Are you thinking about living in Kentucky? You’ve come to the right place. I ended up moving to Kentucky 10+ years ago and have learned to love my daily life in the Bluegrass State.
There’s a lot I (genuinely) love about living in Kentucky, but there’s a lot I still can’t wrap my mind around. I thought it would be fun to do a quick roundup of the honest pros and cons of living in Kentucky for anyone considering a similar move.
I’m not one for small talk, so let’s get to the good stuff!
Word to the wise: The fun is in the comments below. Join the conversation and let other readers know what it’s like to live in Kentucky. Or heck, reach out if you merely have questions — locals are (always) happy to answer.
Best cities to live in Kentucky
There’s an area of Kentucky referred to as “The Golden Triangle” which includes Louisville, Lexington and Covington. These are the best cities in Kentucky for those that love city(ish) living. Outside of the Golden Triangle the state is pretty rural.
- Population: 628,600
- Average salary: $62,000
- Median home price: $242K
- Population: 322,000
- Average salary: $56,700
- Median home price: $284K
- Population: 74,000
- Average salary: $42,000
- Median home price: $299K
Pros & Cons of Living in Kentucky
Table of Contents: Living in Kentucky
Table of Contents: Living in Kentucky
- Best cities to live in Kentucky
- Pros & Cons of Living in Kentucky
- First, the Pros of Moving to Kentucky
- 1. The housing market is (still) affordable
- 2. Overall low cost of living in Kentucky
- 3. Moving to Kentucky means minimal tax burden
- 4. The cuisine
- 5. Kentucky Bourbon, baby!
- 6. Plenty of outdoor recreation
- 7. Kentucky has some spectacular scenic beauty
- 8. The Kentucky Derby
- 9. Tax breaks for folks retiring in Kentucky
- Cons of Living in Kentucky
- 1. Racism is prevalent
- 2. We’re one of the least educated states in the country
- 3. Poor job market + low wages
- 4. Kentucky has some of the highest obesity rates in the country
- 5. High rates of depression
- 6. Natural disasters are a consideration while living in Kentucky
- 7. Kentucky lacks diversity
- 8. Poor public school system
- Things to consider about living in Kentucky
- Retiring in Kentucky FAQ
- Pros & Cons of Moving to Kentucky (Post Summary)
- First, the Pros of Moving to Kentucky
First, the Pros of Moving to Kentucky
1. The housing market is (still) affordable
As you may have surmised by the median home prices mentioned above, the housing market in Kentucky is still affordable. Many folks from larger cities end up moving to Kentucky to achieve their lifelong dream of owning a home (myself included).
If you’re moving to Kentucky but don’t plan to buy a home, I have good news on that front too. Average rent for a one bedroom in about $1,200 in Louisville and Lexington. As you can imagine, rent is cheaper outside of the cities.
Normally housing is the highest portion of any budget-consciences resident, but thankfully the cost of living in Kentucky doesn’t cause despair. Whether you’re buying or renting, you can expect things to be fairly affordable (compared to most other places in the country).
Bonus: Low property taxes
Going hand-in-hand with affordable home prices, the low property taxes are also worth mention. Clocking in at a mere 0.78%, Kentucky is one of the most affordable places to buy a home.
That property tax rate coupled with low home prices means the cost of living in Kentucky keeps getting better and better. If helpful to know, I currently pay $1,300 a year in property taxes (a welcome reprieve from my previous taxes when I lived in Connecticut — they were 1.73%).
All this to say, if you’re moving to Kentucky with the hopes buying a home, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
2. Overall low cost of living in Kentucky
I don’t mean to beat a dead horse (speaking of horses, Kentuckians love their horses) but I’m telling you — the cost of living in Kentucky is very affordable.
Apart from housing, everyday amenities are well below the national average. Think groceries, utilities, transportation, medical expenses and necessities like haircuts. All told, the cost of living in Kentucky is nearly 12% lower than the national average.
3. Moving to Kentucky means minimal tax burden
Unlike most of the other states, Kentucky has a flat 5% state income tax that applies to all resident regardless of household income. You can make $50,000 a year or $5,000,000 per year and you’ll still be taxed at 5%.
This is a pretty unique setup considering most states have varying income taxes depending on income bracket. Other still don’t have income tax altogether, but if you happen to live in a state with income tax at all, living in Kentucky is one of the best (because it’s one of the lowest).
4. The cuisine
The best way I know to describe the cuisine while living in Kentucky is this: It’s (damn) good, but not good for you. It’s closely aligned with traditional southern cuisine — think fried chicken, soft cornbread and beans.
It’s delicious, make no mistake, but it’s hard to stay healthy on a diet of fried food and milkshakes.
Those that love eating their greens will find little respite while living in Kentucky. Fast food reigns supreme and eating out is quite common. At the very least, it’s delicious and easy to get.
5. Kentucky Bourbon, baby!
Plan to host a lot of visitors after moving to Kentucky. At least that’s what happened to me, turns out everyone wants to tour a distillery, who knew?
The state generates more than $9 billion in revenue from bourbon sales alone, and currently averages two bourbon barrels per resident. We don’t joke around when it comes to libations!
The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a popular attraction. You can pop over to one of 18 distilleries to taste the best the state has to offer. If interested, my favorite distilleries tours to take out-of-town visitors to are: Copper & Kings, Rabbit Hole and the Wilderness Trail.
6. Plenty of outdoor recreation
One of the things that has surprised me most about living in Kentucky is the outdoor recreation. Prior to moving to Kentucky I assumed the state was rather bland when it came to nature and the outdoors — how wrong I was.
Turns out Kentucky has plenty to offer (those mountains!). I love exploring Mammoth Cave (the longest cave in the world!) or hanging out on the lakes during the hot summer months. Some of my favorite lakes are Kentucky Lake, Land Between the Lakes and Lake Barkley.
If you’re new to the area, take a trip over to see Cumberland Gap (breathtaking), the Red River Gorge and the Daniel Boone National Forest. You’ll see what all the fuss is about in no time.
Bonus: Water-centric summer sports
Speaking of lakes, there’s no shortage of great summer sports to partake in while living in Kentucky. Boating, water skiing, swimming, etc. You’re bound to find something to love.
Access to water is a huge perk of living in Kentucky and locals know to take advantage. In the summer most of our days center around the local lakes and rivers (which swell with locals).
7. Kentucky has some spectacular scenic beauty
I touched on outdoor recreation a minute ago, but I’d like to delve into the state’s beauty a little more. The reason is simple, the undeniable scenic beauty makes living in Kentucky a joy.
While researching moving to Kentucky I settled on the western part of the state because I found the rolling hills irresistible. The area is full of breathtaking forests, lakes and never-ending fields of blooms.
Eastern Kentucky, located at the feet of the epic Appalachian Mountain range, is also very beautiful. It’s all about vibrant hills and valleys on this end, which makes the hiking opportunities endless. I’ve made a habit of spending summers camping on the eastern end of the state because it’s so beautiful.
The central part of the state is a tad flat for my liking (I love varied landscapes). This is where most of the crop grows, so you’ll see tons of farms and livestock while driving through.
8. The Kentucky Derby
Alright, no list of the pros of moving to Kentucky is complete without mentioning the beloved Kentucky Derby. This is an annual horse racing event held during the month of May in Churchill Downs. You’ll rub elbows with locals and tourists alike at the various festivities and parties leading up to the main event.
The Kentucky Derby is a classy affair and you’ll want to dress up for the occasion (don’t forget the a hat!). This is one of the most unique events in the USA (folks tune in and watch from all over the country) and having the ability to catch the event in person is priceless.
For information on tickets, click here.
9. Tax breaks for folks retiring in Kentucky
Here’s a huge perk of retiring in Kentucky — you get some pretty sweet tax breaks. The state is unique in its appeal to seniors — social security income is not taxed and retirement income (pensions, 401K and IRA) are exempt from taxes up to $31,110 per person.
All this to say, the massive tax breaks make retiring in Kentucky a smart move.
Cons of Living in Kentucky
1. Racism is prevalent
Hands down, my least favorite thing about living in Kentucky is the blatant racism. I’ve lost count of the number of times I heard people make (and laugh) at racist jokes, or the number of times I’ve seen the Confederate flag flying in the breeze from a neighbor’s porch.
On the few occasions I’ve been bold enough to bring up the confederate flag I’ve been met with resistance. “It’s part of our history, part of our culture. It grates my nerves — “so is our occupation by the British! But we broke free from those chains, why keep the racist past?!”
I’m serious, the racism is the biggest reason I’m considering moving from Kentucky. It’s unacceptable and downright disgusting. And for readers preparing to comment “then why don’t you move?” I ask only one question — why is that the default response? Why can do way better.
2. We’re one of the least educated states in the country
Here’s another hard thing about living in Kentucky — statistically speaking, our residents are some of the least educated in the country. Ranking #45 (out of 50), we have some of lowest numbers of college educated residents in the nation.
So, what does this mean for daily life in Kentucky? Well, speaking from personal experience, it means your daily conversations will fall into one of two categories.
The first being college educated folks who seem more open to discussion and learning. The second being folks that prefer glorify tradition and the “good old days.” In my opinion, these folks are harder to converse with because they’re closed off to learning something new and tend to stick to the same topics.
If I had to guess the most watched program on TV, I’d bet my life savings on Fox News. Again, this is my personal experience, not everyone feels the same way, so take this with a grain of salt.
3. Poor job market + low wages
Recall how I mentioned the low cost of living in Kentucky is what attracts many folks to the state? Well, let’s talk about the reason why the cost of living is so low — low wages and the poor job market. In fact, Kentucky is ranked as having the worst job market in the country.
The poor job market coupled with low wages and high unemployment (3.8%) rate means having a gig lined up before moving to Kentucky is non-negotiable.
4. Kentucky has some of the highest obesity rates in the country
That’s right, but don’t just take my word for it. You’ll notice that living in Kentucky doesn’t necessarily lend itself to an active lifestyle. Fast food is a daily ritual for many residents (you can tell by the long drive-through lines), which explains the high obesity rates (not to mention high levels of heart disease).
If you’re looking to start an active lifestyle after moving to Kentucky you’ll be going against the grain. It’s hard to stay motivated when the daily lives of those around you lends itself to other priorities, so heads up!
5. High rates of depression
A fact that catches folks by surprise is that Kentucky has some of the highest depression rates in the nation. Nearly 23% of residents have identified themselves as depressed, which is an alarming rate (nearly 1 out of 4 folks living in Kentucky!).
Now on to the big question, why? Well, I’d be lying if I said I had the answer. Honestly speaking, I don’t really know why the depression rates are so high in our state. If I had to guess I’d wager it has something to do with the high unemployment rate, poverty, poor school system and maybe even the obesity rates.
If you know why Kentucky has some of the highest rates of depression in the country, let me (and other readers) know the reason in the comments below.
6. Natural disasters are a consideration while living in Kentucky
One of the things that took some adjustment after moving to Kentucky was the likelihood of natural disasters. Kentucky is no stranger to tornadoes and flooding.
In 2020, the state saw 26 tornadoes (and 63 in 2021!). This handy chart outlines the tornadoes we’ve had since 1950. The most common season for tornadoes is spring through fall. It’s not like you have to plan your daily life around them or anything, but the thought is always looming, which is why I want to mention it.
Also, if you’re moving to Kentucky to buy a home, make sure to check out this handy resource on flood risks (and avoid those areas!).
7. Kentucky lacks diversity
With more than 81.3% residents identifying as white, Kentucky is one of the 10 least diverse states in the country. Shocking, I know.
8. Poor public school system
If you’re moving to Kentucky with kids in tow, know this: our public school education sucks. This goes hand-in-hand with us being one of the least educated states in the country (as mentioned earlier), but let’s delve further.
Our high school graduation rate (87%) is one of the lowest in the nation. Even if you kid graduates from high school, their education is questionable. Our public schools rank way too low for comfort (based on standardized testing).
In fact, 18.5% of Kentucky residents live below the poverty line. This is one of the highest rates of poverty in the country and I’m guessing the poor public schools contribute to that ghastly figure.
All told, we made the decision of putting our kid through private school because a quality education wasn’t something we were going to negotiate. So my advice to you is this: Research private schools and factor that into your cost of living in Kentucky if you have school-aged kids.
Things to consider about living in Kentucky
Religion plays a huge role in daily life in Kentucky
Don’t plan on moving to Kentucky without knowing the (massive) role religion plays in daily life. Practically everyone you meet with either be Christian, Methodist or Baptist.
Religion is a huge part of people’s identity and most of your conversations are bound to touch on the subject lightly, even if just in greeting. Just something to be mindful of.
Heck, even though I’m not religious myself, there’s aspects of this that I actually like (if I’m being honest!).
Retiring in Kentucky FAQ
Is Kentucky a good place to live?
This is a hard question to answer because it’s personal. If you’re looking for a slower way of life and have a self-sufficient attitude about you, then yes, Kentucky is a good place to live. It’s affordable, the people are kind and the scenic beauty is top notch.
If you’re into city living, you’ll find living in Kentucky challenging. The largest cities aren’t nearly as lively as their west and east coast counterparts, so they lack excitement. Remember this is based on personal experience, not everyone feels the same way, but I’m just being honest.
Pros & Cons of Moving to Kentucky (Post Summary)
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of the pros and cons of living in Kentucky. Hope you enjoyed!
- The housing market is still affordable
- Low property taxes
- Overall low cost of living in Kentucky
- Moving to Kentucky means minimal tax burden
- The cuisine
- Kentucky Bourbon
- Plenty of outdoor recreation
- Water-centric summer sports
- Tax breaks for folks retiring in Kentucky
- The state has scenic beauty
- The Kentucky Derby
- High rates of depression
- One of the least college educated states in the country
- Poor job market + low wages
- Racism is prevalent
- Kentucky has some of the highest obesity rates in the country
- Natural disasters are a consideration while living in Kentucky
- Kentucky lacks diversity
- Poor public school system
- Religion plays a huge role in daily life in Kentucky
I hope you enjoyed this list of the pros and cons of living in Kentucky. Don’t forget to leave your two cents below, we love to hear from you.