Is Wisconsin a Good Place to Live? (18 Pros and Cons)

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Essential Things To Know Before Moving To Wisconsin

Is Wisconsin a good place to live? Before you pack up and move, let’s explore this important topic.

First, I will answer the question head-on. Second, I will share the pros and cons of living in Wisconsin that support my answer. So, let’s get moving.

Is Wisconsin A Good Place To Live?

Good jobs, schools, quality health care, modest living costs, and low crime make Wisconsin an excellent place to live, work, and raise a family. At the same time, the tasty local foods and fun recreational activities add to Wisconsin’s high quality of life. On the other hand, the excessive income taxes, harsh winter weather, limited diversity, and rural aspects of the state may not be for everyone.

While I hope you find these comments helpful, I recommend seriously considering the following list of Wisconsin’s pros and cons.

Pros And Cons Of Living In Wisconsin: Side-By-Side Comparison

Living in Wisconsin ProsLiving in Wisconsin Cons
1. Low cost of living11. Excessive income tax
2. Diverse lifestyle options12. High real estate taxes
3. Plenty of jobs13. Extreme weather
4. Low crime rate14. Bugs and insects
5. Quality health care15. Lacking public transit
6. Four weather seasons16. Obesity
7. Outdoor recreation17. Alcoholism
8. College and pro sports18. Limited diversity
9. Good schools
10. Tasty food and drink
Table 1: Pros and Cons of Living and Retiring in Wisconsin

Next, let’s dive deeper into each item on today’s list. Then, you can make up your mind about whether or not Wisconsin is a good place to live.

Wisconsin state mapPin

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

Pros Of Living In Wisconsin

1. Low Cost Of Living In Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s cost of living is quite reasonable. It’s not on my list of the cheapest states to reside in. However, I believe you will find it affordable.

Wisconsin’s median home value is about 30% less than the comparable national figure (Source: Redfin and the St. Louis Federal Reserve). Rent is less expensive, too. The median cost of a rental unit is 22% lower (Source: World Population Review).

Groceries, transportation, utilities, goods, and services run near national averages. (Source: RentCafe). I recommend Woodman’s and Roundy’s for grocery and other basic shopping needs.

Finally, Wisconsin residents pay one of the lowest sales tax rates in the country. The state has a base sales tax rate of 5%. Local municipalities can and do add charges.

So, plan on paying an additional 5-6% on your purchases through sales tax. You may be interested to know that there is more than one state with no sales taxes. There are four states, to be exact. Unfortunately, Wisconsin isn’t one of them.

Here are a couple more tips to make the most of your money.

Pro money tip #1: Get cashback on your online purchases by signing up for the Rakuten cash rebate app.

Pro money tip #2: Use the online tool from Empower to manage your budget, spending, and investments in one convenient place.

2. Diverse Lifestyle Options For A High Quality Of Life In Wisconsin

Wisconsin offers residents a variety of lifestyle choices, including.

  • Urban
  • Rural
  • Small town
  • Woodland
  • Coastal

Next, let’s explore some of the most popular choices.

Wisconsin pros and consPin

Wisconsin’s largest city is Milwaukee. The metro area is located in the southeast corner of the state, a 90-minute drive from Chicago, and home to about 1.5 million people.

Milwaukee offers residents a convenient lifestyle. The city is close to many of the good things Wisconsin offers. Check out the historic third ward, a revitalized warehouse district.

Be sure to explore Madison, Wisconsin. The city is frequently ranked as one of the best places to live in the U.S. and is home to the University of Wisconsin.

Green Bay is located near the Door County peninsula. The narrow strip of land separates the calm waters of Green Bay from the rocky waves of Lake Michigan. The area is a popular seasonal vacation retreat.

Finally, Wisconsin has many small towns and rural areas to call home. The state is partly known for agriculture. Thus, there are vast amounts of farmland and huge herds of dairy cattle throughout the state.

pros and cons of living in WisconsinPin

3. Job And Employment Opportunities After Moving To Wisconsin

Wisconsin has a low unemployment rate. Unemployment typically runs well below the national average. Furthermore, there are plenty of good jobs.

The largest job hubs are in the southeast, near Milwaukee and Madison. More good jobs can be found near the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, just across Wisconsin’s state border.

Outside of the larger cities, Wisconsin’s job market consists primarily of essential work in agriculture, education, healthcare, and tourism.

However, wages are lower, and job opportunities are fewer in the northern section of the state, especially as you get closer to Michigan‘s Upper Peninsula.

4. Low Crime Is Positive Aspect About Wisconsin

Wisconsin has a low crime rate, providing the foundation for a family-friendly environment.

Violent and property crimes are much lower than the national average and the best of the Midwest region.

Wisconsin’s crime record is nearly as good as the top-ranked northeast states. For example, public safety ratings in a state like Maine are among the best in the nation.

5. Good Health Care Systems Are Located Throughout Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s healthcare system is routinely ranked among the best.

Hospital access is quite good, even in the more remote areas. First, there is the University of Wisconsin Hospital in Madison. Other good hospitals are located throughout the state in Eau Claire, Grafton, and Wausau.

Move near Minnesota, and you may be able to access the Mayo Health System. It is partially owned by the well-regarded Mayo Clinic.

6. Four Season Living In Wisconsin

four weather seasons to enjoyPin

Wisconsin has a climate marked by all four seasons.

The summer is warm. Thermometer readings will exceed 90 degrees on occasion with a good dose of humidity.

Autumn is my favorite season when the air turns cool and crisp. The turning leaves of fall put on a spectacular show annually.

Winter provides a high chance for a white Christmas, combined with cold temperatures, to usher in the New Year.

The spring thaw is always welcome. Temperatures warm, and rain brings the lush forests and farmlands to life.

More reading: The best Midwest states to live in

7. There Is An Abundance Of Outdoor Recreation

Wisconsin offers many activities for outdoor enthusiasts.

For water lovers, you will find Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, the Mississippi River, and thousands of inland lakes, rivers, and streams.

Popular water sports include:

  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • White-water rafting
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Water skiing
  • Fishing
  • Swimming

Wisconsin’s Northwoods features:

  • Hiking
  • Cycling
  • Camping
  • Hunting
  • ATV riding

Wisconsin’s winter sports include:

  • Downhill skiing
  • Cross country skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Snowmobiling
  • Ice skating

Wisconsin has dozens of state parks and recreation areas, including:

  • Big Bay State Park
  • Newport State Park
  • Devil’s Lake State Park
  • High Cliff State Park
  • New Glarus Woods State Park

For hikers, check out the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a 1,000-mile footpath traversing the state.

Wisconsin has many outdoor festivals to suit your interests, including:

  • Summerfest
  • Oktoberfest
  • Polishfest
  • Brat Fest
  • Wisconsin Cheese Festival
  • Lumberjack World Championships
  • Wisconsin State Fair

Finally, your kids will love the Wisconsin Dells, called the “Waterpark Capital of the World.” The Dells has theme parks, waterparks, resorts, zip lines, miniature golf, duck boat tours, and more!

More reading: Interesting things about each state

8. Wisconsin Residents Love Their Sports Teams

benefits of living in WisconsinPin

Wisconsin has some great sports teams for your entertainment pleasure. Plus, the people here know how to throw an outstanding tailgate party.

Professional teams include:

  • Milwaukee Brewers baseball
  • Green Bay Packers football
  • Milwaukee Bucks basketball

The University of Wisconsin’s collegiate sports programs of the Big Ten Conference are another big sports attraction. Men’s football and basketball are among the most popular.

The school’s teams are often highly ranked. They compete with other prominent sports programs, including Ohio State University and the University of Michigan.

Speaking of schools, here is yet another one of the best things about Wisconsin living.

9. Good Educational Opportunites After Moving To Wisconsin

Wisconsin public schools receive solid rankings and include many excellent school districts.

First of all, preschool participation is high. Plus, the state’s per-student funding rate is one of the best in the nation.

Thus, most towns have excellent, safe schools. Many have good after-school programs, too. The many positives add up to a top-notch high school graduation rate.

For higher education, the University of Wisconsin is one of the best public universities in the country. The flagship campus is located in Madison. However, the university system has 13 branches scattered across 20-plus campuses.

Finally, Marquette University is a highly regarded private institution. The school has 10,000 plus students and an urban campus located in Milwaukee.

Next up. Another one of the good things about Wisconsin.

bad things about living in WisconsinPin

10. Tasty Regional Foods And Drinks Are Easy To Find In Wisconsin

Wisconsin residents love to eat good food and drink.

First, the state is known as “America’s Dairyland.” because of its cheese, milk, and butter production. Residents also love bratwurst, German foods, fish, meat, and potatoes.

Small-town bars and supper clubs are popular choices. Here, you will find great fried fish, steak, pizza, prime rib, drink specials, and more.

Milwaukee and Madison have some excellent higher-end dining options. Creative chefs source from local suppliers and deliver a unique farm-to-table experience. You can also shop the many local farmers’ markets to source the freshest ingredients for your kitchen.

Finally, Wisconsin has deep roots in the beer industry. German immigrants brought their brewing skills here and founded iconic brands like Pabst, Schlitz, and Miller.

Today, Wisconsin’s beer-making traditions continue with popular craft beers and breweries. For example, Capital Brewery, New Glarus Brewing Company, and Stevens Point Brewery are some of the oldest and best brewers in the state.

Okay. That concludes my discussion of the many cool things about living in Wisconsin.

However, a list of the pros and cons of living in Wisconsin is incomplete without reviewing some reasons not to move to Wisconsin in the first place.

Cons Of Living In Wisconsin

11. The State Will Hit You With Excessive Income Taxes

state taxesPin

Wisconsin has high income taxes.

First of all, the state has a progressive tax system. This means the more money you make, the higher your tax rate.

The highest tax rate is almost 8%. However, most residents will pay about 5% of their income to the state for taxes.

Everyone’s tax situation is different. So, consult with your tax advisor.

Considering that eight states charge no income tax, I know a high-income tax state when I see one. For example, relocate to nearby South Dakota, and you won’t have to pay a penny in state income taxes.

Next, the bad things about Wisconsin taxes continue.

12. Wisconsin’s Real Estate Taxes Are No Bargain

Wisconsin has one of the top ten highest real estate tax rates in the country. Rates vary by location. However, the state’s average rate is nearly 2% applied to the assessed value of your property annually.

Okay. Enough about money and taxes.

Let’s continue with other cons of Wisconsin life.

13. Extreme Seasonal Weather Is A Fact Of Life In Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s temperatures and climate vary depending on your location within the state. Your distance from Lake Michigan also plays a role.

For example, there is a big difference between living in the northern region of the state, near the Michigan Peninsula, versus living on the shores of Lake Michigan close to the state of Illinois border.

Regardless, here are a few challenging things about Wisconsin’s weather.

The winters are very cold here. They come with plenty of snowfall and dangerous windchill conditions. Harsh winters make the pros and cons of retiring in Wisconsin less desirable.

Wisconsin’s spring season can be very cloudy, gray, and drab. What’s worse is that snowmelt and seasonal rains sometimes send the rivers and bodies of water into flood stage.

Spring also brings the threat of tornadoes. The state is on the northeastern edge of Tornado Alley.

It could be worse, though. Since the state’s neighbor to the southwest is Iowa. Residents here experience nearly double the tornado activity each year compared to Wisconsin.

I’m not disrespecting Iowa. It, too, is a state with pros and cons.

During the summer in Wisconsin, it gets hot as heck in this state.

In the southern areas, temperatures will hover around the 90s. High humidity makes it feel even more uncomfortable.

Summer, rain, and humidity bring me to another one of the worst things about living in Wisconsin.

14. Pesky Mosquitos And Bugs Love Living In Wisconsin

beware of mosquitosPin

Wisconsin has a large bug and insect population. The summer heat, humidity, standing water, and forested lands provide the perfect breeding grounds.

Beetles, ticks, gnats, and biting flies are prevalent. Furthermore, the mosquitoes are fierce. On more than one occasion, I have been run off a Wisconsin hiking trail by these swarming, blood-sucking pests.

Before moving to Wisconsin, I recommend packing a bottle or two of bug repellent. Keep it handy so the bugs won’t ruin your next outdoor adventure.

And if that’s not enough, I have another one of the cons of living in Wisconsin.

15. Limited Public Transportation And Bad Roads

Wisconsin’s public transportation options are limited to the metropolitan areas. Thus, plan on owning a car unless you can live, work, and recreate in one of the state’s two or three largest cities.

Wisconsin’s road conditions are less than optimal. First, winter conditions make for dangerous driving here. Second, extreme seasonal weather destroys the pavement.

As a result, residents must deal with poor road conditions and construction. So, you might as well accept right now that you will see plenty of orange road construction cones from spring through fall.

16. Obesity Is A Problem in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has a 45% obesity rate, according to Becker’s hospital review.

The state ranks higher than the national average. And significantly more than an exceptionally physically fit state like Colorado.

Maybe it’s all the brats, cheese, beer, and fried foods. Thus, obesity is an issue in this state.

17. Wisconsin Residents Like To Have A Drink (Or Two)

Wisconsin has a higher-than-average alcoholism rate.

Drinking is an essential aspect of social occasions here. Bars are often a big part of the social life throughout the small towns.

18. There Is Limited Racial And Ethnic Diversity In Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s population lacks diversity. For example, approximately 85% of the population is white.

Most of the ethnic diversity exists in the larger cities like Milwaukee. However, the city remains racially segregated, and civil unrest has cropped up in recent years.

Okay. That’s all I have about “The Badger State” for today. Please allow me to wrap up with some parting thoughts

Is Wisconsin A Good Place To Live? (Considering The Pros And Cons)

Hopefully, this discussion has helped you sort through some critical questions. Such as:

  1. What is living in Wisconsin like?
  2. Is Wisconsin a good place to retire?
  3. Why should I move to Wisconsin?

Thanks for reading, and best of luck, no matter what you decide.

More About Living In Wisconsin 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 Wisconsin Explained