience pretentiousness or hostility and attribute that to the slower-pace of life in Pennsylvania.

Locals seem open to meeting others, which is a nice change of pace from the reserved New England towns I’ve lived in before. This is obviously a personal observation, I’m sure folks moving to Pennsylvania from the south may disagree on this point, but I’ve found making friends here quite easy.

Also, did you know that Pittsburgh is considered one of the best cities in the country for singles?

#2. The rich history and culture

There’s no denying that living in Pennsylvania comes with its fair share of perks. For starters, the state is home to 169 national historic landmarks (the 3rd highest concentration in the country).

There’s such an interesting blend of incredible American landmarks that can turn you into a history buff in no time (The Liberty Bell!). Our impressive ties to history span the gamut — from the revolutionary period to the abolitionism of slavery and the civil war.

In addition to our rich history, we also have an interesting blend of cultures that make everyday life in Pennsylvania that much more interesting (and we have the great cuisine to prove it!). For example, our state is home to the largest population of Amish that blend perfectly with the more rural and urban residents.

All this to say, the cities are steeped in rich history that makes living in Pennsylvania fun because you never know what you’ll stumble upon during a day trip.

cost of living in Pennsylvania
(Shutterstock/Sean Pavone)

#3. The low cost of living in Pennsylvania

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the biggest reasons folks end up moving to the Keystone State — the low cost of living in Pennsylvania! You can live an average middle-class lifestyle here, which is unfortunately unheard of in most other US states (looking at you new York City and California).

I paid well less for rent while living in Pennsylvania (if helpful, I paid $1,200 for a one-bedroom) and my monthly grocery bill seldom surprised me (which was a nice chance of pace from my previous city).

In fact, two Pennsylvania cities are considered the some of the most affordable in the country.

#4. Proximity to large cities

Pennsylvania is called the Keystone State because of the essential role is played in the founding of the nation. Something folks don’t realize is that “keystone” is an an architecture term that refers to a wedge-shaped stone that holds all other stones together.

Thus, nicknaming Pennsylvania the Keystone State is a nod to the state’s key geographic position, and it’s true — the state is perfectly connected to large metro areas in every direction. Pennsylvania is bordered by New York to the north (and east), New Jersey to the east, Maryland and West Virginia to the south and Ohio to the west.

And indeed, one of the biggest perks of living in Pennsylvania is the close proximity to some of the largest metro areas in the USA. You’ll be a stone’s throw from Baltimore, Boston, New York City and Washington D.C..

All of these cities are within a reasonable drive (or train ride), which means you’ll never run out of fun things to do (or great places to eat).

Also worth mention: I have a few friends that ending up moving to Pennsylvania while keeping their jobs in NYC. Thanks to more lenient teleworking policies, they commute to NYC on average twice a week and consider the 1.5 hour (one way) train ride a no-brainer. They say the cost of living in Pennsylvania is way cheaper than NYC but the job opportunities in NYC can’t be beat. Best of both worlds.

#5. Affordable housing market

Continuing on the point I just made, let’s delve into the affordable housing market while living in Pennsylvania. The state’s median home price is $270,000, which is well below the national average of $428,000.

Many of my coworkers ending up moving to Pennsylvania from the larger nearby metro areas for the sole purpose of buying a home and haven’t been disappointed. Admittedly, they paid an average of $300-400K for their homes, but they’re very happy with the neighborhoods (and more importantly, the schools).

Moving to Pennsylvania
(Shutterstock/Jon Bilous)

#6. Outdoor recreation

No list highlighting the best things about living in Pennsylvania is complete without mentioning the epic outdoor recreation. From breathtaking hills (the Appalachian Mountains are something else!) to untouched forests and striking lakes, Pennsylvania has it all.

I love living in a state where nature is never more than a short drive away. We have endless miles of hiking trails, jaw-dropping fall foliage and rivers few can resist falling in love with. It’s pretty easy to live an active lifestyle while living in Pennsylvania because great nature surrounds you on all sides.

#7. Ample professional sports teams to cheer on

One of the things you learn quickly after moving to Pennsylvania is the necessity to adopt a team to cheer on.

You’ll be spoiled for choice though, there’s 7 professional sports teams to choose from while living in Pennsylvania! Only 4 other US states can boast more sports teams, no easy feat.

If you’re new to the area, allow me to help you out. Here’s a quick roundup of the teams you’ll need to know about before moving to Pennsylvania.

  • Football (Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers)
  • Baseball (Philadelphia Phillies & Pittsburgh)
  • Basketball (Philadelphia 76ers)
  • Hockey (Philadelphia Flyers & Pittsburgh Penguins)
  • Soccer (Philadelphia Union)

#8. Retiring in Pennsylvania? You’ll get some generous tax cuts

Here’s a kicker — retirement income is tax exempt in Pennsylvania, effectively making this one of the most tax-friendly states for retirees. Both social security income and withdraws from retirement accounts (pensions, 401K and IRA) are tax-exempt.

Heck, even if you’re not moving to Pennsylvania for retirement, you’ll be happy to know that at a flat 3.07%, the state has the lowest flat income tax rates in the nation. Which means those living in Pennsylvania get to keep more of their paycheck, a perk that can’t be overstated!

#9. It’s the home of the Philly cheese steak!

Alright, before we move on to the cons of living in Pennsylvania, I’d like to wrap the perks on a high note. Philadelphia is home to one of the most iconic American dishes, the epic Philly cheese steak.

Juicy cuts of grease-grilled beef sandwiched generously between onions and cheese before being enveloped but a soft Amoroso bun. It’s the perfect grease-to-carb ratio and is guaranteed to satisfy even the pickiest eater.

If you’ve recently relocated to Pennsylvania and want to get your hands on the best Philly cheese steaks the state has to offer, make a beeline for Philadelphia. Head straight to Delassandro’s for the best.

Pros and cons of living in Pennsylvania

Cons of Living in Pennsylvania

#1. I didn’t always feel safe while living in Pennsylvania

Philadelphia’s crime rates consistently rank above the national average. Our excellence in this department spans the gamut — from petty crime to terribly offensive. Murders, assaults, robberies and property crime, we seem to be holding our own.

What’s worse, in 2022 it was reported that Philadelphia has seen one of the highest increases in homicide rates. Which is a heartbreaking statistic, to say the least.

Most of the crime is concentrated in the largest city, Philadelphia (which is quite common). Of that, the highest crime rates tend to occur in the North, West and Southwest quadrants of the city.

In fact, prior to moving to Pennsylvania, many folks warned me about safety (the lack of it seems to be part of the state’s reputation). I say this to make it clear that I wasn’t going in blind, but still, I wasn’t prepared for mid-day public transportation debacles (like threats and being masturbated next to).

#2. The large cities are dirty filthy

Philadelphia ranked as the dirtiest city in America, which is shocking for anyone that has every visited New Orleans or New York City. But it’s true, you’re guaranteed to see loads of garbage on the street, terrible recycling habits and overall uncleanliness that can make you feel uneasy at times.

But I can already hear locals crying out “there’s more to Pennsylvania than Philadelphia” and it’s true. So allow me to share another fact: Pennsylvania ranks as the 6th dirtiest state in the USA.

The study took into account the overall cleanliness of the state by focuses on air quality, landfill use and the number of carbon dioxide produces annually.

#3. Racism is prevalent

Alright, here’s a statement that is guaranteed to ruffle feathers, but I want to make sure I’m being honest. I experience racism many times while living in Pennsylvania. Hell, Philadelphia is considered the 12th most segregated city in the country.

So what does this mean for daily life in Pennsylvania? Well, based on personal experience, if you identify as Black or African American, you can expect to feel a few uncomfortable stares now and then. If you’re white, you won’t be a stranger to tasteless jokes and offensive comments from (typically older) folks.

In fact, this was one of the things I disliked most about living in Pennsylvania. I was never sure if someone would throw in an off-colored joke, which make letting my guard down challenging around new people.

#4. The poverty levels are concerning

Want to learn an interesting stat about living in Pennsylvania that catches most people off guard? Well, of all the most populated cities in the country, our very own Philadelphia has the highest concentration of residents living below the poverty line.

Talk about gut-wrenching. But it’s true, and you’ll notice the poverty in a myriad ways. The schools are lacking, failing infrastructure is prevalent, garbage is strewn on city streets and high crime rates. All told, you can’t escape the feeling of daily poverty while living in Philadelphia.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have the solution for poverty (so I don’t feel right complaining), but I will say this: I wish the state offered better resources to assist folks in getting the help they need.

#5. High property taxes

The majority of folks living in Pennsylvania find themselves in Philadelphia, a city with the 4th highest tax burden in the nation.

But again — I know that Philadelphia doesn’t make up the entire state. So here’s the next stat: Pennsylvania has some of the highest property taxes in the country. Clocking in at an impressive 1.43%, only 9 other states can boast higher rates.

Thankfully, the sales tax of 6% is on par with the national average (account for an additional 2% city tax if you live in Philadelphia). Likewise, there’s a plethora of items exempt from taxes (like groceries, textbooks, feminine hygiene and vet services).

#6. Hot and humid summers

Alright, let’s get to the brass tacks with this one: Living in Pennsylvania is a bear during the summer months. The heat and humidity will take every once of energy out of your body and will have dreaming of moving to place with mild summers.

But don’t just take my word for it, with average humidity clocking in at 69.6%, we have some of the most humid summers in the country. You can’t leave your house for more than 6 minutes without craving a shower or day dreaming about the nearest AC.

P.S. Did you know that Philadelphia has some of the highest AC usage in the country? Budget that into the cost of living in Pennsylvania.

Retiring in Pennsylvania FAQ

Is Pennsylvania at good place to live?

To answer the most common question: Is Pennsylvania a good place to live? I would argue yes, Pennsylvania is a good place to live. Between the low cost of living, friendly lows and incredible history + culture, you’ll always feel welcome and entertained while living in Pennsylvania.

Is Pennsylvania a good place to retire?

As mentioned, retirement income is tax-exempt for those living in Pennsylvania. Between the generous tax cuts and affordable housing market, Pennsylvania is a great place to retire.

Pros & Cons of Living in Pennsylvania (Post Summary)

In sum, here’s a roundup of the honest pros and cons of moving to Pennsylvania.

  1. Locals are authentic and friendly
  2. The rich history and culture
  3. The low cost of living in Pennsylvania
  4. Proximity to large cities
  5. Affordable housing market
  6. Retiring in Pennsylvania? You’ll get some generous tax cuts
  7. Outdoor recreation
  8. It’s the home of the Philly cheese steak!
  9. Ample professional sports teams to cheer on
  10. I didn’t always feel safe while living in Pennsylvania
  11. The large cities are dirty filthy
  12. Racism is prevalent
  13. The poverty levels are concerning
  14. High property taxes
  15. Hot and humid summers

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