With centuries of rich history, beautiful nature, and great cities, Pennsylvania is one of America’s most interesting states. So with all that Pennsylvania has going for it, is it a good place to live?
Pennsylvania is a good place to live. The state offers good cities with plenty of things to do, a reasonable cost of living, and a great location. So whether you want to experience the bustle of Philadelphia or the solitude of the Wilds, you’ll love living in Pennsylvania.
So what is the cost of living in Pennsylvania? What are the biggest cities? How is the economy, and is the climate pleasant? Discover more about living in the Keystone State in the following sections.
Living In The Keystone State
The history of Pennsylvania dates back to 1681, when the Crown issued a royal land grant to William Penn. Penn immediately set about exploring and building on his new lands, founding the city of Philadelphia in 1682. Since then, Pennsylvania has continued to grow and thrive, and today, Pennsylvania is the fifth-most populous state in the United States of America.
Pennsylvania is located in America’s right upper quadrant, nestled between the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the nation. Pennsylvania is bordered on the north by New York, on the east by Delaware and New Jersey, on the south by Maryland and West Virginia, and Ohio to the west.
In practical terms, this means that Pennsylvania is convenient to many important places. For example, Philadelphia is only about two hours by car from New York City and two and a half hours from Washington, DC. Chicago is only about 7 hours by car from Pittsburgh; Virginia Beach is only about 5 hours from Harrisburg. So living in Pennsylvania puts you within striking distance of many great places.
Almost 13 million people live in Pennsylvania, but the state is actually quite rural. About 6 million Pennsylvanians live in the Delaware Valley metropolitan area near Philadelphia, and another 2.4 million or so live in the Pittsburgh metro. The largest cities in Pennsylvania are Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, along with Allentown, Reading, and Erie.
Philadelphia is located on the banks of the Delaware River in the southeast corner of Pennsylvania. About 1.6 million people live in Philadelphia, making it the largest city in the Keystone State.
Philadelphia is an economic powerhouse, with a thriving seaport that attracts countless businesses to the city. In addition, Philadelphia has a reputation as a fun city, and it is chock full of fascinating historical landmarks and other exciting things to do.
With about 300,000 residents, Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in Pennsylvania and also the center of the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area. Pittsburgh is best known for producing vast amounts of high-quality steel; however, as the steel industry has declined, other major sectors have risen to take its place.
Pittsburgh is home to companies like Kraft Heinz Company and PNC Financial Services, and has been ranked one of the best metro areas in the United States for business expansion. But Pittsburgh isn’t all steel mills and suits: the city has tons of fun things to see and do and is a great place to visit.
Rural PA Living
Pennsylvania has a lot of rural acreage for those who like to live where it is a little on the quieter side. The more rural locations provide a quality of life that is more relaxed with less hustle and bustle and lower crime.
There are still places where Walmart is an hour away, but the payoff for the remote living conditions is considerable. In addition, the small counties and towns allow you to get to know your neighbors, and people are willing to give you a helping hand in times of need.
You will also find things to do, but they are just a different variety of things, whether it is cooling off in the local crick, taking a drive to look at the elk, taking a tour and satisfying your thirst at the Eternal Tap, or spending the afternoon gazing over Pine Creek Gorge, there is still plenty to do.
Pennsylvania’s economy is the sixth-largest in the United States, worth more than $815 billion in total. Many major companies call Pennsylvania home, and the relatively low cost of doing business in Pennsylvania continues to attract startups and entrepreneurs.
However, the state is projected to have very slow population growth and could be in better fiscal health, either of which could have a negative impact on the state’s economic health.
By the numbers, most Pennsylvanians work in manufacturing, real estate, and healthcare. Other popular sectors include finance and insurance, IT, and professional services. While Pennsylvania has a long history of being an important agricultural state, the agriculture sector is experiencing some decline.
Keystone Answers Fun Fact: Pennsylvania produces about 68% of the mushrooms consumed by Americans.
Cost of Living
Pennsylvania is ranked as the 29th most affordable state in the union, meaning it is slightly more expensive to live here than average. But let’s put that in context: a huge number of Pennsylvanians live in the Delaware Valley metro, which is adjacent to the enormous and obscenely expensive metros in New York and New Jersey. So for being in a very desirable location, Pennsylvania is pretty affordable.
Here are some rough estimates of how much it costs to live in Pennsylvania. Of course, your specific costs will vary by location and situation.
- Median Monthly Mortgage: $1,595
- Median Gross Rent: $951
- Average Electric Bill: $115
- Average Cost of Food per Person per Month: $278
- Average Cost of Childcare per Month: $1,200
- Income Tax Rate: 3.07%
- State Sales Tax: 6%
Pennsylvania is a big state, and the climate varies depending on where you live. Broadly speaking, however, the state enjoys what is called a Humid Continental Climate. This kind of climate features hot summers and cold winters, with regular precipitation.
Precipitation varies hugely across Pennsylvania. Due to the “lake effect,” cities like Erie often get more than 100 inches of snow in a year!
Speaking of winter, the winter lows in Pennsylvania tend to hover around 19 degrees. Summer highs approach the mid-80s. There are about 179 sunny days a year in Pennsylvania, which is slightly below the American average of 205 sunny days per year.
Pennsylvania is ranked 17th in terms of the quality of K-12 education. However, about 86% of Pennsylvanian kids graduate from high school, which is just higher than the national average.
Pennsylvanian students tend to do well on standardized tests. While the quality of any given school will vary depending on location, tax base, funding, and other factors, schools in Pennsylvania are pretty good.
While there are some great colleges in Pennsylvania, they tend to be very expensive. As a result, college students in Pennsylvania generally graduate with substantial debt, which they need in order to afford the exorbitant tuition costs at many Pennsylvanian colleges.
The violent crime rate in Pennsylvania is about the same as the overall rate in the United States. However, the property crime rate in Pennsylvania is much lower than the national average.
The safest city in Pennsylvania is Collegeville, a small town outside of Philadelphia known for the large number of colleges nearby. Collegeville enjoys a crime rate that is about 85% lower than the national average, making it a very safe place indeed.
The most dangerous city in Pennsylvania is McKees Rocks, also known as The Rocks, which is located just west of Pittsburgh along the Ohio River. McKees Rocks has a very high crime rate of about 62 crimes per 1,000 residents, including violent crimes. Darby and Chester, cities just outside of Philadelphia, are other cities to be careful visiting as the violent crime rate there is rather high.
Things to Do
Alright, facts and data are good, but what about the fun stuff? What kind of interesting things are there to see and do in Pennsylvania?
State Parks and Forests. Pennsylvania has 124 locations in its state park system, and these sites include state parks, natural areas, conservation areas, preserves, environmental education centers, a historical park, and even a farm park.
Additionally, the state has 2.2 million acres in the state forest system broken down into 20 state forest districts.
State lands offer residents and visitors many recreational opportunities, including hiking, biking, camping, fishing, picnicking, and numerous other outdoor activities.
Historical Sites. As one of the oldest states in the Union, Pennsylvania is full of historical sites. For example, Valley Forge, home to the Continental Army during the winter of 1777-1778, is located just outside of Philadelphia and offers visitors chances to see reconstructed barracks and even George Washington’s headquarters.
Speaking of Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love is home to a plethora of historical sites and artifacts, including the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Other fascinating landmarks in Pennsylvania include the battlefield at Gettysburg and the Flight 93 National Memorial.
Pennsylvania Wilds. Pennsylvania’s natural beauty is unforgettable and inspiring, and there’s no better place to experience it than the Pennsylvania Wilds. Consisting of more than 2 million acres of pristine public lands, the Wilds is a region where you can explore the great outdoors and experience a different way of life. The Wilds is also home to Cherry Springs State Park, which has some of the best stargazing in the nation.
Hershey. Most everybody likes chocolate, and Hershey, Pennsylvania, is home to the aptly named Hershey Company. Chocoholic visitors can head to Hershey’s Chocolate World, where you can enjoy fun tours and build your own toothsome candy creations!
Lancaster. Home to a large Amish community, one of Lancaster’s most famous attractions is the Lancaster Central Market. Here, you can find everything from artisanal crafts to homemade cheese, produce, eggs, meat, coffee, ice cream, and more.
Mount Hope Estate & Winery. Not only can you get delicious Pennsylvania wine at the Mount Hope Estate & Winery, but the location is also home to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. You’ll be transported to a medieval fantasy land as you explore the grounds and sip delicious imbibements at this wonderful and scenic winery.
In addition, a variety of other events are held in the Keystone State throughout the year, like snake hunts, PA RV Super Show, celebrations for the 4th of July, finding out if Phil sees his shadow, PA Farm Show, Christmas events, and car shows, just to name a few.
Pennsylvania: A Great Place To Call Home
There is something for everybody in the Keystone State. If you like big cities, Philadelphia is a world-class metro, and Pittsburgh showcases American ingenuity and grit. But, if you prefer to live in the country, there are countless expansive acres of rolling hills and deep forests to call home.
Additionally, Pennsylvania is relatively affordable and safe. Your kids will have decent schools, the economy is doing well, and there are lots of neat things to see and do. Pennsylvania is indeed a good place to live.