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If you’re considering a move to Texas, it’s important to understand the depth of Texas-state identity. You simply won’t find it anywhere else.
In fact, there’s a saying by non-native Texans: I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could.
For native Texans who moved away from the Lone Star state, this story demonstrates how seriously Texans take their identity.
I’ve heard different versions of the story from several people – most recently by Jenna Bush Hager on the Today Show.
It goes like this: When Jenna was about to give birth to her child in New York, a friend of her parents (former President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush) sent her Texas dirt so that she could put it under her bed in the hospital, and her child would be born on Texas soil. Almost.
Although I wasn’t born in Texas, I lived there for almost 20 years and feel part of me is Texan. Because once you spend time in Texas, you’ll find it gets under your skin – in a good way.
Living in Texas: Pros
Texas is huge. It’s the second-largest state after Alaska. It extends in almost all directions for nearly 1,000 miles – north to south or east to west.
There’s an incredible diversity in its people, geography, culture, and economics.
Known worldwide for its cowboy culture, today’s Texas is more likely known for its diverse economy, from the high-tech corridors in Austin to medical marvels in Houston and its oil refineries along the coast.
1. Friendly People
One thing you’ll notice about Texas is the friendliness of Texans.
Go to the grocery store and try to check out without the cashier or people in line engaging you in conversation. It rarely happens.
Even walking down the street, people (strangers!) will say, “Howdy.” If you’re coming from a big city in the northeast, it can be disconcerting at first. Texans are one of the most enjoyable things about Texas.
It’s even the motto for drivers promoted by the Texas Department of Transportation: Drive Friendly.
In rural parts of the state, such as east or west Texas, if you’re on a two-lane road, it’s common courtesy for slower cars or tractors to pull onto the shoulder to let faster cars pass.
2. Economic Opportunities
Texas has a diverse economy. It’s not just oilfields and ranches.
Though Texas does have a strong oil and gas sector, it also thrives in other industries such as aerospace, automotive and IT technology, advanced manufacturing, and healthcare.
Several well-known companies have moved their headquarters or major offices to Texas, such as Hewlett-Packard (Houston), Oracle (Austin), Tesla (Austin), Charles Schwab (Austin), Toyota (Dallas), Apple (Austin), and Caterpillar (Dallas).
The Texas Medical Center in Houston employs over 100,000 people and is one of the largest life sciences destinations in the world. Patients come from around the globe to get extraordinary treatment.
Axios says that Dallas-Fort Worth has become America’s boomtown as it is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country.
San Antonio is also on a growth spurt. According to a report by UNC Kennan Center, San Antonio is on track to be one of the top 10 fastest-growing cities in the nation this year.
3. No State Income Tax
Texas residents have no state income tax, which can lead to higher disposable incomes.
For Texas residents who don’t own property, the “no state income tax” is especially a boon to their financial situation because they don’t pay property taxes.
The lack of state income tax also benefits businesses, which is one reason many relocate to the Lone Star state.
Not having a state income tax contributes to Texas’ vast economic growth, greater employment opportunities, and lower unemployment rates.
Most businesses coming into Texas will cite the fact that there is no state income tax for any business or corporation.
For example, it’s one of the primary reasons Elon Musk moved his headquarters from California to Texas.
On top of no state income tax, the state also offers robust incentive programs for companies to relocate to Texas.
4. Cultural Diversity
There is a rich history from native peoples to European settlers, African Americans, and Mexicans.
Texas is home to a wealth of cultures, cuisines, and communities – from the German and Czech in the Hill Country to Asian in Houston and Mexican influence throughout the state.
In Houston, there’s an area known as Chinatown, but it’s really a misnomer. That’s because businesses representing many Asian ethnicities are located next to one another.
A miles-long stretch of Bellaire Road hosts diverse ethnicities you might not find in other Chinatowns.
Just over an hour west of Austin is the town of Fredericksburg. You can feel its Old-World charm as Germans settled it in the mid-1800s.
Check out the oldest brewpub in Texas, Fredericksburg Brewing Company. Other towns in the Hill Country, like New Braunfels, Boerne, Walburg, and Comfort, ensure you feel their German and Czech influence.
Because of the robust cultural diversity, Texas is a major player in the food scene. From barbecue, chicken fried steak, and chili – named the national food of Texas – to breakfast tacos, kolaches, Vietnamese noodles, and Cajun Po’ Boys, the story of Texas is easily told through its food.
Because of its size and the diversity of people, geography, and food, it’s difficult to define Texas as anything other than Texan.
5. Recreational Activities
The seven regions of Texas (Big Bend, Hill Country, South Texas Plains, Panhandle Plains, Gulf Coast, Piney Woods, and Prairies & Lakes) give you many choices for recreation and adventure.
There’s something for everyone in Texas.
Big Bend Country, located in remote west Texas, hosts one of the largest national parks, Big Bend National Park.
Over 800,000 acres, elevations from 2,000’ to 8,000’ in the Chisos Mountains, large canyons, and deserts are a hikers heaven.
The big city in the far west is El Paso standing on the Rio Grande across from Ciudad Juarez in Mexico.
South Texas Plains starts in San Antonio, with its world-famous River Walk, and goes all the way south to the Rio Grande River.
The scenery changes from rolling hills to deserts that draw visitors from all over the world.
Panhandle Plains are in the northwest corner of Texas, where you can find the second largest canyon in the country, Palo Duro Canyon. One of the biggest cities in the region is Amarillo, where you’ll find ranches, cowboys, and oil fields.
The Texas Gulf Coast extends 350 miles from Galveston (south of Houston) to South Padre Island National Seashore. Texas is a resting spot for more than 600 species of birds.
Check out the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail all year long.
The Piney Woods in far east Texas is a bountiful area of forests, streams, meadows, and small historic towns.
Big Thicket National Preserve has miles of trails on land and water to hike among pine trees, orchids, and cacti, or you can paddle a canoe through the cypress trees.
The Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex is the urban highlight of the Prairies & Lakes Region. Known for Fortune 500 headquarters, world-class museums, shopping, and nightlife, beyond the Metroplex are small towns, lakes, and forests.
Texans are serious about their sports.
There are more than 1,500 high school football teams throughout the state. Friday nights in the fall are preprogrammed for most Texans.
In addition to two NFL teams, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans, the state is home to multiple pro baseball (Houston Astros and Texas Rangers), basketball (Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, and Houston Rockets), and soccer teams.
There’s also a pro hockey team and even a Major League Cricket team.
Besides professional sports, Texas collegiate sports are hugely popular, especially football. Thirteen Texas schools compete in the top level of collegiate football.
The largest rodeo in the world is the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, held annually, along with a world championship Bar-B-Que Contest.
You can’t talk about Texas without talking about the food. Texans like to eat and are proud of their iconic dishes, such as chicken fried steak, pecan pie, chili (no beans!), and brisket.
Much of the food you find in Texas is influenced by the six flags that have flown over the state: Spain, France, Mexico, the Republic of Texas (Lone Star flag), the Confederacy, and the U.S.
The American South and African American heritage shape barbecue in East Texas – it’s more of a sweet sauce – but Hill Country barbecue – influenced by Germans and Czechs – is smoky, and the sauce (always served on the side) isn’t as sweet.
In Houston and along the Gulf Coast, you’ll find Cajun and Creole influences with abundant po-boy sandwiches, gumbo, and crawfish. You’ll also find plenty of Vietnamese seafood dishes as well. Try Ragin’ Cajun or Abe’s Cajun Market & Cafe for some of the finest po’boys.
Of course, the most popular food in Texas is Tex-Mex, with the obvious influence of Mexico. You can find Tex-Mex all over the state, with a few regional favorites and differences.
Texas put a couple of appetizers on the national map, including queso – dip your tortilla chips into melted Velveeta cheese with Rotel tomatoes and jalapenos.
But traditional queso, also known as queso fundido, is usually made with white cheese and peppers, topped with chorizo, and served in a hot, iron skillet. You can find it at Paloma Blanca in San Antonio or Fonda San Miguel in Austin.
It’s easy to find migas in central Texas, but you’ll likely find chilaquiles for breakfast in southeastern Texas.
Besides Tex-Mex, another Texas tradition is a big ole steak dinner. You can find fancy steaks in the big cities of Houston and Dallas. Or, you can find huge steaks in west Texas, like Big Texas Steak Ranch in Armadillo, home of the 72 oz. steak challenge.
Texans are just as passionate about their food as they are about sports.
Living in Texas: Cons
1. Weather Extremes
Texas experiences extreme weather, including sizzling summers, hurricanes, tornadoes, and occasional cold snaps.
The summer of 2023 was most intense because of extended high temperatures. Austin counted 78 days of triple-digit temperatures.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that extreme heat is the leading weather-related killer. It can strain the heart, lungs, and kidneys.
Texas’ severe storms and flash floods can lead to property damage, road closures, and loss of life. The winter storm 2021, The Great Texas Freeze, engulfed the entire state and caused a billion dollars in damages. Power outages left millions of Texas in the dark, without heat or the ability to cook food. It also caused water pipes to burst.
The Lone Star state has the second-most hurricanes in the U.S., just behind Florida.
Major cities in Texas suffer from traffic congestion and long commutes.
The great economic expansion in Texas led to chronic traffic congestion and lengthy commutes. Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio experienced exponential growth leading to overloaded roads and strained public transit systems.
The average commute in Texas is 26.9 minutes, but some of the worst commutes in the state are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. A Smart Asset report confirms that cities around the Dallas Metroplex made the top 100 worst commutes in the country.
The vast urban sprawl and the long distances between Texas cities make many commutes almost unbearable. In Garland, 9.1% of workers experience a severe commute of more than 60 minutes.
With the long commutes, traffic, and dependence on private vehicles, the cost of commuting in Texas averages over $4,200 a year – that’s $350 per month just to drive to work.
After I moved from Austin to the East Coast, I would return frequently to visit family and friends, and I noticed a new topic of conversation that hadn’t existed previously: traffic.
That was because just about everyone was experiencing it. In a few short years, my former 5-mile and 12-minute trip to my downtown office now took between 30-45 minutes.
3. Urban Sprawl
The rapid growth of cities has led to extreme urban sprawl, impacting infrastructure and the environment.
Texas’ population growth has almost doubled since 1983. The Lone Star state welcomed more than 9 million new residents from 2000 to 2022.
This growth inevitably leads to more urban sprawl. New residents need homes to live in, stores to shop in, schools to attend, offices to work in, and roads to travel.
Researchers at Princeton reported that urban sprawl directly affected the rainfall and deadly flooding during Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
Further, the journal Nature said that Houston’s risk for extreme flooding during a hurricane was 21 times higher due to urban sprawl.
Austin has experienced the country’s 5th largest population increase. That growth affects the environment and creates the risk of damage in the future.
Furthermore, the current infrastructure cannot contain and maintain the new and future residents.
4. Cost of Living
While economic opportunities have opened up, there is a cost to the explosive growth.
Housing prices have surged in some areas. A household must earn about $116,000 annually to purchase a median-priced home in Dallas. Only Austin has more expensive home prices in Texas.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including utility bills. The average monthly cost of utilities in Texas is about $402. The electricity is deregulated, which wasn’t a positive during the freeze of 2021, as many homeowners found themselves with horrendously astronomical bills.
Extreme weather conditions and, of course, growth have all contributed to a higher cost of living.
Another impact of the increased cost of living is the loss of identity in communities. Austin has been known as the Music Capital of the World.
I remember when you could pop into a club downtown or around The University of Texas campus any night of the week and hear any kind of music you wanted by up-and-coming artists. Now, musicians cannot afford to live there.
The 2022 Greater Austin Music Census reported that 40% of people in the music business were struggling to afford housing.
5. Property Taxes
While there is no state income tax, property taxes in Texas are high.
For example, a homeowner with a $500,000 home in Houston could pay almost $9,000 annually for property taxes. Texas has one of the highest property tax rates in the country.
A Texas homeowner will pay about one-third more than the national average for local property taxes.
Because there is no state income tax, the revenue source for local government and schools falls to property owners. Property tax also funds other essential services, such as road and bridge maintenance and emergency services.
Only you can decide if the impact of high property taxes on your financial situation is worth it since you won’t pay state income taxes.
Don’t forget the sales tax. In many cities, it’s also considered high: 8.25% in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Dallas (city), and El Paso.
6. Healthcare Access
A recent report entitled Scorecard on State Health System Performance published by the Commonwealth Fund rates Texas’ health care system as one of the lowest in the country.
In fact, Texas has more uninsured people than any other state – about 5.4 million (18.4% of the population). Texas mothers have some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.
It’s somewhat ironic, considering Texas has the most hospitals of any state, and it’s known for the quality of healthcare.
A report by Rice University Baker Institute Center for Health and Biosciences said that Texans are likelier to report they are in poor health or go without care due to cost.
In some areas, particularly rural ones, access to healthcare services can be severely limited. Small-town hospitals are struggling financially.
According to The Texas Tribune, rural area patients are usually elderly or low-income and use Medicaid or have no insurance. This pushes the rural hospital systems into red ink.
7. Large Geographic Size
The state’s large size can mean long travel times between cities and regions. You’ll hear Texans joke about taking a day to drive out of the state of Texas.
I’ve driven the 9-hour trip (plus time for restroom stops) numerous times from Houston to Marfa, a cute, artsy town in far West Texas. After passing San Antonio, the road stretches out, seemingly forever, and you think, “I’ll never get there!”
Besides being time-consuming to get from one place to another, there is a financial impact as you’ll pay more for fuel and vehicle maintenance since you’re putting more miles on your vehicle.
Texas’ vastness also creates inequities in delivering resources or services, such as medical help.
For example, if you’re in a rural or remote area, you won’t have access to the amenities available in the city. Even for something as primary as a hospital, you may drive many hours to get there.
Is Texas a Good Place to Live?
Yes, I believe it’s a great place to live.
From cultural diversity to economic growth to the friendliness of the people, Texas offers a rich combination of resources, people, geography, and culture.
Plus, I don’t think there’s a place with more friendlier people.
Is Texas a Safe State?
Obviously, safety can vary from place to place in any state. Texas is no different. As in most states, Texas cities experience more crime than suburbs or rural areas.
According to Safewise, Texas’s crime rates are slightly higher than national averages.
But, the Lone Star State boasts the second-to-lowest crime rates in the West-South-Central region of the country.
Texas’s crime rate is below Arkansas, which has the highest violent crime rate in the region.
Texas has the fewest property crimes in the region, and violent crime rose slightly.
There has been an increase in concern about personal safety. Clearly, Texans are worried about public safety, as most people are, and are taking steps to keep themselves safe.
Is Texas a Good Place to Raise Kids?
Yes. In many places across the state, the cost of living is below the national average. This is good for families raising children to get the most for their housing and overall living expenses.
According to a study by WalletHub, Texas came in 41st on a list of U.S. states based on their education levels.
It came in 17th in quality of education, which reflected the number of Blue Ribbon schools per capita. While many great schools exist in Texas, the quality can be inconsistent across the state.
Many Texas residents revel in their level of community involvement and family values, which can contribute to a supportive environment for raising children.
Furthermore, outside activities, sports, and extracurriculars also contribute to a great place for kids to grow up.
As kids grow up, there are many opportunities for college – there are 92 four-year colleges or universities throughout Texas.
Is Texas a Good Place to Meet New People?
Yes, it’s easy to meet new people in Texas. Texas is home to thriving cities, such as Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston, where there are many opportunities to meet people at special events, clubs, restaurants, and social gatherings.
Texas has some of the friendliest people – it’s difficult not to meet people. Of course, it depends on your personality and the steps you take to engage with others.
The best way to meet people is to put yourself in situations where you’ll be around others. If you’re a runner, join a running club.
If you want to volunteer, get involved in a community organization. The number of ways to meet people is only limited by your imagination. Find something you’re interested in and put yourself out there.
Is It Legal to Consume Marijuana in Texas?
No, it’s not legal to consume marijuana in Texas. Just as Federal law, Texas law states that it is illegal to possess or consume marijuana. Texas law Section 481.120-122 lays out the penalties for this infraction.
Even though other states have decriminalized marijuana and even allow for its regulated sale, it’s best not to bring in or consume any marijuana in Texas.
What Is the Legal Drinking Age in Texas?
The legal drinking age in Texas is 21. If an underage person is with their parent or guardian, the law allows for the minor to drink alcohol in their presence.
Is Texas a Good Place to Retire?
Yes, Texas is a good place to retire. First, the lack of income tax makes it attractive to retirees.
Second, if the retiree is 65 and owns real estate, you can apply for an exemption from your Appraisal District. While all property tax is locally administered – there is no state property tax – your exemption defers your taxes until death or property is sold.
There are exceptional medical facilities in every major city in Texas, which is critically important for retirees. That’s not the case in rural or remote areas where medical facilities may be hours away.
Is It Expensive to Live in Texas?
Obviously, it varies depending on which city or town you live in, but overall, Texas has a lower cost of living than the national average.
Housing has historically been affordable in most areas of Texas; however, certain cities, like Austin, have become almost unaffordable today.
Since Texas cities are spread out, and public transportation options are not as plentiful as in some other cities, that is a consideration for retirees.
How Much Money Do You Need to Live Comfortably in Texas?
Using MIT’s Living Wage Calculator, you would need an average of $65,000 after tax to live comfortably in Texas. In Dallas, rent has increased up to 15 percent in the last year, and so has the amount you need to live comfortably.
In other Texas metro areas, like Houston and San Antonio, a person would need to make $62,260 and $59,270 a year post-tax.
Texas residents can have additional disposable income because there is no state income tax. But, if you’re a homeowner, you must account for the additional property tax cost.
Truly, there’s no place like Texas. Everything feels bigger in Texas – including the blue sky. Anything you desire is right here in Texas: mountains, beaches, lakes, prairies, deserts, cities, cheery small towns, and the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.
Once you get settled in and buy yourself a pair of cowboy boots, you, too, will say, “I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could.”