To move to Pennsylvania or not move to Pennsylvania? That’s the question we hope to help you answer. Or maybe you’re already packed and just looking for a little guidance to help your transition to Penn life go smoothly. Either way, you’re totally in the right place, as long as you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.
We've scoured most of the internet and a number of travel brochures, and even picked the brains of a few locals to bring this guide to you. It’s full of stats, history, fun facts, and even a bit of weird stuff too. You’re gonna love it.
A Quick Peek into Pennsylvania
For starters, Pennsylvania goes by many names. The most common is The Keystone State because of its "central location along the arch" of the 13 original colonies. It's also called The Oil State and The Coal State because of the coal region in the northeastern part of the state.
And finally, it's also referred to as The Quaker State because of the Quakers (members of the Religious Society of Friends) who settled in the state, notably William Penn. Pennsylvania's official slogan is "Pursue Your Happiness," which echoes the line “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” that began with the Philadelphia signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
12,823,989 have chosen to "pursue their happiness" in Pennsylvania. And 18,452 of them moved there in 2017 alone. Pennsylvania is the sixth most populous state, and the ninth most densely populated. But what does that mean for the job market, the housing scene, and cool stuff to do? Well, let’s find out.
Job Market in PA
Just south of New York, Pennsylvania sits snug as a bug in the mid-Atlantic region. There’s even a fair number of ‘super commuters’ who take the twice-a-day 2-hour bus ride into Manhattan. If you’ve seen that city’s housing costs, you know exactly why.
To start with, the state's unemployment rate is 4.8%, which is slightly higher than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the minimum wage currently stands at $7.25/hour.
And there are a lot of great jobs here, too. A few of Pennsylvania’s fastest-growing careers include: interpreter/translator, occupational therapist, physical therapist, nurse practitioner, operations analyst, home health aid, biomedical engineer, and web developer.
And if you’re really trying to stuff your pockets and piggy bank full, Pennsylvania’s highest-paying positions are: anesthesiologist, orthodontist, OB/GYN, CEO, surgeon and psychiatrist. The medical world is really booming there, so if you’re looking for something totally new out East, we say to start there.
Now, unless you plan on permanently crashing in an Airbnb, you’ll need a new place to lay your head. And if you haven’t already locked down the right spot, help yourself to the following info that’s definitely worth knowing before starting your search.
For starters, the median Pennsylvanian home value in 2018 is $169,500, with a 6.6 % increase over the year before. Homes are currently listed on the market for an average of $212,000, with a median sales price of $161,500. But if you’re just looking to rent a house, you can expect to pay around $1,350/month here.
Whether you’re looking for a brand-new home or something with a bit more old-school charm, Pennsylvania has you covered. The majority of the pre-owned houses date back the ‘50s, though there is a fair amount of new-home construction here too. The southern border is where most of it is going on, from Lancaster to Philadelphia and up through Allentown. The southwestern-ish corner is the next hottest spot in/around Pittsburgh.
But if low-maintenance living is more your speed, there are always a fair number of apartments to rent here, too. You'll pay an average of $1,378/month for a one-bedroom in Philadelphia and a little less ($1,159) in Pittsburgh. But if you’re looking to go even less than that, Harrisburg and Lancaster will only set you back about $707/month.
So whether it’s mortgage payments vs. rental agreements or this city vs. that city, you should have no trouble finding the perfect opportunity no matter your definition of perfect.
Pennsylvania's Culture and Natives
You'll meet many different kinds of people in Pennsylvania. Several locals chimed in on websites about what Pennsylvanians are like. One local pointed out a quote from James Carville, a political commentator, who said of Pennsylvania:
"On one end you have Philadelphia, on the other end you have Pittsburgh, and in the middle you have...Alabama." So you'll definitely encounter a mixed bag of both city and country folk, depending on where you are. As far as Philadelphia is concerned, many residents raved about it, while one even called it "really like a big little town."
If you make the move to Pennsylvania, make sure you're hip on the local's lingo—everyone here calls it "P.A." and not "Pennsylvania." Also be aware that you can apparently tell which part of "P.A." a resident’s from based on their dialect—one local pointed out that whether you say "youse" or "yinz" tells a lot about which hometown is yours.
Pennsylvania is home to the largest Amish population in the country. Residents call out the importance of keeping an extra eye out for horse-drawn buggies on the roads. And you can’t talk about the Amish without paying homage to the Pennsylvania Dutch food that exists because of them.
Some of their beloved treats, both Amish- and Penn-loved, include: apple butter, borscht, chicken and waffles, sauerkraut, Amish potato salad, scrapple, soft pretzels, bacon gravy, hamloaf, pierogi, cheesesteaks, shoofly pie and "whoopie pies." That’s one heck of a smorgasbord.
Throughout our research, we came across a boatload of info that was just too good not to talk about. So the following is where we’ve crammed all the extra goodies.
Pennsylvania has been home to a number of both silver and big screen hits over the years. The list includes: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Queer as Folk, and a number of M. Night Shyamalan masterpieces like The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable, Glass, and The Happening. And who can forget the legendary "Rocky steps" outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art? A few others include The Italian Job, National Treasure, Trading Places, Mannequin and Witness.
Pennsylvania is also home to the first hospital in the U.S., Pennsylvania Hospital, which was built in 1751 and founded by Benjamin Franklin. The establishment is also home to the country's first medical library. Another first for the nation, the first public zoo which was also founded by Benjamin Franklin, is the Philadelphia Zoo that opened in 1874.
In case you misplaced your calendar, the only way to know when spring is coming is with a trip to Punxsutawney. The city is home of the famous groundhog, “Punxsutawney Phil,” who comes out of his hole each year on February second, also referred to as "Groundhog Day," and checks for his shadow. Legend has it that if he's shadow-less, you can break out the picnic baskets. But if he sees his shadow and retreats to his hole, it’s six more weeks of cold. It’s a bit of a dated tradition, but it’s one heckuva party.
Pennsylvania is home to the highest number of licensed hunters in the country. Some of the biggest game hunted, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, includes: white-tailed deer, black bear, turkey, elk, ring-necked pheasant, American woodcock, and snow goose.
Pennsylvanians are also big into the arts. Pop art icon Andy Warhol was born in Pittsburgh, and today there is a museum dedicated to him in his hometown. The museum is the largest of its kind dedicated to a single artist in the country. The state is also home to a couple of famous musical artists, including Taylor Swift and Joan Jett.
And there’s the Philadelphia Museum of Art, again with its infamous steps. It opened in 1876, and holds paintings, prints, sculpture, photographs, drawings, decorative arts, and armor. Art fiends will have plenty to sink their eyes into here.
Can't-Miss Pennsylvania Fun And Activities
Whether it’s finally making it to the top of the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s stairs or getting down on a cheesesteak, Pennsylvania has plenty of awesome stuff to keep you entertained.
Here are just a few of the state's main attractions:
- Eastern State Penitentiary: Located in Philadelphia, it was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world. It opened in 1829 and kept the bad guys locked up until 1971. Al Capone, the real "Scarface," stayed here for about nine months in 1929. Now in a state of disrepair, it’s been named a National Historic Landmark. It offers daytime tours year-round, and in the fall it hosts "Terror Behind the Walls," with six different "haunted" sites. Totally fitting since it’s consistently ranked as one of the top haunted attractions in America, according to easternstate.org.
- Gettysburg Battlefield: Take a tour of the grounds of "the most decisive battle in what was arguably the most traumatic and devastating war in American history." History buffs, eat your hearts out. You can tour the grounds solo, or watch one of several Civil War reenactments that take place annually.
- Centralia: An abandoned mine fire has been burning beneath the surface of Centralia for more than 50 years defying several attempts to extinguish it. The blaze began when an above-ground fire snuck below the town's surface. Though its origins are still the object of debate, "The most commonly reported explanation is that a small group of volunteer firefighters ignited what should have been a controlled burn at the town's landfill." Today, brave visitors can see smoke rising through the giant cracks in the battered-down roads, especially on cold days.
- Monongahela Incline: The oldest operating funicular, or cable car, in the country lives in Pittsburgh. Since 1870, the Monongahela Incline has carried passengers up Mount Washington (aka "Coal Hill"), where it transported workers during the town's once-booming coal mining days. Today, you can see spectacular views of the Pittsburgh cityscape.
- King of Prussia Mall: The largest shopping mall in terms of gross leasable space in the U.S. can be found in the city of King of Prussia. With more than 400 retailers and 40 eateries, this massive establishment will keep you well-shopped and well-fed for days on end.
Pros and Cons of Living in The Quaker State
Now, since we’ve been going on and on about things to do in ol’ PA, wouldn’t you like to hear more about this land straight from some real ‘Sylvanians? That’s what we thought.
Pros, straight from the mouths of authentic residents themselves:
- Diversity: Something many locals agreed upon across the board was the diversity you experience throughout the state, even within one town. Obviously, bigger cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have some very diverse populations. However, you've also got all those New Yorkers to think about as well as the rural parts of the land. Pennsylvanians have the benefit of experiencing many different types of people, terrain, and cultures, all within a short drive.
- Proximity to major metropolitans: Philadelphia and NYC rank as two of the 10 largest major metropolitan areas in the country. And for Pennsylvanians, they're both just a short drive away. Having quick access to some of the nation's coolest museums, national monuments and parks, as well as some of the best dining options, certainly sounds to us like a check mark in the "pro" column.
- Low cost of living: Rent prices in The Keystone State are said to be about 50% cheaper than in New York, which explains the huge number of commuters who reside here. We also saw that for residents who want to stay within the PA borders, rent is quite affordable here especially within the state's many rural areas. If you're looking for some cheap livin', look no further.
- Fewer taxes: That's right. In Pennsylvania, you won't be taxed on clothes, food, or parking. Sooo, King of Prussia Mall, here we come.
Cons, as mentioned by a few residents:
- It can be rural at times: The Quaker State has a high percentage of rural areas, which tends to lead to not much "stuff to do." Other than the bigger cities, it becomes harder to fill your time with sights and adventures, leaving many up to finding their joy the old-fashioned way. On the plus side, however, you're always a short drive away from some pretty major cities packed with excitement.
- Property and income taxes: Residents pointed out that a major con to life in Pennsylvania is the high cost of property and income taxes. Though the cost of living is relatively low compared to other areas, locals stated that the property and income taxes made up for that.
- Raggedy roads: PA was ranked #6 on the list of the "Worst Roads in America 2017", with 120,091 miles of public roads, 32% of which were in poor condition. The Oil State also apparently has 22% of its rural bridges ranked at "decrepit" status. But hey, it makes the drive more of an adventure, right?
And now for a bit of the bizarre. We stumbled across a number of weird, outdated laws that are still somehow in existence here in PA. They were so good, in fact, that we just had to share them with you.
- You can't sing in the bathtub. We're not sure if some nosy neighbor complained a lot or what here.
- You can't sleep on a fridge outside. Inside, however, where you sleep is your own business.
- You can't sweep dirt under the rug. You can use the expression, but you can't literally sweep dirt under the rug.
- You can't catch fish with your bare hands...or with any body part other than your teeth ...or with explosives, according to a couple of the other weird laws listed. No creatively fun fishing for you.
Is PA Right for You?
Well, there you have it. Our insider guide to the land of PA, packed with history, facts, trivia, and even a little bit of the unexpected. Now, we know we probably couldn’t answer all of your questions and concerns, but we hope to have steered you in the right direction.
Taking all of the great sights and other stuff inside Pennsylvania into account, you’re probably ready to get on the road first thing in the morning, and we don’t blame you.
So good luck to youse, or yinz, wherever you land. Just make sure you're covered with an affordable home insurance policy.
NOTE: if you decide Pennsylvania isn't right for you, we've covered all the other states, too, to help you find YOUR spot. If the East Coast vibe isn’t exactly your thing, have you thought about Oregon?