Benefits and Drawbacks of Living in the Midwest
Living in the Midwestern U.S. has its appeal and its drawbacks, depending on your perspective.
Benefits to Midwest Life
The cost of living among Midwest states routinely ranks among the lowest in the country, compared to the higher costs in the big cities along the coasts and elsewhere. The big reason is supply and demand: citizens flock to big cities, and existing citizens need homes as well. The Midwest has few big cities, mostly consisting of small towns and smaller cities.
Denser cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and New York have a limited amount of space and unoccupied homes, driving up the cost. Other limits create costs as well. Big cities often charge for parking, which is free in smaller locales. Many densely populated states charge tolls on certain highways. Insurance premiums are higher in big cities, as heavy traffic creates more opportunities for accidents. Food and fuel cost more due to the demand.
In the Midwest, the cost of necessities is much lower, which makes life a lot cheaper than in Seattle, Detroit or Houston.
Less Traffic, Less Stress, and a More Casual, Open Environment
Midwest cities, let alone smaller towns, don't have the heavy traffic and bustle you see in popular locales in the East and West. The heaviest traffic in the Midwest may take a few minutes to navigate. Most of the time, traffic isn't significantly heavy. Compare this to the hours of citywide gridlock you encounter during rush hour (sometimes even beyond rush hour) in most major cities.
Less traffic makes getting around easier, which eases stress. The lower cost of living and less pressure in general also decreases the stress an average citizen has. Those seeking high-pressure careers frequently venture to the bigger cities elsewhere (where such careers are plentiful), leaving behind a generally easier-going populace that doesn't put as much pressure on themselves or others to succeed.
This creates a more open, casual social environment. People in big cities generally keep to themselves due not only to stranger danger, but due to the complex, stressful nature of their lives. People in the Midwest generally don't face those stresses, and people generally aren't that paranoid or dangerous. This fosters an open, casual sociocultural environment.
Relatively Low Crime Rates
The Midwest certainly has crime like anywhere else, especially in the cities, but crime rates are low in the Midwest compared to other regions. According to research from Sperling's Best Places, the Midwest saw an average of 3,883 offenses per 100,000 people, below the National rate of 4,118. The only region with a lower crime rate was the Northeast (2,889).
Part of the reason for this is the lack of dense population centers. The more people there are, the more criminals are likely to be among them and the more opportunities for crime there are. Unlike the East Coast's dense collection of cities, the Midwest has a handful of big cities, a handful of small cities, and a bevy of small towns. For various reasons, incidences in crime among small populations isn't high.
The Midwest has a lot of relatively safe places to live compared to major cities along the Coasts. Even the most dangerous Midwestern cities, such as Topeka, KS, aren't nearly as crime-heavy as the likes of Detroit, Houston, or Miami. Also (not that any crime is good crime) many of the offenses in the Midwest are relatively petty crimes, such as theft, vandalism, or drug possession. You don't see many murders, muggings, rapes, and other violent attacks. There's no great need to watch your back.
Drawbacks to Midwest Life
Car-centric Transportation Due to a Lack of Transit
Major cities elsewhere usually provide at least a bus system, if not rail transit via commuter train, light rail, or subway for citizens to get around if they don't own a car.
Midwest cities don't have the necessity for such transit, and many are lucky to have any sort of bus system at all. Like most locales, if you want to get around in the Midwest, you need to own a car.
Citizens in big cities who don't own a car would need to buy one (hardly a cheap proposition) to live in the Midwest. That doesn't include license, registration, and insurance. Fuel costs money, as does maintenance. Anyone looking to save money by moving Midwest may find some, if not all, of their savings counteracted by the additional expense of getting around by car.
Someone who already owns a car doesn't need to worry, and may even save on insurance and gas. But instead of being an option, as it is in the big cities, owning a car becomes a requirement in the Midwest.
Conservative, Relatively Uneducated Population
Liberals may loathe living among a predominantly conservative population. If you have conflicting views on religion, abortion, birth control, etc., you may not get along or relate well with Midwesterners. Stating a view contradictory to the predominant conservative values may leave you alienated.
Someone from a big city may be college educated and used to living around similarly educated, savvy citizens. In the Midwest, such a person may be a fish out of water, with the vast majority of Midwest citizens possessing no more than a high school education. Many get their news from the TV or newspaper, both of which report on the local level from a conservative slant and give most national stories no more than a brief soundbite or mainstream treatment. As a result, their views of the world are often basic and homogenized.
Intellectually, as harsh as this sounds, life in the Midwest may be a step down for someone very educated. At best, it could get boring. More so, it could create inherent conflicts and even stifle your lifestyle if you don't share the predominant view.
Few Options and Lack of Commercial Variety
Most big cities have countless independent businesses, restaurants, shops, coffeehouses, and the like. In a Midwest city, expect to see a lot of drive-thru fast food chains, Chili's and Applebee's locations, chain department stores, strip malls with more chain stores, and Starbucks locations. The multiple independent film festivals and theaters you'd have available in a major West Coast city would give way to multiplexes showing nothing other than nationwide Hollywood blockbusters.
As for nightlife, you may possess countless options in Los Angeles, Dallas, or New York City, but the nightlife of an entire mid-sized Midwest city may run through two or three bars and multiplex movie theaters. In a small town... forget it. Going for a hike may be as exciting as it gets.
Weaker Industries and Job Markets
Workers flock to big cities because of the wealth of industries and job opportunities. Obviously, in a small town or a mid-sized Midwest city, the job market isn't nearly as large. If you don't have a job lined up when you move there, it may take a while just to find a useful opportunity.
Plus, in line with the lower cost of living, the wages in the Midwest are typically lower than you'd see in major coastal cities. The salary you'd command in Kansas for a job is often a fraction of the salary you'd command for the same work in Seattle.
Having few industries in an area magnifies the effect on the population when one industry is struggling. If the fishing industry, for example, flagged in Seattle, there would still be a strong finance industry, a strong computer industry, Boeing powering the aircraft industry, etc. But if a small town relies on factory production of cars, for example, and demand for that car falls... the entire job market of that town is in jeopardy.
Occasionally Violent Weather
On the West Coast, you see little more than occasional periods of extended rain. The East Coast sees snowstorms and the occasional hurricane. The Midwest, however, is the motherland of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes.
If you see dark clouds on the horizon in most locales, you know rain is coming... but it likely doesn't affect your plans significantly, because the worst than can happen is a moderate rain shower. If you see clouds on the horizon in the Midwest, you have a few hours to get inside, and hopefully your home is structurally sound, because a huge thunderstorm is on the way, and it definitely will bring high winds therewith. Funnel clouds are a possibility, and if one reaches the ground... watch out.
Flooding is common. The flatland does little to break up incoming storm systems, and leaves homes very vulnerable to damage.
Living in the Midwest, like anywhere else, has its pluses and minuses. Factor them all into your decision making should you consider a move to the Midwest.