(Few in people but rich in culture...and mashed potato wrestling)
South Dakota is a wild state, known for the Black Hills, abundant wildlife, low population, and apparently, it’s world-famous mashed potato wrestling contest (who knew?). It probably won’t come as a surprise to most that it treasures its vibrant culture, rooted in Native American and frontier history.
Besides its rich culture, South Dakota boasts a business-friendly economy and a growing job market. If you’re thinking of a move to the Mount Rushmore State (oh yes...it’s the home of the famed presidential faces), consider these few tips before rushing on over.
While on the outside looking in, South Dakota may seem like your typical corn-fed Midwest state, we’re here to tell you it’s so much more. For one thing, the state is currently host to a thriving job market, and it’s not all farm jobs (even though it does contribute $20 billion annually to the economy).
The number one reason people are moving to the state (and a lot of people are moving) is because of employment. According to Zippia, the fastest growing jobs are for industrial mechanics, machinists and field service technicians. Interested? If machines aren’t your thing, health care or manufacturing might just have you covered. They both saw more than 2% growth over the last 12 months.
Another great piece of news for newcomers is the unemployment rate. At 3.4%, it is lower than the national average. Sources also ranked the state fourth among overall best states for jobs, taking into consideration job opportunities and economic standing. So if you have your heart set on this Midwest state (and you happen to be a mechanic), it may just be your time to shine. Even if you’re not mechanically inclined, healthcare services and education are two industries that will only continue to grow.
Even though the state is seeing a surge in popularity due to the job market, U.S. News ranked it 11th for affordability overall, and 26th for cost of living. Housing affordability is low, but things like health care, groceries and utilities are more on par with the national average. The good news is, at $8.85 an hour, the minimum wage in the state offers more to its citizens than the current federal minimum wage.
People are loving South Dakota (at least parts of it). An annual study done by United Van Lines says that 61% of the movers within the state are coming in from other states. The main reason is jobs (78% of the reason. to be exact). South Dakotans better hold on to their cowboy hats, because the state population is finally going to be on par with one square block of Manhattan (not really, but shockingly close).
The surge in population is creating a need for new housing, and it’s a bit cheaper than the national average. According to sources, the median home value in the state is $181,800, and the median rent price in the state is $1,080. Even though the cost of housing is expected to go up 2.4% in the next year, U.S. News still ranks the state 9th for housing affordability.
Since people keep finding reasons to move to the Mount Rushmore State, new housing keeps getting built. In particular, apartment buildings are gaining popularity within a population that traditionally prefers single-family homes. While Zillow maintains that the majority of homes in the state were built between 2000 and 2010, new construction is happening around bigger cities like Sioux Falls and Brookings. Just don’t expect too much farther out into the Badlands (so to speak).
People and Culture
The population of South Dakota is small (and that’s being kind). With less than a million people in the whole state, most towns are sparsely populated and rural (as rural as rural gets).
A positive aspect of the agriculture-based lifestyle that most South Dakotans are keen on is small-town geniality. South Dakotans are known for their welcoming, honest nature. While the more populated cities of Sioux Falls and Rapid City offer a pleasant “urban-esque” atmosphere with some amenities, they still retain the down-home prairieland pleasantness residents know and love.
Amongst those rural inhabitants, you’ll find lots of Christians (85% of the population) and lots of conservatives. Not surprisingly, the state has gone Republican in every presidential election since 1964.
You might not find many people (other than conservatives) in South Dakota, but you’ll definitely find prairies, plains, bison, the Black Hills and more prairies (and of course more bison). If you fancy yourself a Lewis-and-Clark type, South Dakota definitely has something you crave.
Must-Sees in South Dakota
For a state essentially devoid of humans and populated mostly by bison, it sure offers a lot for those select few souls to do.
Here is a list of must-sees in the state:
- Deadwood: A National Historic Landmark that was once home to legends like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. It offers a family-friendly look into the Wild West past of this region. Oh, and did we mention casinos? South Dakota’s rich gambling history started because of the Black Hills Gold-Rush of 1874 to 1877, and Deadwood sat at its core. Every June, the city is also home to the ever-popular Wild Bill Days Festival.
- Custer State Park: Experience the beauty (and brawn) of the Black Hills in this expansive 71,000-acre park, which is host to hiking, mountain biking, fishing and wildlife. And if outdoor adventures aren’t your thing, there’s always gambling somewhere nearby.
- Mount Rushmore National Memorial: Completed in 1941, this famous memorial allows visitors the chance to say hello to the likenesses of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln (more than three million visitors annually).
- Badlands National Park: This 244,000 acres of prairie grassland and rugged geologic formations is located 75 miles east of Rapid City. Visitors come from around the world to roam among its bison, camp under a canopy of stars, and hike alongside the rare and endangered black-footed ferret (for all of you nature lovers out there).
- Sturgis Motorcycle Rally: Why one of the world’s most famous motorcycle rallies takes place in the tiny town of Sturgis, SD every August is unclear. What is clear is that it’s America’s largest and oldest biker rally, and nearly half a million-people come every year to partake in its revelry. They’ve obviously got something figured out.
Pros and Cons of Living in South Dakota
While the jury is still out whether South Dakota is going to be the next California (we’re banking on not), it still has plenty of positive attributes to consider. But with the good, always comes the bad.
Here are a few pros and cons to consider before taking the leap to being a citizen of the Mount Rushmore State. After this, you may be able (with some confidence) to finally make a decision about moving to the state (or not).
Pros of South Dakota living:
- It’s like one big small town: The “big” cities of Sioux Falls and Rapid City hold almost half the population of the state, which is only around 900,000. There’s nothing like that small-town magic of everyone knowing everyone else (and their business).
- Big banking: One of the reasons South Dakota’s economy is flourishing is the influx of big banking. In 1981, Citibank relocated its credit card operations to Sioux Falls, and Wells Fargo followed soon after. Why? Because of the state’s lax banking laws. The state now holds over $2.5 trillion in bank assets (more than any other).
- Sparse population: With less people comes more space. With more space comes more freedom, mainly freedom to move. SD is the 17th largest state, but the fifth least populated. This means easy access to unbeatable views of the galaxy. Light pollution is not a word you’ll find used very often in this state.
- No state income tax: Yes, you read that right. No state income tax ever. Nuff’ said.
- Education: The state ranks 17th in the country for overall education. Not too shabby. Its ranking for higher education is even better (11th overall).
Cons of life in South Dakota:
- It’s like one big small town: Yes, we meant to write this twice. While some may love the small-town vibe the whole state is known for, others may cringe at the idea of Ms. Suzy down the street knowing their middle name (and how steep their gambling debt is).
- The weather: Wild is one word to describe it. If you’re not ready for all two seasons (hot and freezing) and they’re more extreme cousins (scorching hot and shockingly freezing), best not start packing those bags.
- Salaries: Don’t start raving about the cost of living in the state just yet. While the cost of living and housing prices may be low, the state still offers less-than-stellar salaries. It ranks 34th for average household income, which is $68,419. The average hourly wages, however, are the third lowest in the country at $19.27.
Yes, these matter. Why? Because we don’t want to be responsible for you getting arrested after falling asleep in a cheese factory (you never know).
Here are some strange laws from Dumb laws to lookout for (or not). We’ll let you decide.
- It is illegal to lie down and fall asleep in a cheese factory. For all of you narcoleptics out there, avoid cheese factories.
- No horses are allowed into Fountain Inn unless they are wearing pants. God forbid a horse is allowed into an inn with no pants. The blasphemy.
- If there are more than five people on your property you may shoot them. We may be going out on a limb here, but we’re thinking this is a tad outdated.
Welcome to South Dakota
Where mashed potato wrestling is part of daily life and bison crossings dictate traffic more than traffic lights. Besides being known for their killer motorcycle rally and casinos, this Wild West state steeped in diverse cultures is a great option for many types of people (mainly leather-wearing, gambling-lovin’ nature enthusiasts).
If you fit the bill, go for it! If not, maybe another state would be a better fit. Either way, the comprehensive list of absolutely everything that’s ever mattered about South Dakota is here. And bonus, the names of every person from SD is written backwards and upside down somewhere in this article. Happy hunting.