Is South Dakota a Good Place to Live? (17 Pros and Cons)

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What You Must Know Before Moving To South Dakota

Is South Dakota a Good Place to Live? First, I will explore this question. Second, I will present the pros and cons supporting my answer.

Whether you are retiring in South Dakota or heading to “The Mount Rushmore State” for a new adventure, I will cover the best and worst this state offers. Let’s get moving.

Is South Dakota A Good Place To Live?

South Dakota is an excellent place to live. The state’s attractive features include its productive economy, low cost of living, favorable tax policies, and many family-friendly cities, towns, and neighborhoods.

According to, South Dakota has breathtaking landscapes, friendly people, and iconic attractions, including Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Crazy Horse Memorial, Badlands National Park, and the Missouri River.

Local real estate professional Jessica Scott lives outside Sioux Falls and loves the community. She says the economy is booming, traffic is light, and the cost of living is modest. However, before moving, she warns people to be prepared for harsh winters and fewer urban amenities available in larger cities. (source)

These comments are helpful in supporting that South Dakota is a good place to live. However, I recommend diving deeper into all the pros and cons before you pack up and move to South Dakota. Here they are.

Pros And Cons Of Living In South Dakota Compared Head To Head

South Dakota ProsSouth Dakota Cons
1. Productive economy11. Harsh winters
2. Plenty of jobs12. Extreme summer heat
3. Educational opportunities13. Small-town mindset
4. Low cost of living14. Below-average wages
5. Tax-friendly policies15. Lacking urban amenities
6. Low population density16. Economic disparity
7. Scenic beauty17. Limited diversity
8. Nice small towns
9. Light traffic.
10. Low crime rate
Table 1: Pros and Cons of Living or Retiring in South Dakota

Next, let’s dive into today’s South Dakota’s pros and cons.

Map of South Dakota dividend by the Missouri RiverPin
The Missouri River bisects South Dakota into the East and West River regions.

Disclosure: At no cost to you, I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post.

Pros Of Living In South Dakota

1. South Dakota Has A Diverse And Productive Economy

South Dakota has a diverse mix of industries operating within its robust economy.

Mining plays a significant role because the state has abundant natural resources.

South Dakota’s vast agribusinesses produce cattle, calves, corn, soybeans, wheat, and hogs. Farmers and ranchers benefit from some of the richest soil in America.

Major financial services firms have operations in the state. They are attracted by the favorable banking and corporate income tax laws.

Finally, Sioux Falls is a regional hub for healthcare. The area attracts many talented medical professionals to the East River region.

More reading: Considering other states in the country

2. The State’s Economy Produces Plenty Of Jobs

South Dakota has one of the lowest state unemployment rates in the country.

In South Dakota’s West River region, employment mainly consists of basic but essential work such as:

  • Retail
  • Foodservice
  • Housekeeping
  • Janitorial
  • Real estate
  • Hospitality

Tourism is robust here. Many people visit and enjoy the very scenic aspects of the state.

On the other hand, East River is more urban, with Sioux Falls as its hub. The region has jobs similar to West River. But East River also has more opportunities in:

  • Banking
  • Finance
  • Business management
  • Manufacturing
  • Health care

3. There Are Good Educational Options In South Dakota

South Dakota’s commitment to education is an attractive feature for students and families.

For example, U.S. News consistently ranks South Dakota as one of the top states for Pre-K-12 education, high school graduation rates, and educational attainment.

South Dakota provides access to several reputable universities and colleges, both public and private. Furthermore, the average annual in-state tuition and fees at a public four-year institution in South Dakota ranks among the most budget-friendly options nationally.

Popular colleges and universities include:

  • University of South Dakota
  • South Dakota State University
  • Augustana University
  • Mount Marty College
  • Northern State University
  • Black Hills State University

4. South Dakota Offers A Low Cost Of Living

South Dakota has a low cost of living.

The state’s median home value is nearly 30% less than the national average. (Source: Motley Fool)

Apartment rents are a bargain, ranked among the cheapest five states in the country. (Source: World Population Review)

Groceries to stock your fridge and utilities to power your home run 3-6% lower than averages across other states.

Finally, transportation costs are cheap. CNN Money ranks South Dakota as one of the lowest states for the annual cost of car ownership.

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Next up, I have another financial advantage of living in South Dakota.

5. South Dakota Has Outstanding Tax Policies

tax benefits of living in South DakotaPin

South Dakota is the most tax-friendly state in the Midwestern region. Thus, taxes are a big reason to consider South Dakota versus a state like Wisconsin or Minnesota.

First, for individuals and families, there is no state income tax here.

Second, South Dakota businesses also benefit from favorable state tax policies. For example, the state does not have a corporate income or gross receipts tax.

Finally, seniors considering the pros and cons of retiring in South Dakota should know the state has neither an estate nor an inheritance tax. So, keep your money in the family or donate it to your favorite charity tax-free.

More reading: a nearby tax-friendly state to consider

Okay. I’m finally done with money topics. But I’m not done with the pros and cons of living in South Dakota. Next up, another essential point about your potential South Dakota lifestyle.

6. Limited Impacts From Population And Urbanization

South Dakota life is relaxed and distant from the hassles of big cities. Even the state’s metropolitan areas aren’t overly populated.

For example, South Dakota is the 16th largest state based on its landmass. However, it is one of the least populated. Thus, the state has a low population density.

Fewer people means more space and the feeling of freedom that comes with it.

More reading: Another massive state to consider

7. Scenic Beauty And Open Spaces When Living In South Dakota

South Dakota is beautiful and has open spaces to live in and explore.

The state’s West River region is home to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, the Black Hills, and Badlands National Park. The landscape here is amazing, in addition to the scenery that goes with it.

Rapid City is the metropolitan hub of West River. The area provides for a laid-back outdoor life and ranch-style living options. Heading east through West River are vast rolling prairies, Indian reservations, and the Missouri River.

South Dakota’s East River is home to the more populated areas in the state, including Sioux Falls.

Near Brookings, in the central west part of the state and close to the border state of Minnesota, there are some good-sized lakes. Many lakes have homes, boats, and all the good things of lakeside living.

8. Small Town Living In South Dakota Is Prized By Many

Mount Rushmore lit up at nightPin

South Dakota has many small towns to choose from.

Most of the state’s towns are sparsely populated and rural. They have a good feeling of community and belonging. Residents are straightforward and friendly.

South Dakota’s major metropolitan areas include Sioux Falls and Rapid City. They hold nearly half of the state’s population. By all accounts, they are still small towns compared to big cities in the U.S.

9. Getting Around South Dakota Is Easy Because Of Light Traffic

South Dakota has light traffic and minimal traffic congestion. Residents measure the number of miles between destinations rather than the time.

Traffic jams are rare. However, summer road construction is a minor inconvenience.

10. The Low Crime Rate Attracts Families To South Dakota

South Dakota’s crime rate is relatively low. For example, the state ranks in the top half of all states for low property and violent crime.

It’s not an ultra-low-crime state like Vermont, New Hampshire, or Maine. On the other hand, safety for you and your family here is high.

Okay. That wraps up the great things about living in South Dakota.

However, a thorough article about living in South Dakota’s pros and cons is incomplete without addressing the negatives of moving here. Let’s cover these points now.

living in South Dakota pros and consPin

Cons Of Living In South Dakota

11. Harsh Winter Weather After Moving To South Dakota

South Dakota suffers from extreme winters. They can be long and tough, even for those of hearty stock. The season arrives as early as September and lasts until May.

Cold temperatures dive below zero more often than you may like.

Snowfall is plentiful, with 30-40 inches of the white stuff yearly. Due to the cold conditions, the snow is dry, making it easier to shovel and blow.

South Dakota’s strong winter winds can create blizzard-like conditions, reduce visibility, and drop wind chill factors to dangerous levels.

12. Summer Weather Extremes When Living In South Dakota

South Dakota summers are hot and humid. Temperatures often rise above 100 degrees. The heat will have you hiding out in air conditioning just when you want to be outside more often than not.

So, prepare for South Dakota’s weather extremes, including plenty of unpredictable changes from one day to the next.

Moving along, this next item may be one of the worst things about living in South Dakota.

13. You Will Have To Adapt To The Small-Town Mindset

South Dakota’s small towns have their advantages. However, they aren’t perfect.

First, everyone knows everyone, and your personal affairs may not be as private as you like. Thus, the state’s small towns do not offer the anonymity common in larger urban areas.

Second, depending on where you move, parts of South Dakota may make you feel remote and isolated. Specific areas are far from the vibe and hustle offered in and around larger population centers.

bad things about South DakotaPin

14. Wages And Salaries Are Lower Than Average In South Dakota

South Dakota ranks in the bottom half of all states based on median household income. Thus, many jobs in the state do not pay well. You will find the highest-paying occupations in the urban areas of East River.

The best options to make the most money and benefit from South Dakota’s low cost of living is to keep your high-paying job and work remotely. Or, ensure you have an acceptable job before moving to South Dakota.

Conversely, don’t relocate to South Dakota, hoping to find high-paying work after you get there. You may be disappointed.

More reading: Comparing all of the other states in the country

15. You Will Find Urban Amenities Lacking In South Dakota

Parts of South Dakota lack urban amenities that you may be accustomed to, especially in West River.

West River’s population is very scattered. Towns can be long distances away.

Thus, shopping options are limited besides Walmart and some small stores. Nightlife activities are few and far between. Most businesses close up shop by 5 p.m.

Finally, the state doesn’t have any professional sports teams. So, you might find yourself adopting a team from a nearby state.

The best urban experiences can be found in the Sioux Falls area. However, Sioux Falls isn’t like Chicago, New York City, or Los Angeles. On the other hand, it is considered one of the better mid-sized cities in the United States.

Sioux Fall’s many great attributes include the following:

  • Family-friendly living
  • Arts and Culture
  • Parks and Outdoor Recreation
  • Access to quality healthcare

16. Economic Disparity Is A Fact Of Life In South Dakota

South Dakota’s economic divide is notable.

First, the Native American population and others experience economic inequality. For example, the reservations are some of the most impoverished places in the United States.

Second, many young people leave this state after graduating from college. They take their skills and fresh ideas elsewhere, reducing the potential for economic growth.

More reading: Consider a top state for your finances

Finally, here is the last one of my reasons not to live in South Dakota.

17. Limited Racial, Religious, And Political Diversity

moving to The Mount Rushmore StatePin

South Dakota lacks diversity in various ways.

Ethnicity: Nearly 85% of the population is white. Some will say that those outside the majority feel the effects of discrimination.

Religious: The largest religion by far is Christianity.

Political: Residents hold firm to their political views. The state embraces conservative viewpoints. As a result, Republican candidates hold sway and usually carry the vote during presidential elections.

So, consider the pros and cons of moving to South Dakota, including how easy it will be for you to fit in. Doing so means you won’t get here and decide to leave.

Okay. That’s all I have for today. Allow me to close out with some parting thoughts.

Pros and Cons Of Living In South Dakota (A Good Place To Live?)

Hopefully, this discussion has helped you with some critical questions. Such as…

  1. Why move to South Dakota?
  2. What is living in South Dakota like?
  3. Is South Dakota a good place to live?

Best of luck with your decision. No matter where you choose to settle down.

More Reading About Living in South Dakota And Beyond

Author Bio: Tom Scott founded the consulting and coaching firm Dividends Diversify, LLC. He leverages his expertise and decades of experience in goal setting, relocation assistance, and investing for long-term wealth to help clients reach their full potential.

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The Pros And Cons Of Living In South Dakota Explained