What Are The Pros And Cons Of Living In Upstate New York?


As someone who’s always surrounded by New Yorkers and lives near upstate New York’s borders, I know the joke about upstate New York. The joke is that it’s considered to be all of the parts of New York outside of the city! My husband and I enjoy our trips upstate, though. The allure of this part of the Empire State is easy to see. But, is it just as attractive a place to live as it is a place to visit?

Upstate New York offers picturesque scenery with plenty of outdoor activities, an overall good economy, and excellent school systems. However, sky-high taxes, extremely high housing prices, and exceptionally cold winters tend to drive out people who once lived in the area. Upstate New York currently has one of the highest exodus rates of any sections of the United States.

This is an area that is best described as a “double-edged sword.” It’s great, but it can also be awful. Before you think of moving to this section, it’s best to make sure that you know what you’re getting into.

What Are The Perks Of Moving To Upstate New York?

Upstate New York is a popular tourist destination because it has a lot to offer people, especially in the summer. Living here can be a great decision for the right person. But, what should you expect to see happen? Well, there’s a reason people love vacationing here.

Beautiful Scenery And Attractions

If you have ever taken a drive through upstate New York, you already know why so many people love to visit this region. The scenery is absolutely, positively breathtaking. There are gorgeous rolling hills covered in trees as far as the eyes can see. If you’re a fan of camping, you’ll love the many campgrounds, trails, and parks throughout the state.

Upstate New York has tons of cool museums and art districts throughout its towns, not to mention tons of great restaurants. If you are a fan of music festivals, you’ll be happy to know that there are several parks with a thriving EDM scene featuring concerts throughout the year. Camping is practically a way of life in much of the state, as is visiting farms.

A Decent Economy

Admittedly, this is one of those things that’s a hit or miss. Some towns in upstate New York are downright terrible in terms of unemployment and job opportunities. Others are booming and ready to accept more business than ever before. Other towns, still, act as places that are meant to be overgrown resorts for the ultra-wealthy. Still, more are complete ghost towns—skeletal remains of what they once were.

On average, the unemployment rate here is around 8.8 percent. However, the median household income is $89,475. This means that jobs are not as common as they usually would be, but the ones that are there tend to be very well paid. After all, the median household income in the US is around $60,000 or so.

Excellent School Systems

If there is one thing that you can rest assured of when you go to upstate New York, it’s that the schools are going to be (generally) above average. New York is one of the best states for people who want to get a quality education. This is the state that’s home to major college systems like SUNY, as well as a wide range of smaller institutions.

Both public and private schools are widely available for families to check out. It’s worth noting that some of the most expensive and elite schools in the nation can be found in upstate New York. So, if you want to have your kids share classrooms with the elite of the nation, this is a good place to go.

What Are The Pitfalls Of Living In Upstate New York?

While upstate New York has a lot of nice areas, this region has a lot of problems. Much like with the benefits, it’s important to remember that your experience will vary greatly from town to town. These particular problems, though, tend to be witnessed throughout the entire state.

Frigid Winters

If you’ve ever had to walk through the cold in New York City, you already know that this state can get icy faster than most others. The Big Apple is at the southernmost tip of the state (or close-ish to it). As a result, things only get colder the further up north you go. During the winter, it’s not unusual to hear of subzero temperature in the upstate portions of New York. Oh, and Arctic blasts? You better get used to them.

While the heavy snowfall tends to bode very well for ski resorts, it’s not that good for locals who are trying to get to work or school. Road conditions in the upstate regions are hit or miss. Unsurprisingly, this often leads to serious accidents throughout the winter seasons. If you aren’t used to having winter tires or just don’t handle the cold well, you may need to skip upstate New York.

Sky High Tax Rates

There are not many people who will ever say that New York has low taxes. This state is famous for higher tax rates. The state income tax, for example, can be as much as 8.875 percent of your income. The state sales tax is 4 percent, but often gets increased by local municipalities. The state also ranks in the top 10 for property taxes, too.

Due to the exceptionally high tax rates that the majority of the region faces, many companies have migrated out of New York to more tax-friendly venues. This is one of the most common reasons for the major loss of jobs as well as the struggles that some of the more heavily affected cities tend to have.

Wealth Inequality

I’m going to try to generalize as best I can without stretching the truth. From what studies show, cities seem to be pretty split on how locals exist. On one hand, around 17 of New York’s 62 counties have a serious poverty problem. In other words, poverty rates in these counties are higher than the national average. In some parts of the state, school districts have student poverty rates that top 30 percent or more.

On the other hand, upstate New York is where you have some of the most notoriously wealthy communities in America. After all, this is where you see incredibly pricey areas like Westchester County, Scarsdale, and East Hills. These are areas where the average household income is well above the $150,000 mark.

Bad Public Transit

While this region is connected to New York City because of the state, it’s time to be clear about something. Unless you live in a city in upstate New York, you’re not going to see much in terms of public transportation. The vast majority of the trains, busses, subways, and other mass transit devices will all be centered in and around New York City.

Buffalo and Albany have a fair amount of public transit, but it’s important to realize their limitations. These are mostly centered around getting from place to place within the cities they’re in. Inter-city public transit is minimal, if it’s even available. For people who were hoping to be able to get from place to place with ease, this can be a major letdown.

Related Questions

What is the cheapest county in upstate New York to live in?

If you want to get super low-cost housing and healthcare, then upstate New York might be a good choice for you. This is especially true in Herkimer County and Allegany County. Home prices in these areas are rarely over $150,000. In fact, it’s not unusual for people to find homes available to them at prices as low as $50,000.

With that said, they are cheap for a reason. Many of these homes are in areas that are wracked with poverty and don’t offer much of a way to get out of that funk. So, choose wisely if you want to move here.

Why is land so cheap in upstate New York?

Land is cheap in upstate New York because there’s so much of it. The entire area is fairly sparsely populated and most people are not that interested in living there. As a result, it’s pretty affordable. Though there are some groups that are trying to build up portions of this region, the truth is that most real estate gurus expect prices to remain cheap.

What is the poorest part of upstate New York?

If you are looking for upward mobility and wealth, you might want to avoid New Square. Wall Street recently ranked this petite town as the most impoverished in the entire state. Over 60 percent of all households in this town meet the state’s poverty guidelines, making it a town where everyone is flat broke.

The average household income in the area is only $23,000 or so. This means that you will most likely have a hard time getting work that pays well here. To make matters worse, high crime rates also happen to plague the area.

Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is an expert writer, focusing on interior design and general home tips. Writing is her life, and it's what she does best. Her interests include art and real estate investments.

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