welcome to Tennessee road sign

If you are considering a move to Tennessee, it’s important to research the pros and cons of living in Tennessee before making your decision.

This article will explain everything you need to know about the state of Tennessee including the following topics.

  • Overview of Tennessee
  • Cost of living
  • Landscape/outdoor recreation
  • History and culture
  • Hospitality
  • Economy/job market
  • Weather/climate
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Safety
Pros And Cons Of Living In Tennessee infographic

Key takeaways

Pros

  1. Low Cost of Living: Tennessee offers a cost of living that is below the national average, which makes it an attractive option for people seeking affordability. This is particularly noticeable in terms of housing costs.
  2. Natural Beauty and Outdoor Recreation: The state boasts a diverse range of landscapes, from the mountains in the east to the plains in the west. This diversity allows for a multitude of outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, boating, and wildlife viewing.
  3. Rich History and Culture: Tennessee’s history is deeply intertwined with American history. It’s also a major center for music, including country music, blues, and rock and roll, contributing to a vibrant cultural scene.
  4. Southern Hospitality: Tennessee is known for its friendly and welcoming locals, embodying the traditional warmth and generosity of the South.
  5. Strong Economy and Job Market: With key industries like automotive, healthcare, logistics, and entertainment, Tennessee offers a robust job market and economic prospects.

Cons

  1. Weather: Tennessee’s climate, while generally mild, can be challenging due to its high humidity, potential for severe weather including tornadoes, and the effects of hurricanes.
  2. Education Concerns: While there are high-performing districts, the overall ranking of Tennessee’s public school system is a concern, as is the achievement gap for economically disadvantaged students and students of color.
  3. Healthcare System: Access to healthcare can be problematic, especially in rural areas, and the state’s overall health rankings are lower than average.
  4. Crime Rates: The state has higher than average crime rates, especially in urban areas, although efforts are being made to improve public safety.
  5. High Sales Tax: Despite not having a state income tax, Tennessee makes up for it with a high sales tax, which can impact overall cost of living.

Brief Overview of Tennessee

  1. Location: Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern region of the country. It’s bordered by eight states: Kentucky to the north, Virginia to the northeast, North Carolina to the east, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to the south, Arkansas to the west, and Missouri to the northwest.
  2. Geography: Tennessee’s geography is diverse, with three distinct regions. The Appalachian Mountains dominate the eastern part, the rolling hills and fertile plains of the central region, and the low-lying Mississippi River floodplain in the west. The state is characterized by rivers and lakes, including the Mississippi River on the western border and the Tennessee River, which is dammed to form numerous lakes.
  3. Population: As of 2023, Tennessee has a population of over 7.07 million residents. Cities like Nashville (the capital and most populous city), Memphis, Knoxville, and Chattanooga are significant population centers. The state’s population is diverse in terms of ethnicity, religion, and socio-economic backgrounds.
  4. Economy: Tennessee has a robust and diverse economy, with leading industries like manufacturing, health care, music and entertainment, agriculture, and tourism. Major corporations, such as FedEx, Nissan North America, and Dollar General, have their headquarters in the state. Nashville is known as the hub of the country music industry, hence its nickname “Music City”.
Map of Tennessee

Pros of living in Tennessee

1. Cost of Living

Comparison of Tennessee’s Cost of Living with National Average

The cost of living is often a significant factor when considering moving to a new location.

According to sofi.com, the average cost of living in Tennessee is $42,469 per year. Tennessee has a cost of living index lower than the national average. This means that, in general, expenses in Tennessee tend to be more affordable compared to other states.

Factors like lower housing costs, reasonable utility costs, and a favorable tax structure contribute to this lower cost of living.

However, the cost of living can vary within the state, with urban areas like Nashville and Memphis generally being more expensive than rural areas.

2. Affordable Housing Market

A significant factor contributing to the cost of living is housing. In many areas of Tennessee, housing costs tend to be lower than the national average. This includes both home purchase prices and rental prices.

Tennessee’s affordable housing can be particularly attractive to families looking for a place to settle down, retirees on a fixed income, or young professionals just starting their careers.

This, of course, depends on the specific area within the state, with property prices varying significantly between city centers and rural locales.

Nevertheless, compared to many other states, homeownership in Tennessee can be a more attainable goal for many people.

senior couple looking at house for sale

3. Landscape/Outdoor Recreation

Tennessee’s Diverse Landscapes

Tennessee is known for its diverse and scenic landscapes that range from mountainous regions and forest-covered hills to low-lying plains.

In the eastern part of the state, you’ll find the majestic Great Smoky Mountains, part of the Appalachian Mountain range, which is renowned for its biodiversity and breathtaking scenery.

The middle region of Tennessee, often called Middle Tennessee, is characterized by rolling hills and fertile farmland. The western part of the state, known as West Tennessee, features flat plains and is home to the Mississippi River.

This variety of landscapes offers a scenic backdrop for life in Tennessee, with each region having its own unique beauty.

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Outdoor Recreational Activities: Hiking, Boating, Fishing, etc.

Given the state’s diverse landscapes, there are plenty of outdoor recreational activities to enjoy. In the mountains, opportunities abound for hiking, camping, and wildlife viewing, with the Great Smoky Mountains National Park being a popular destination.

The state’s many rivers, lakes, and reservoirs – like the Tennessee River and the Norris and Cherokee lakes – offer excellent locations for boating, fishing, and water sports.

The Mississippi River in the west also provides opportunities for river activities. Tennessee’s State Parks system is extensive, with over 50 parks offering outdoor recreation opportunities.

From birdwatching in Reelfoot Lake State Park to rock climbing in Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee has something to offer outdoor enthusiasts of all types.

Tennessee river and Chattanooga
Tennessee river and Chattanooga

4. Rich History and Culture

Musical Heritage: Country Music, Blues, Rock and Roll

Tennessee has a rich musical history and is considered a hub for several music genres. Nashville, the state’s capital, is often dubbed as “Music City” and is the heart of the country music industry, housing the legendary Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

The city is known for its live music venues, record production, and music festivals.

Memphis, another significant city in Tennessee, played a crucial role in the birth of blues music and is recognized as the birthplace of rock and roll.

The city is famously associated with Elvis Presley, and Graceland, Elvis’ home-turned-museum, remains a major tourist attraction. Beale Street in Memphis is also famed for its music and nightlife scene.

Tennessee nightlife, pubs, restaraunts

Historical Landmarks and Events

Tennessee is steeped in American history. It was the 16th state to join the Union and was a major battleground during the American Civil War.

There are numerous historic sites, landmarks, and museums throughout the state that preserve and commemorate its history.

One such notable landmark is The Hermitage near Nashville, which is the home of Andrew Jackson, the 7th President of the United States.

Tennessee also played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement, with Nashville being a center for civil rights activism.

The city is known for the Nashville sit-ins, a series of nonviolent protests against segregation that occurred in 1960.

5. Southern Hospitality

Friendly and Welcoming Local Communities

Southern hospitality is a hallmark of Tennessee and is a term used to describe the warmth, friendliness, and generosity traditionally associated with the people in the Southern United States.

This charm is very much a part of everyday life in Tennessee. Newcomers often find that locals are quick to greet them, start a conversation, or lend a hand.

This sense of community and friendliness can make Tennessee feel like home quickly. Whether in small towns or larger cities, this Southern hospitality can contribute to a higher quality of life and a sense of belonging.

Tennessee’s Food Culture

Tennessee’s food culture is rich and varied, with influences from Southern cuisine and its own unique culinary traditions. The state is famous for its barbecue, especially in Memphis, which is known worldwide for its distinctive style of barbecue.

Nashville, on the other hand, is famous for its hot chicken – a local specialty of spicy fried chicken.

Country ham is a staple in many parts of the state, and Tennessee is also known for its whiskey, being the birthplace of Jack Daniel’s – one of the best-selling American whiskies in the world.

Farm-to-table dining is becoming increasingly popular in the state, with restaurants focusing on locally sourced ingredients. This approach highlights the state’s agricultural roots and offers residents fresh, high-quality food options.

Overall, Tennessee’s food culture provides both a connection to the state’s history and traditions and a thriving contemporary food scene to explore.

southern fried chicken

6. Strong Economy and Job Market

Major Industries in Tennessee

Tennessee’s economy is diverse and dynamic, with several key industries contributing significantly to the state’s GDP.

Among these are the automotive industry, with major manufacturers like Nissan and Volkswagen having large manufacturing facilities in the state.

The healthcare sector also plays a significant role, especially in Nashville, which is often referred to as the healthcare capital of the United States, housing many hospitals and healthcare companies, including HCA Healthcare.

The logistics and transportation industry is another major player due to the state’s central location. Memphis is home to the global FedEx hub, which has helped make the city a significant logistics center.

Other notable industries include the entertainment industry, particularly music in Nashville and Memphis, and the agriculture sector, which benefits from the state’s fertile farmlands.

Job Growth and Employment Opportunities

Tennessee has shown promising job growth and offers a wide range of employment opportunities. This is partly due to the state’s favorable business climate, which includes low taxes and business-friendly policies, attracting companies from various sectors.

Job opportunities can vary depending on the region. For example, opportunities in healthcare are abundant in Nashville, while jobs in the automotive industry are prevalent in cities like Smyrna and Chattanooga, where automotive factories are located.

Memphis offers opportunities in logistics and transportation, and tourism-related jobs are widespread throughout the state due to Tennessee’s vibrant music scene and historical landmarks.

This mix of traditional and emerging industries provides a range of opportunities for professionals of different backgrounds and skill sets, contributing to the state’s robust job market.

automotive factory worker

Cons of Living in Tennessee

1. Weather

Tennessee’s Variable Climate

Tennessee’s climate is typically classified as humid subtropical, but it can vary significantly due to the state’s diverse geography and considerable length from east to west.

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In general, the state experiences hot summers and mild to cool winters. The mountainous eastern part of the state tends to be cooler with more precipitation, which even includes snow during the winter months.

The middle and western parts of Tennessee, which are largely made up of plains and river valleys, usually experience more heat and humidity in the summer.

The state enjoys a fairly long growing season, which is beneficial for agriculture and gardening, but it also has a high incidence of humidity, which some people may find uncomfortable.

Challenges Posed by Severe Weather Conditions: Tornadoes, High Humidity

While Tennessee’s climate is typically mild, it’s not without its challenges. The state sits in a region known as “Dixie Alley,” which is prone to severe weather phenomena like tornadoes, especially in the spring and fall. These storms can cause substantial damage and pose safety risks.

Additionally, the state’s high levels of humidity, particularly in the summer, can be uncomfortable for some and can contribute to a higher-than-average index for certain pests like mosquitoes.

Lastly, like many southeastern states, Tennessee occasionally experiences the effects of hurricanes, mainly in the form of heavy rains and wind, although it’s usually spared the worst impacts due to its inland location.

Tornado and dark skies over trees

2. Education Concerns

Ranking and Performance of Public Schools

While Tennessee has some highly rated public schools and has made efforts to improve its education system, overall, the state’s rankings can be a concern. Tennessee’s public school system often ranks in the lower half among U.S. states in terms of academic performance.

These rankings take into account factors such as standardized test scores, graduation rates, and student-to-teacher ratios.

It’s worth noting that performance can vary significantly from one district to another, and there are indeed districts in the state that perform above the national average.

However, in some areas, particularly in under-resourced communities, schools face challenges related to student achievement and equity.

student paper marked with failing grade

Challenges and Areas for Improvement in the Education System

Tennessee’s education system faces several challenges. One of these is the achievement gap, particularly for economically disadvantaged students and students of color.

There have also been concerns about school funding, teacher salaries, and resources available for special education.

Furthermore, while the state has taken steps to raise academic standards, there are ongoing debates about issues like state testing and how to best measure and improve teacher effectiveness.

On a positive note, Tennessee has made strides in postsecondary education access with programs like the Tennessee Promise, which provides two years of tuition-free attendance at a community or technical college to Tennessee high school graduates.

3. Healthcare System

Access to Healthcare

Access to healthcare is a significant concern in many parts of Tennessee, particularly in rural areas. While major cities like Nashville, Memphis, and Knoxville have an array of medical facilities and healthcare services, the same cannot be said for all parts of the state.

In some rural areas, the nearest hospital or clinic can be a considerable distance away. This limited access can make it difficult for residents in these regions to receive timely and regular care.

Also, Tennessee has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, meaning that many low-income adults may lack health insurance coverage, further complicating their access to care.

Quality of Healthcare

While Tennessee is home to some highly regarded hospitals—such as Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, which is nationally recognized in multiple specialties—the state as a whole often ranks lower than average in national health rankings.

These rankings consider a variety of factors, including health outcomes, preventative care, health behaviors, and access to care.

Tennessee has particularly struggled with some health measures, including high rates of obesity, smoking, and opioid addiction.

There are, however, ongoing efforts to address these issues through various public health initiatives.

Overall, understanding the state of healthcare in Tennessee is crucial for potential residents, particularly those with significant healthcare needs or those planning to work in the healthcare field.

Tired male healthcare worker

4. Safety/Crime Rates

Comparison of Tennessee’s Crime Rates with National Average

Crime rates in Tennessee are typically higher than the national average. This includes both violent crimes (such as murder, assault, and robbery) and property crimes (like burglary, theft, and vehicle theft).

However, it’s important to note that crime rates can vary significantly from one area to another within the state.

Major urban areas like Memphis and Nashville have higher crime rates than the state average, but there are also many areas in the state, particularly in suburban and rural communities, where the crime rate is much lower.

Strategies for Crime Reduction and Public Safety

In response to these higher crime rates, various strategies have been implemented to improve public safety. Law enforcement agencies throughout the state work to combat crime through community policing initiatives, targeted enforcement efforts, and crime prevention programs.

In recent years, there has also been an emphasis on addressing the root causes of crime, such as economic inequality and lack of educational opportunities.

Some cities have introduced programs aimed at improving community engagement, youth outreach, and rehabilitation efforts for individuals involved in the criminal justice system.

While these initiatives are promising, crime remains a concern for many residents and potential newcomers to the state.

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