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).
The median home prices in Kentucky clocks in at $205K across the board, which is (way) below the national average of $428K. Hell, homes are 50% cheaper!
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.
Cassandra G. says
My heart goes out to you and your wife! I am so very sorry you are going through what your going through. I don’t what I can do to help legally but I promise to share your story and keep in my prayers 🙏. May God in this very trying time in all in lives😢🙏🙏🙏🙏♥️
Hank S says
We moved to Kentucky to be closer to my wife’s family but I’m counting down the days until we get to move out. I think you’re spot on about the racism and lack of education. It’s hard to make friends because people are very closed minded. That’s been my experience at least.
Jason Borger says
Before ya move to kentucky , I would like to tell you a true story of what the last few years of my familys life has been. I have documents of all i am about to say to prove its validity. What you are about to hear will be hard at times to accept but i promise you its the gods honest truth.
On june 4 my son went to spend the night at a friends house as he has done before what we didnt know is it would be the beginning of the worst events that could happen to a family. The mother of the child was unemployed and about to lose her place and ultimately her children she was a single mom of three from three different fathers of which she wasn’t receiving support for due to she wasnt sure who the fathers were. Her father was a member of the church and told her of this henious scheme .. that didnt pan out in her favor yet left my family in shambles.
In kentucky a stranger can file a temporary order aledging abuse on your spouse and child by one of the parents and the judge will act upon it as ordeing a hearing to adjudge the situation. One problem in Kentucky the judicial is bias and corrupt and even tho my wife my child my self and a double master social worker all testified to the claim of the pleader was false the judge still kept the case open even after the plaintiffs committed perjury on the official document and was repromanded by the judge for lieing yet was still a more credible testimony.
The statue on a child case timeframe is 45 days ours was 5 months along the way we found by garnishment we were paying child support without a hearing and when a hearing was held it was remanded . Yet we never stopped getting docked .were not allowed to see or speak to our son. He testified to the gardium adleim and before the judge on camera there was no abuse in our home yet the judge wrote down he said there was . The judge’s falsification of facts were above and beyond and she ruled i was guilty of abuse and our son was placed in foster care . We now were able to have visitation which was for one hour every two weeks.
We immediately appealed the decision and our court apologized attys resignation was allowed by the courts we found new represntation for 5000 this firm filed every paper late and never asked what happend then quit after 3 months seven minths later the appellate court ruled in the judges favor even though we has a rock solid appeal the court decided not to watvh the official video of the hearings n took the judges word .. we again requested a rehearing and was aproved they took my cash them sent s rejection letter .. its now been over a year we have been paying 1100 a month to the state child support.
We have written to the govenor the attorney general every news channel the legislators not one answered . I wrote to the doj the president the fbi nothing …my sons chores was picking up the dog feces of the foster parents we told the courts he was alergic to pet dander they had 3 dogs and 4 cats .. my son went into respiratory failure and spent 16 days in the child ecu.
We were not informed of this until 5 days later then we were allowed to see him twice for one hour each… after that our visitation was stopped and we were not allowed to see him at all yet we were still paying support . Almost Another year has passed our son was told we gave up on him and even thou we were not allowed we spoke to him on messenger / facebook We were reprimanded on this and held in contempt of court where there is still a pending charge on my wife .. we continued anyway in October a truck lost control and crashed in my home entering the bedroom taking out a 20’ wall of bricks coming to rest 6” from where my wife was standing the force of rhe concussion push her out the room i cought her mid air before she hit the wall. The i insurance company drug their feet and depreciate all our belongings by half its value leaving us in disbelief. We were served a paper from the court telling us we had 20 days to respond to a hearing that was alreddy held without us and then two more.
Last night my wife received a phone call from her previous court appointed atty telling her she was again apointed her atty and i was apointed the atty for the lady who brought this case to court . Which is against the rules of the courts . And we have a termination of our rights as parents of our son this Tuesday at 11:00 at the bullitt county courthouse.. our son was stolen from us by the state of Kentucky the judicial system is flawed . We were not aggorded correct due process and our parental rights as well as our civil rights have been destroyed .. not one lawyer will take this case becouse they know they will lose. Not one news caster will report on this in fear.. my wife n i are still fighting wehave been married 14 years together for 16 and our son is 15 we missed he last two years of his life we can never get back and come tuesday he will be ripped from my name.
He has never been allowed to come to court to see what they are really doing he has no idea what is happening and there is nothing we can do about it … so i say to all who read this make everyday count with your child becouse kentucky will come for yours soon .. kentucky receives billions of dollars each year in title four funding from the federal govt for children in foster care. If you would like to see the papers and watch the videos just ask i have enough to make a grown man fall to his knees n cry.
Bias judges falsification of facts , court appointed friends of the court .. ..is there any good left in this world ? I dont see it anymore. My name is jason lee borger and this is my reality … this is my Dropbox account it has enough to remove a judge from the bench and have a slew of attys disbarred .. if you know someone in a higher place than here.. we wont give in we will find a way to get this to federal court .. .. I understand that you will not respond no one has this is they way it has been for decades in this state. Thank you for reading pass this along to as many people you can get my story out there . “Knowledge is power but only if you know it beforehand”…. JasonBorger …..01/29/2023
Bert Newman says
I moved to Louisville 2 years ago and have found the people to be extremely neighborly and kind but not always so bright. The craziest thing that I have noticed since living here is drive thru liquor stores…seems like it promotes drinking and driving.
Nathan Browning says
Born in Colorado, but lived in Lexington KY since 95. I agree with almost everything you stated, but do want to mention that Lexington ranks in the top 20 cities with degrees per Capita. Very forward thinking city!
Racism and religion are the 2 biggest complaints for me. Not to hate on religion, but people justify their backwards thinking because the good book told em. Other than that though I love it here and probably won’t leave. Each generation is bringing more change for the better so hopefully those 2 complaints will be a small fraction of our society.
Cynthia Shepherd says
You are spot-on about the racism. If you get a ‘great job’, and are not White, keep in mind that you will watch others be promoted based on popularity and not skills. Also, non-whites may find it hard to get adequate training from co-workers. KY is a hard nut to crack in more ways than one.
I can trace my bloodline back to the original long hunters who entered ky. 250 years ago,
I am proud if Kentucky,
I cant comment on the golden triangle other than the city Louisville is home to so many first in medical history and has some if the best doctors in the world.
I have lived 68 years 1 hour south and know for a fact that race relations are good here
Good Education is available to all, it sucks that many do not place a value on it.
But don’t think for a moment that some of these drop out country boys and girls are all fools.
I know many who have educated themselves and have become quite successful
Most of the race problems lay in the population centers, and it’s more black racism than white. Black on black crime is horrendous, drugs are prevalent everywhere in those who look for a easy way to grab a quick dollar, rather than buckle down and earn it.
The welfare nanny state has ruined many people in this state, of all races.
I am proud of the fact that after 68 years, having dropped out in my sophomore high school year, I have amassed farms homes and other properties, without ever depending on the government for any assistance.
I treat everyone with respect until they show they are not worthy of it.
I had grades to go to college but in my 16th year my parents divorced, (think hill billy elegy) and I went to live with my grandparents who were share croppers living on the edge so I went to work.
Every time I meet someone from California New York or similar places who have moved here, I welcome them to ky, and ask them to leave their old states rules behind them.
Happy. On. The green river
Lifetime resident of Kentucky. Bowling Green and Owensboro have larger populations than Covington. Sadly it’s very racist. This coming from a 64 year old white man . Prejudice is stupidity, goes back to the education system here . Lots of hatred for what is unknown and feared . Lots of hypocrites here.