10 Pros and Cons of Living in Arkansas

Check out all the pros and cons of living in Arkansas, from natural beauty to poor healthcare options.
Written by Bonnie Stinson
Reviewed by Melanie Reiff
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From its incredibly low cost of living to beautiful mountains and scenery, there are plenty of things that make
Arkansas
a great state to live in. But with low scores in education and healthcare, many might find the Natural State isn’t the natural choice.
If you’re thinking about moving to Arkansas, it’s a good idea to do some research before you make a decision. For some, this rural southern state has everything they need, including lush parks and great food—but others may find several deal-breakers, like high sales tax and few urban areas.
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Pro: Incredibly low cost of living

Arkansas is consistently on every top ten list for cheapest states to live in. With a cost of living index of 79 (which is well below the US average of 100), Arkansas is easily one of the most affordable places to live in the nation. 
While the median household income in Arkansas might seem low (it was $49,475 in 2020), you can make your money stretch much farther here than in other states. The average home costs $145,300, and the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment was $621 in 2020
The cost of groceries, gas, and utilities in Arkansas are also consistently lower than the national average, meaning you’re saving money on more than housing in the Natural State. Property taxes are also extremely low—the tenth lowest in the nation, in fact!
MORE: Homeowners insurance in Arkansas

Con: Super high sales tax

Even though housing, property tax, and general living costs are low in Arkansas, the sales tax rates are a real turn-off. The state sales tax rate is 6.5%, and local counties can add taxes on top of that. In some areas, sales tax rates are as high as 10%.
You also can expect higher taxes on certain goods and conveniences. For example, alcohol sold in restaurants is taxed an additional 10% and food is another 1.5%. If you purchase some items out of state, you might be subject to a “state compensating use” tax.

Pro: There are a ton of higher education options

Arkansas provides a lot of opportunities for students who wish to pursue higher learning. The state boasts over 40 colleges and universities. The largest university—The University of Arkansas—is located in
Fayetteville
and offers over 100 undergraduate degree programs and over 130 graduate degree programs. 
The state’s second-largest university—Arkansas State University in
Jonebsoro
—has a wide range of online degree programs, so many students can take advantage of the flexibility of virtual learning. 
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Con: K-12 schools aren’t so spectacular

Even though there are great college opportunities in Arkansas, K-12 education isn’t so spectacular. The state’s math, reading, and ACT/SAT scores consistently fall below the national average, and U.S. News ranks Arkansas’s educational system at 41st in the nation. This can be a big issue, especially for families with school-aged children who are looking into moving to the state.
Arkansas also has other educational woes, including poor school funding and incredibly low teacher salaries. This all contributes to school districts that struggle to retain highly-trained teachers and provide adequate educational materials for students.
MORE: 9 tips for acing back to school car maintenance

Pro: It’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream

Arkansas is called the Natural State for a reason. With the Ozark Mountains cutting through a large section of the state, plus nearly 9,700 miles of waterways and 600,000 acres of lakes, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, fishing, boating, hunting, and more!
The state has plenty of other geological wonders, including caves and caverns (check out Blanchard Springs Caverns) or the natural hot springs in the aptly named city of
Hot Springs
.

Con: The weather and wildlife are no joke

Arkansas might be full of natural beauty, but it also has intense weather and not-so-friendly wildlife. The state is prone to severe thunderstorms and ranks 5th in the nation for most lightning strikes per square mile! These severe storms can bring hail and flooding along the White, Ouachita, and Black rivers. 
Additionally, Arkansas is included in several “Tornado Alley” maps, and the state sees tornado activity most years. Most tornadoes strike along US highway 67/167 and Interstate 30. 
As if the weather wasn’t enough, you also have to contend with some of the local wildlife. The natural beauty of Arkansas hides some venomous snakes including cottonmouths, rattlesnakes, and copperheads, and bobcats and bears are also common.  

Pro: Lively arts culture

Arkansas may not be the first place you think of for art galleries or live theater, but the state has a lively arts culture in several of its larger cities. Cities like
Little Rock
and Fayetteville boast impressive art galleries that host traveling exhibitions. You can catch live theater performances in Little Rock and Fayetteville, or even opera performances in Eureka Springs.
Several cities in Arkansas also host regular art and live music festivals, and
Bentonville
has an annual film festival hosted by Academy Award winner Geena Davis!

Con: There’s not a lot of urban life

Even though Arkansas has some larger cities, the rest of the state is very rural. The state’s population is only a little over 3 million, and there are about 56 people per square mile
Unless you live right inside a city like Little Rock or Fayetteville, you might have to drive for amenities or entertainment. Outside of the major cities, the majority of the state is either mountainous, forested, or has been converted to farmland. If you enjoy living in a vibrant city with plenty to do, Arkansas might not be the place for you. 

Pro: Centrally located and accessible

While Arkansas is a largely rural state, it has one of the most extensive transportation networks in the country. The state has four interstates and four commercial airports, so you can get where you need to go relatively quickly. 
With Arkansas’s central location, you can get to other places in the United States in a matter of hours. You can easily take a trip to big cities like St. Louis or Memphis to explore new locations, or even head down to the Gulf Coast for a beach vacation. 
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Con: Lacking healthcare scores

Although Arkansas has some great hospitals, like the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences, the state’s overall healthcare scores are unimpressive. In fact, the state ranks at #44 in the nation for overall healthcare. 
Furthermore, the healthcare you can get isn’t of very high quality as the state is ranked the worst in the nation for quality healthcare. Arkansas’s public health also ranks at #48 in the nation

Is Arkansas a good state to live in?

Yes, Arkansas can be a great state to live in, but you’ll need to carefully consider all of the pros and cons before moving to the Natural State.
Arkansas is great for:
  • Outdoors enthusiasts
  • College-aged students
  • People that enjoy rural living
But if you need access to quality healthcare or you have school-aged children, you might want to consider a different state.

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FAQs

Yes and no. The boundaries of Tornado Alley aren’t clearly defined, so some maps include Arkansas and some don’t. Arkansas is prone to some tornado activity though, so it’s best to be prepared!
Winters in Arkansas are typically mild. High temperatures in January average around 51 degrees and lows are right around 32 degrees. However, the state does see the occasional winter ice storm.
In most categories, Arkansas is an affordable place to live. Housing, grocery, and utility costs are all well below the national average. However, Arkansas does have high sales tax rates.
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