Rexburg is a small town in Idaho, with a population of about 30,000 people. Speaking as someone who has lived here for more than 20 years, believe me when I say this town has more than a few drawbacks.
After doing my own research and speaking with other Rexburg residents, I’ve compiled a list of 17 reasons why Rexburg might not be the right town for you to move to. These reasons range from minor inconveniences to serious state-wide problems.
17. Limited Recreation and Activities
First up, Rexburg suffers from the same problem that many small towns face: there isn’t much to do! Rexburg is in a flat, desert plain surrounded by mountains. In the winter this can mean good skiing, but on a day-to-day basis, there isn’t much to offer.
Rexburg is land-locked as well, so there’s no option for a fun beach trip! Lakes, rivers, and ponds are about as close as you can get. And when it comes to recreation and activities within the town? Forget about it.
A lot of the entertainment options that Rexburg has to offer have been here for years without updates or remodels. The fanciest restaurant the town has to offer is probably an Applebees that sits right on the edge of town. Fast-food chains are the standby here!
There are no karaoke options, no museums, no music venues, and no major art exhibits. Because of a city-wide rule about the sale of alcohol, there also aren’t any bars or clubs within the city limits.
16. Single Political Party
Idaho in general is a resolutely red state when it comes to politics. Rexburg is no exception to this standard, meaning that the population is stalwartly conservative.
In Idaho, candidates who run under the republican party are guaranteed to win if they go up against democrats, regardless of any other factors.
There are no large organizations of democrats or left-leaning groups, making it a pretty one-sided debate whenever a bill or law is up for a vote. The political power is quite unbalanced.
While many people might be attracted to the conservative mindset, this single-minded political makeup of Idaho means that it hasn’t advanced much over the years.
Without opposition, there isn’t much drive for large changes. It’s also easy for politicians to stay in power because they aren’t questioned as long as they stay under the banner of their party.
15. College Town
Because of the nearby placement of BYU-Idaho, Rexburg is also a college town. If you’re a student who wants to earn a degree for a fairly cheap price, this is a good thing! But if you’re planning on being a long-term resident, not so much.
BYU-Idaho uses a 3-track scheduling system, meaning that students travel to and from the town in large numbers 3 times per year. The limited roadways are clogged with travelers and parking is a nightmare.
Given Rexburg’s relatively small population size, parking should be easy to find. But because of the students, you sometimes have to go out of your way to find a parking spot that you don’t need a school or city pass to use. They can and will boot your car if you park in the wrong spot!
The population of the town fluctuates when school is in session, and grocery stores are often hit hard. Sometimes it’s hard to stock up on essentials when the students are in town. If you live close to campus, get ready to hear some rowdy kids and parties as well!
I have some friends in town who had to sell their house and move in order to get away from the college apartment building that was built just across the street. Apartments are constantly being built, which clog up the streets and decrease visibility.
14. Cold Winters
Rexburg is located in a desert, so you might think that heat would be our main issue. Despite the dry climate, we actually enjoy pretty warm, pleasant summers.
Winters are the hardest-hitting seasons we face here. From November to February, we rarely go above freezing temperatures.
When I was in public school, we couldn’t get a snow day unless it was -20 degrees, and/or the buses froze. And the fact that I got multiple snow days as a kid should tell you something about the weather!
Once we reach the middle of winter, it’s common to have several feet of snow on the ground, as well as a healthy layer of ice. And did I mention that the snowplow situation here is awful as well?
Only 3-4 major roads are regularly plowed, while neighborhoods, many sidewalks, and a number of parking lots are generally left to fend for themselves. It’s common for cars to slide on ice, get stuck in deep drifts, and struggle to climb hills during the winter.
Plus, once the snow melts, we get to deal with massive potholes in every road.
13. Single Religious Group
Idaho is a strong Christian state, and Rexburg is especially hardcore. Most citizens are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 91% of people are members of this church, and almost all of the rest are members of another Christian faith, such as Catholicism or Presbyterianism.
This isn’t to say that I think being religious is bad, but this imbalance can certainly be off-putting and isolating to people who move in. If people of different religions move in, there won’t be a community of diverse faiths for them to mesh into.
There are several Christian churches, temples, and meeting places all around Rexburg, but no mosques, synagogues, or other religious sites.
This large collection of like-minded individuals can also mean that Christian values influence law-making and other aspects of life that should not be dictated by religion.
12. Lack of Diversity
As mentioned above, Rexburg is pretty single-minded when it comes to religion. The population is quite similar in many other aspects as well. When talking about the diversity of Rexburg, one of my friends said:
“Rexburg is very much a bubble. It’s hard to get experience with other religions and cultures.”
The racial makeup of Rexburg is pretty strongly white. Rexburg is 86% white, 7% Latino, and only small fractions of other races and ethnicities.
English is the main language spoken, with a small percentage of Spanish as well. Public signs are not translated into other languages, making them quite inaccessible to those who do not speak English.
While there are small groups for LGBTQ individuals and civil rights movements off campus, Rexburg is not very active in diversity issues.
I believe that the homogenous makeup of the town contributes to a sense of social apathy because citizens don’t believe that these issues affect them or anyone that they know.
11. Isolated From Major Cities
Idaho doesn’t have a large state population in general, meaning that there are very few major cities. Boise is the largest city, and it is 5 hours away from Rexburg.
While Rexburg has all the basic items it needs to function, the options and diversity offered by larger cities aren’t available here. While there is a Walmart in town, it takes at least 30 minutes to find things like a Target, Home Depot, or even a shopping mall.
Large urban chains aren’t in high demand in Idaho, and especially not in Rexburg. If you’re looking for designer clothes or fine luxury goods, this probably isn’t the best place for you.
10. Hard to Travel
Not only is Rexburg isolated from large cities, but it’s also hard to travel both inside and outside of the town.
Rexburg only has a municipal airport and the closest major airport is in Salt Lake City, which is several hours away (and across a state line).
There are also no public transit options within the town except for a shuttle bus that travels to Walmart and a few locations around the college campus. This is free to use, but it has a set route and only stops at a few places.
As I mentioned above, the road maintenance of Rexburg also leaves a lot to be desired. We get deep potholes every spring and winter, which often last well into the summer before they’re filled.
Many of the major roads have faded paint and the neighborhood streets are old and in need of repairs.
9. Bad Drivers
As if we needed another hazard on the roads, Rexburg also has an issue with bad drivers. While Idaho isn’t the worst in the nation, we’re also not the best. We’re ranked as the 34th worst drivers in the United States.
Speaking as someone who took Idaho driver’s ed when I was 15, this isn’t an easy state to learn to drive in. The drivers are not very forgiving and many people like to pass you for no reason, refuse to merge, or just honk for no reason.
And speaking of ages, anyone can get their learner’s permit when they are 15. I don’t know about you, but looking back, I feel like that was too young for me to start learning! The driving safety situation probably isn’t improved when teenagers are on the roads. Throw in the college kids who don’t know how to drive on the snow or ice, and you can start to understand why driving here isn’t an endeavor to be taken lightly.
8. Not Exercise-Friendly
Rexburg is not a very active town either. I can only think of 2 or 3 streets that even have a bike lane and these are rarely used. Walking and biking aren’t very easy either because the town is built on a steep hill.
Roads are usually made with a narrow shoulder, so it’s not safe to bike or run along public roads, especially when it’s dark, and very few sidewalks get cleared after it snows in the winter.
The town doesn’t often host athletic events either. Health and exercise aren’t a major priority for Rexburg and the construction and attitude of the town reflects that.
7. Limited Employment Options
Another issue with Rexburg is the economy and job market. Because it is in a college town, a lot of the jobs revolve around the school or catering to the student population. There is quite a bit of turnover as new businesses come in and try to get a foothold
. So unless you work remotely or have a private business, it’s hard to find a steady, well-paying job in town.
Another major employer for the town is Melaleuca. This is a health and wellness company that is owned by one of the richest men in Idaho. Although it employs many people, most of the available jobs for them are entry-level and it can be hard to advance to the point of a full career.
Minimum wage in Idaho is $7.25 per hour and competition is fierce because of all the college students.
6. Slow Internet Speed
Speaking of jobs and working remotely, internet speed is an issue for Idaho. We’ve ranked in the bottom 5 states for internet speed, and number 2 overall. The only state with slower internet than us is Alaska!
Obviously, there are ways to improve your internet speed and connection, but it’s not always easy or guaranteed in this area. Due to the small population and rural makeup, there isn’t as much demand for the internet as there is in big cities.
So if you’re planning on working remotely in Idaho, make a backup plan to improve your internet quality and speed!
5. Anti-Clean Energy And Environment
Despite being built in a rural area, many people in Rexburg have a strong anti-environment position. There are laws in place that prevent reusable bags from being made mandatory, as well as many groups who lobby against clean energy sources such as windmills and water power.
This attitude might be due to the strong support of private businesses and the lack of regulation that Idaho endorses, but it seems counterintuitive to me. It would make sense to protect our natural resources because we live in an isolated area that draws heavily on them.
If we want to continue to enjoy the hunting, fishing, and outdoor beauty that’s available in this area, we need to work to preserve it. But there are still many people who actively fight against regulations and laws that would help achieve this goal.
4. Low Income and High Tax Rate
Idaho has some major issues with the economy as well. State and Federal taxes do need to be paid, but Idaho ends up paying a higher comparative share than many of its neighbors.
According to a study done by Boise State public radio, Idaho citizens give about 9.5% of their income to taxes. However, Idaho has the second-highest tax burden in the Midwest/Pacific Northwest area (second only to Oregon).
In addition, Idaho has lower average pay than many of its neighbors, meaning that these high taxes hurt even more. According to neighborhoodscout.com, the average per capita income in Rexburg is $13,802, which is well below the national average of $31,117.
Essentially, the average person in Idaho is earning less and paying more than our neighbors in other states.
3. High Poverty Rate
In addition to the economic problems listed above, Idaho is stricken with poverty. There are many factors that influence this, but at the end of the day, 39.1% of people in Rexburg are at or below the poverty line.
That means that almost 4 out of every 10 people can’t afford to meet their basic needs. Due to the lack of jobs and decent minimum wage pay, this gap is hard to close.
Food banks and welfare are available in Rexburg and the surrounding areas, but these can’t always meet the needs of everyone.
2. Poor Mental Health Care
Another area where Rexburg suffers is in mental health care. While there are counseling offices and therapy available, there isn’t usually enough to fit demand. In general, treatment facilities and rehabilitation programs are not available inside the town itself
Suicide is a major problem in Idaho as well. According to madisonmemorialhospital.com, Idaho ranks as the 8th worst state in the nation for suicides, which is the second leading cause of death for citizens who are between the ages of 15-34.
Part of this could be because of the cold weather and the seasonal depression that can develop as a result. It’s hard to exercise and get out in the sun during winter, so many people end up developing a vitamin D deficiency.
Mental health doesn’t seem to be a major priority in Rexburg and college students and community members alike don’t have access to many resources.
1. Low State Education Ranking
Finally, there’s the issue of Rexburg’s education. Considering the fact that there’s a college in town, you would think that the public education system would reflect that, wouldn’t you? Wrong!
Idaho routinely ranks in the bottom 10 worst states for public education. Currently, we’re sitting at 33rd worst in the nation, which is actually an improvement over the last few years!
Education needs a major overhaul in Rexburg and in Idaho in general.
Class sizes have been increasing steadily and teachers have to manage more students per class than ever before. Idaho teachers are also paid only about $50,000 per year, which is the 11th lowest rate in the U.S. They frequently need to pay for classroom expenses out of pocket, and sometimes the salary still gets cut.
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