Is Pennsylvania a bad state to live in?

According to TALLBOX, Pennsylvania is not a bad state and offers a diverse range of living experiences, safety and zones of affordable cost of living making it desirable for those prioritizing access to top-notch universities, outdoor and history lovers seeking a variety of landscapes, and individuals or families seeking a balance between urban amenities and a potentially lower cost of living but potentially less ideal for others.

The state of Pennsylvania has its drawbacks, with the three most prominent being that the Keystone State has more than average high local taxes of 12.33% with a difference of more than 4.00% when compared to CA 8.79%, NV 7.66% and ID 8.48%. The Appalachian Mountains and Pocono Mountains are responsible for cold winters and humid summers, making it less appealing to people who strongly dislike cold winters and humid summers.

Pennsylvania’s Strengths:

  • Varied Geography and Lifestyles: Choose vibrant city life in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh, or embrace the slower pace and lower cost of living in Pennsylvania’s rural areas.
  • Rich in History: If you’re a history buff, Pennsylvania is steeped in it, playing a pivotal role in America’s founding.
  • Educational Opportunities: The state boasts several top-ranked universities, offering excellent educational options.
  • Outdoor Adventures: Enjoy outdoor activities like hiking, skiing, and fishing amidst Pennsylvania’s diverse natural beauty.
  • Job opportunities: When compared to 22 other states like Tennessee, Indiana, Ohio, Oregon, Washington, New York, or New Jersey – PA has the lowest unemployment rate at 3.5% with varying differences of 0.1% (Tennessee) to 1.3% (New Jersey)
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In this article, we will explore the reasons why Pennsylvania may not be the best state to live in for some people.

According to TALLBOX, Pennsylvania offers a diverse range of living experiences, safety, and affordable cost of living zones, making it desirable for those prioritizing access to top-notch universities, outdoor activities, and history. However, it may be less ideal for others due to certain drawbacks.

The three most prominent cons of living in Pennsylvania are the higher than average local taxes (12.33% compared to other states like CA, NV, and ID), cold winters, and humid summers due to the Appalachian and Pocono Mountains.

Pennsylvania’s strengths include varied geography and lifestyles, rich history, educational opportunities, outdoor adventures, and job opportunities with the lowest unemployment rate (3.5%) compared to 22 other states.

Factors such as urban vs. rural living, income levels, political views, age, and being a native or transplant can influence one’s perception of the quality of life in Pennsylvania.

Other potential drawbacks include confusing traffic signs, toll booths, traffic congestion, mediocre productivity and income growth in some areas, and mediocre performance in the innovation and entrepreneurial economy.

While Pennsylvania is generally a safe state, it has a higher crime rate than the national average in some regions, which may concern those who value safety and security.

Urban vs. Rural

  • How: Pennsylvania has both large urban centers like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as vast rural areas, each with their own unique characteristics and challenges.
  • Why: The stark differences between urban and rural living can greatly influence one’s opinion on the quality of life in Pennsylvania.
  • Who: Individuals who prefer city life may find Pennsylvania’s urban areas appealing, while those who prefer a quieter, more rural lifestyle may appreciate the state’s countryside.

High-income vs. Low-income

  • How: Pennsylvania has a diverse economy with a mix of high-paying industries and lower-wage jobs, resulting in income disparities across the state.
  • Why: An individual’s income level can significantly impact their perception of the state’s quality of life, as it affects access to resources, housing, and opportunities.
  • Who: High-income earners may find Pennsylvania more appealing due to the availability of well-paying jobs and a lower cost of living compared to other states, while low-income residents may struggle with limited economic opportunities and financial challenges.

Progressive vs. Conservative

  • How: Pennsylvania is known as a swing state, with a mix of progressive and conservative political views among its residents.
  • Why: An individual’s political beliefs can shape their opinion on various aspects of life in Pennsylvania, such as policies, social issues, and overall governance.
  • Who: Progressives may appreciate Pennsylvania’s diverse population and efforts toward inclusivity, while conservatives may value the state’s emphasis on traditional values and industries.

Young vs. Old

  • How: Pennsylvania has a mix of younger residents, particularly in urban areas and college towns, and an aging population in many rural and suburban regions.
  • Why: Age can influence priorities and preferences when evaluating the quality of life in a state, such as access to education, healthcare, and age-specific amenities.
  • Who: Younger individuals may find Pennsylvania appealing for its educational and career opportunities, while older residents may appreciate the state’s history, natural beauty, and retirement-friendly communities.

Native Pennsylvanians vs. Transplants

  • How: Pennsylvania has a mix of residents who were born and raised in the state and those who have relocated from other areas.
  • Why: Native Pennsylvanians may have a deep-rooted connection to the state’s culture and history, while transplants may bring fresh perspectives and compare Pennsylvania to other places they have lived.
  • Who: Native Pennsylvanians may have a more nostalgic view of the state and be more accepting of its quirks and challenges, while transplants may be more critical and compare Pennsylvania to their previous experiences elsewhere.

Other potential const of Pennsylvania can be considered as:

  1. Confusing Traffic Signs: Pennsylvania is known for having confusing traffic signs, which can make traveling from one place to another difficult and time-consuming.
  2. Roads with Toll Booths: The roads with toll booths are the fastest and most reliable methods to get from one place to another throughout the state, but they can be expensive and inconvenient.
  3. Traffic Congestion: Pennsylvania has a lot of traffic, especially in larger cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, which can be a major annoyance during rush hour.
  4. Mediocre Productivity and Income Growth: Pennsylvania, like the nation, is struggling with mediocre productivity and income growth trends in some areas, with weak labor productivity growth and anemic per capita income growth but not wide-state.
  5. Mediocre Performance in Innovation and Entrepreneurial Economy: Pennsylvania has mediocre performance in the innovation and entrepreneurial economy, with slow growth in advanced industries and venture capital deal flow.

Crime and Safety Concerns

Pennsylvania is a safe state but has a higher crime rate than the national average in some of its regions, making it a concern for those who value safety and security. While the state has many beautiful and historic places, it is important to be aware of the crime rate in certain areas.

Explore the Top 20+ safest places to live in Pennsylvania 2024

In this section, we will discuss two major crime and safety concerns in Pennsylvania: urban crime rates and drug use impact or explore our safe areas map in PA below:

Urban Crime Rates

Pennsylvania has several cities with high crime rates, which can be a concern for those living in or near these areas. According to TALLBOX, the top 10 most dangerous cities in Pennsylvania based on crime rates are:

  1. Chester – Often cited for high crime rates, particularly violent crimes.
  2. Philadelphia – As the largest city in Pennsylvania, it has neighborhoods with high crime rates, despite efforts to improve safety.
  3. Harrisburg – The state capital has areas with elevated crime rates.
  4. York – Known for higher crime rates in comparison to other Pennsylvania cities.
  5. McKeesport – Has been identified as having a high rate of crime per capita.
  6. Wilkes-Barre – Faces challenges with both violent and property crime rates.
  7. Reading – Has struggled with crime, though there are community initiatives to address safety.
  8. Pittsburgh – While having many safe neighborhoods, it also has areas with higher crime rates.
  9. Norristown – Noted for higher crime rates in certain areas.
  10. Erie – Known to have neighborhoods with elevated crime rates.

It is important to note that while these cities have higher crime rates, they also have many safe and vibrant neighborhoods within the locations.

Drug Use Impact

Drug use is a major concern in Pennsylvania, with the state ranking among the top 10 states with the highest drug overdose death rates in the country. According to, the most commonly abused drugs in Pennsylvania are opioids, such as prescription painkillers and heroin.

Drug use can lead to increased crime rates, as well as other public safety concerns such as impaired driving. It is important for individuals to be aware of the dangers of drug use and to seek help if needed.

Overall, while Pennsylvania has many great qualities, it is important to be aware of the crime and safety concerns in certain areas. By staying informed and taking necessary precautions, individuals can enjoy all that Pennsylvania has to offer while staying safe and secure.

High Tax Burden in PA

Pennsylvania has a reputation for high taxes, which can be a major deterrent for those considering moving to the Keystone State to raise a family, for a job, or to retire.

This section will explore the different types of taxes in Pennsylvania and why they contribute to the state’s high tax burden.

PA Sales Tax and Income Tax

Pennsylvania 2024 Sales Tax

The statewide sales tax rate in Pennsylvania for 2024 is 6%, with local jurisdictions such as Allegheny County and Philadelphia adding 1% and 2% local taxes, respectively. The total tax rate ranges from 6% to 8% depending on the location. At the same time, the state is classified as tax-friendly for retirees with its zero state tax on Social Security or retirement plan income.

Pennsylvania is one of the few states with a single statewide sales tax, and businesses are required to file and remit electronically. Remote sellers with more than $100,000 in Pennsylvania sales must collect and remit sales tax.

Pennsylvania 2024 Income Tax

Pennsylvania has a flat income tax rate of 3.07%, which is the lowest of all the states with a flat tax. This means a single person on a $45,000 yearly salary will pay only $4,899 or take home after taxed income $40,101 or a person with a salary of $70,000 will take home after tax $60,191 and an individual on a $100,000 salary will take home after all tax $82,670 contributing $17,330 towards combined federal and state taxes.

At the same time, a family of two with a combined gross income of $120,000 will take home $105,395 after taxation, contributing 12,17% towards federal and state taxation. In contrast, the same family in Tennessee will take home after paying federal tax (marginal, effective, and federal income) $109,079, which is $3,684 more than those paying tax in PA.

There is no standard deduction offered, but taxpayers can make deductions against their taxable income by itemizing certain categories such as medical savings account contributions, health savings account contributions, and contributions to 529 college savings plans.

FICA and Other Tax Rates

The FICA tax rate for 2024 remains at 6.2% for both the employee and employer portions, with the Social Security wage base being $168,600. There is no limit to wages subject to the Medicare Tax, which is at 1.45%, and an additional 0.9% is withheld for wages over $200,000 for the employee portion only.

Property Tax Rates

Pennsylvania has some of the highest property tax rates in the country. According to TALLBOX, the majority of residents in Pennsylvania find themselves in Philadelphia, a city with the 4th highest tax burden in the nation. The state has more taxing authorities than any other state, with over 2,500 municipalities and 500 school districts. This can make it difficult for residents to keep track of their tax obligations and can lead to confusion and frustration.

Severe Weather Conditions

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Pennsylvania is known for its severe weather conditions. The state experiences heavy snowfall and frigid winters, as well as humid summers and tropical storms.

Heavy Snowfall and Winters

Pennsylvania’s winters are long and cold, with temperatures frequently dipping below freezing. The state is located in the northeastern part of the country, which experiences colder weather than other parts of the US. The snowfall is also heavy, making it challenging to get around. Individuals who are not used to driving in heavy snow or surviving winters with very cold temperatures may have an issue living in the state.

Humid Summers and Tropical Storms

Pennsylvania’s summers are humid and can be uncomfortable. The state is also prone to tropical storms, which can cause significant damage. According to Travel Safe, the state has experienced several tropical storms in the past, including Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The humid summers and tropical storms can make living in Pennsylvania challenging for some individuals.

Challenging Traffic and Infrastructure

Pennsylvania’s traffic and infrastructure can pose significant challenges for those living in the state. The state’s aging infrastructure has led to poor road conditions and heavy traffic congestion in many areas.

Road Conditions

Pennsylvania’s road conditions can be a major issue for drivers. The state has over 120,000 miles of roads, many of which are in need of repair. According to a report by TRIP, a national transportation research group, 41% of Pennsylvania’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. Poor road conditions can lead to increased vehicle maintenance costs and safety hazards for drivers.

Traffic Congestion

Traffic congestion is a major issue in many parts of Pennsylvania, particularly in urban areas such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. According to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, the average commuter in the Philadelphia area spends 94 hours a year stuck in traffic, costing them an estimated $1,482 in lost time and fuel. Heavy traffic can also lead to increased air pollution and environmental damage.

Pennsylvania’s transportation infrastructure is in need of significant investment to address these issues. While the state has made some progress in recent years, more needs to be done to improve road conditions and reduce traffic congestion.

Cost of Living Concerns

When it comes to the cost of living, Pennsylvania is generally considered to be an affordable state.

However, there are still some concerns that potential residents should be aware of. In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the cost of living concerns in Pennsylvania, including the housing market and everyday expenses.

Housing Market

One of the biggest concerns for many people when it comes to the cost of living is the housing market. While Pennsylvania’s median home price of $254,000 is well below the national average of $408,537 to $431,000, there are still some areas where housing costs can be high.

For example, in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, the median home price is $295,000, which is higher than the state median. Additionally, some areas of the state have seen significant increases in housing prices in recent years, making it more difficult for some people to find affordable housing.

Everyday Expenses

In addition to housing costs, there are also everyday expenses to consider when it comes to the cost of living in Pennsylvania. While the state does not have a sales tax on all items, there are additional local taxes that individuals may not be familiar with before moving to the state.

For example, Philadelphia has a 2% sales tax on top of the state’s 6% sales tax, which can add up quickly for those who live in the city. Additionally, some areas of the state have higher property taxes, which can add to the overall cost of living.

Overall, while Pennsylvania is generally considered to be an affordable state, there are still some cost of living concerns to be aware of. Potential residents should carefully consider their budget and needs before deciding to move to the state.

Mixed Job Opportunities

Pennsylvania’s job market presents a mixed picture, with some sectors and regions experiencing growth while others face challenges. The state’s economy has been undergoing a transition, adapting to shifts in industries and technologies. While some sectors, such as traditional manufacturing, have faced difficulties, others are growing and evolving. The state’s major cities and emerging industries present diverse jobs, particularly in these 10 cities’ for prospects looking for jobs, but competition can be high.

Manufacturing Challenges and Evolution

Pennsylvania’s manufacturing sector, once a major driver of the state’s economy, has faced significant challenges in recent decades. Factors such as automation, globalization, and competition have led to job losses in traditional manufacturing industries.

However, the sector is also evolving, with a focus on advanced manufacturing techniques and technologies. This shift has created new opportunities for skilled workers in areas such as robotics, 3D printing, and precision machining. The state has also attracted investment from companies looking to establish advanced manufacturing facilities.

Opportunities in Major Cities and Emerging Industries

Pennsylvania’s major cities, such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, offer diverse job opportunities across various sectors. These cities are home to renowned universities, hospitals, and research institutions, which drive innovation and create employment in fields like education, healthcare, technology, and financial services.

However, competition for jobs in these cities can be fierce, and the cost of living may be higher compared to other parts of the state.

Smaller cities and towns in Pennsylvania have their own unique economic strengths, with opportunities in industries such as logistics, energy, and tourism. The state has also seen growth in emerging sectors like renewable energy, e-commerce, and cybersecurity.

Regional Disparities and Workforce Development

While some regions of Pennsylvania have experienced job growth, others have faced economic challenges and limited job opportunities. Rural areas and smaller towns that relied heavily on traditional manufacturing have been particularly affected by job losses.

To address these disparities and prepare workers for the evolving job market, Pennsylvania has invested in workforce development initiatives. These programs aim to provide training and education in high-demand skills, helping workers transition to new industries and opportunities.

Educational Disparities

School attendance in Pennsylvania is mandatory for children from age 8 to 17 or until graduation from an accredited high school. Pennsylvania had a high school graduation rate of 87-88.1% in 2023, with 27.5% obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher. Pennsylvania’s public schools are operated and funded by the General Assembly and local school boards, consisting of various types of schools like elementary, high, and vocational-technical schools yet there are significant educational disparities between regions within the state that make it challenging for students to get quality education.

This section will cover two of the most pressing issues in the state’s educational system: Variation in School Quality and Higher Education Costs.

Higher Education Costs

Pennsylvania is home to some of the most expensive universities in the country, which can be a significant burden for students and their families. According to CollegeCalc, the average annual cost of attending a four-year college in Pennsylvania is around $35,000. This high cost can make it difficult for students to afford higher education, which can limit their career opportunities in the future.

While Pennsylvania is home to some excellent universities and good schools, the educational disparities and high costs can make it challenging for students to get the education they need. It is essential to consider these factors when deciding whether to live in Pennsylvania.

Variation in School Quality

Pennsylvania has a wide variation in school quality, which is largely dependent on the district’s location. According to Research for Action Pennsylvania schools are among the most deeply segregated and inequitably funded in the nation. This means that students in low-income areas or areas with a high percentage of minority students are more likely to attend schools with fewer resources and lower-quality education.

Healthcare Accessibility Issues

Pennsylvania faces various healthcare accessibility issues, which make it a less desirable place to live. These issues include rural healthcare gaps and high insurance costs.

Rural Healthcare Gaps

Rural areas in Pennsylvania often lack adequate healthcare facilities and services, making it difficult for residents to access medical care. According to a report by AARP Pennsylvania and Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, geographic factors, along with racial/ethnic and economic disparities, are contributing to the healthcare gaps in the state. An estimated 14% of Pennsylvanians live in medically underserved areas, which means they have limited access to primary care services.

Insurance Costs

Pennsylvania has some of the highest insurance costs in the country, which can make healthcare services unaffordable for many residents. According to a report by the Commonwealth Fund, Pennsylvania ranks 44th in the country for healthcare affordability. The high insurance costs are attributed to the state’s aging population and the high prevalence of chronic diseases.

In addition, Pennsylvania has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which has left many low-income residents without access to affordable health insurance. This has resulted in a significant number of uninsured residents who struggle to pay for medical care.

The healthcare accessibility issues in Pennsylvania make it a less desirable place to live, particularly for those who require regular medical care.

Cultural and Recreational Limitations

Pennsylvania may not be the ideal state for those seeking diverse cultural and recreational opportunities. While the state does have some cultural and recreational offerings, they may not be as varied or accessible as in other states.

Entertainment Options

Pennsylvania’s entertainment options are limited compared to other states. The state lacks a vibrant nightlife scene and has fewer concert venues and theaters than other states. While Philadelphia has a thriving music scene, it may not be enough to satisfy those seeking a more diverse range of entertainment options.

Outdoor Activities Diversity

Pennsylvania’s outdoor activities are largely limited to hiking, fishing, and hunting. While the state has some beautiful parks and forests, the lack of diversity in outdoor activities may be a turnoff for those seeking more varied outdoor experiences. Additionally, the state’s weather can be unpredictable, with long and cold winters that limit outdoor activities for much of the year.

Those seeking a wide range of cultural and recreational opportunities may find Pennsylvania lacking. While the state has some offerings, they may not be enough to satisfy those seeking a more diverse range of options.

Geographical Isolation

Pennsylvania is a state in the northeastern region of the United States. While this location has its advantages, it also has some drawbacks, such as geographical isolation.

Distance from Major Cities

One of the major drawbacks of living in Pennsylvania is the distance from major cities. While the state has several large cities, such as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, they are not as centrally located as cities like New York City. This can make it difficult for residents of Pennsylvania to travel to other major cities or for visitors to come to Pennsylvania.

Limited Public Transit Options

Another issue with geographical isolation in Pennsylvania is the limited public transit options. While there are some public transit options available, such as buses and trains, they are not as extensive as in some other states. This can make it difficult for residents to get around, especially if they do not have access to a car.

While Pennsylvania has many great things to offer, its geographical location can be a drawback for some people. The distance from major cities and limited public transit options can make it difficult for residents to travel and get around.

What are all Public Transit Options in PA?

Public transportation in Pennsylvania is designed to be a convenient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly alternative to driving, with services tailored to meet the needs of a diverse population but it’s not equally developed in all areas. Whether for daily commutes, occasional travel, or specific accessibility requirements, the state’s public transit options aim to provide efficient and accessible transportation solutions.

Fixed-Route Transit Services

Philadelphia and Pittsburgh: These major cities have extensive fixed-route transit services operated by SEPTA in Philadelphia and the Port Authority of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh

Urbanized Areas: There are fixed-route services in 19 urbanized areas, providing reliable transportation options for residents in these regions.

Rural Areas: Fixed-route services are also available in 18 rural areas, ensuring that even residents in less densely populated parts of the state have access to public transit.

Shared-Ride Services

Statewide Coverage: All 67 counties in Pennsylvania offer shared-ride services, which are particularly beneficial for seniors, persons with disabilities, and those who require more flexible transportation options.

Intercity Bus Services

Connectivity: Intercity bus services connect cities across the state, facilitating travel between different regions.

Rail Services

Amtrak: The Keystone Corridor Amtrak service runs from Harrisburg to New York via Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvanian Amtrak service operates from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, providing intercity rail options.

Local Public Transit Authorities

Diverse Agencies: Numerous local public transit authorities operate across the state, such as the Transportation Management Association of Chester County, Red Rose Transit Authority in Lancaster, and the Erie Metropolitan Transit Authority, among others

Accessibility and Programs

Accessibility: Public transportation systems statewide offer accessible transportation that meets federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

Programs for Seniors and Persons with Disabilities: Pennsylvania provides programs like the Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Program, which offers reduced rates on shared-ride services for eligible individuals.

Additional Services

Park and Ride: PennDOT-maintained Park and Ride facilities offer a safe and convenient location for commuters to park their cars and travel via carpools, vanpools, or buses.

Bikes on Public Transportation: Many transit services allow bicycles, making it easier for commuters to combine cycling with public transit.