Des Moines is, by all means, a great place to live. However, it certainly does have some severe downsides that make it not for everyone.
1: Natural Disasters
We often underrate the severity of living through natural disasters, but considering the absolute havoc that they can bring about in our lives and our communities, this may be one of the greatest indicators of our foolishness as a species.
Des Moines Iowa, along with every city in the American Midwest, stands only as a monument to the hubris of mankind.
Part of both the old and the new tornado alley, this city is prone to floods, storms, heatwaves, blizzards, and severe hail. And it isn’t like these events are rare either, between 1950 and 2010 there were 763 different floods within fifty miles of the city of Des Moines.
While it seems likely that most of these floods took place concurrently in different towns and thus were counted differently in the US natural disaster database, that’s still more floods than anyone should be able to experience in sixty years.
And that isn’t even to mention the tornadoes. Being part of tornado alley, Iowa in general has a tornado index (a measurement used by the United States to communicate the likelihood of a location being affected by a tornado) is 236.74, significantly higher than the national average. Des Moines specifically has a tornado index of 305. That’s not as bad as it is in Kansas, but it is really high.
On the bright side, Iowa lacks volcanoes and is nowhere near any kind of fault lines that could cause an earthquake, so there’s no need to fear the Earth, only the sky.
2: Hot And Humid Summers
Des Moines’s weather woes don’t stop with natural disasters either. While the temperature rarely peaks above ninety degrees, the humidity can make even the relatively mild temperatures feel stifling.
As Des Moines is landlocked far from any reasonably sized body of water, there’s nowhere for all this water to go but into the air. This means that any hope you had of a pleasant summer day is already dashed before summer has even begun. Mosquitos, however, love this weather, ensuring that going outside on a sunny summer afternoon will have consequences for anyone foolish enough to try.
3: Sub-Freezing Winters
And that humidity doesn’t end with the coming of the snow. Winter temperatures rarely rise above zero degrees, which wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the humidity, which can make you feel cold through any number of layers. Add to that the freezing winds coming in from the North with virtually no impediments and even stepping outside on the coldest days of the winter can be hazardous.
Presidential politics in the United States is already a media fiasco that becomes utterly ubiquitous every four years. It’s enough to stress anyone out. However, the pressure in Iowa is worse than it is anywhere else in the country since Iowa’s primary elections occur earlier than they do anywhere else.
This means that political parties, lobbying groups, and anyone else with their fingers in the American Pie will be in Des Moines advertising like there’s no tomorrow for months. If you aren’t interested in politics or if you don’t always want to be bothered about it, this can be a serious problem.
Des Moines is also in the state that has been consistently electing representative Steve King for years. Whether or not this is a problem depends on personal politics, but for many people, this is something they’ll want to take into consideration before moving here.
5: High Income Tax
Whatever Iowa’s politics are, one thing is clear: It has one of the highest state income taxes in the United States. While for most people, the progressive income tax won’t be much of a problem, people who make 74,970$ a year are taxed at a rate of 8.53%.
This may be offset by the extremely low cost of living within the Des Moines area, but for a lot of people, it’s the principle of the thing that really matters. What’s the point of making a lot of money in a place where it’s very cheap to live if some of it will go right back to the State?
Fortunately, for most people, this doesn’t really affect the cost of living because of the progressive nature of the tax.
6: Low Property Values
Low property values are a double-edged sword. While they do make the cost of living much lower, they also make investing in real estate a less profitable venture. If you’re looking to store a large amount of capital in your home, this is probably a bad place to do that. However, for low-income families or new homeowners, this can make Des Moines a great place to get started with a house!
7: It’s All Suburbs
This is another thing that will be something of a mixed bag. Most people who move to Des Moines end up living in one of its many suburbs. This means that people looking for an urban type of life where they can be close to everything they need will likely end up disappointed.
However, those looking to have that classic midwestern America feel may find that this is exactly what they’re looking for.
8: Not Walkable
In Des Moines, everybody needs to have a car. This comes down to a couple of big factors. The first is that most people live in suburbs outside of town, which means that very few people are actually close enough to town to actually take alternative transportation to work. The second is that Des Moines has very poor public transportation, although it is always improving.
Finally, the freezing winters make biking or walking seem a less than desirable prospect. The end result is that it’s nearly impossible to live in Des Moines without a car. For many people, this will not be a problem, but for those who struggle to find space in the budget or who want to decrease their carbon footprint, this could be a big problem.
9: Bad Drivers
This is not helped by the fact that Des Moines has some of the worst drivers in the country. This is most likely caused by the harsh icy winters and lack of alternatives to driving for transportation, but almost a third of drivers in Des Moines have a prior incident in Des Moines. Whether this is caused by weather conditions or a locational predisposition for reckless decision-making, this makes roads in the city dangerous to use.
10: High Alcohol Consumption
While a lot of people enjoy a night out at the bar drinking with friends, Des Moines is a national leader in alcohol consumption. People who find this to be unsavory may want to look to move elsewhere, but for people looking for a big drinking scene, this may be a plus!
11: Fried Foods
Des Moines also leads the country in the consumption of fried foods. With their yearly Iowa State Fair being a nexus of all things likely to cause heart disease, this is probably not a good place to live for people trying to avoid the temptation.
12: Limited Access To Nature
Iowa may be in the middle of nowhere, but it’s also somehow nowhere near anything cool. With no sites of particular natural beauty anywhere in the vicinity, no mountains, no oceans, no sand dunes, and no hills to speak of, this means that hikers and explorers will feel a little caged in by the small number of places to be.
This combines with Des Moines’s general location to make the city one of the most boring places in America to live. It’s no wonder people turn to drink and fried foods, entertainment in a place like this all needs to be homemade! Of course, even if there was stuff to do the weather might be to bad to actually do it. People who are used to having many entertainment options may not enjoy this place.
For singles or couples with no kids, this may be exasperated by the city’s family focus. Most places close before 9:00 PM and are designed to be experienced with young children in tow. Many 18 to 35-year-olds living on their own complain that this adds to the struggle when it comes to finding something to do.
While Des Moines isn’t necessarily a racist or homophobic place, it is a place where looking different can turn a lot of heads. Having a lot of tattoos, dyed hair, or other obvious markers of difference may result in being treated differently by the people around you. This may make Des Moines an unpleasant place to live for people who have these things.
16: Midwestern Culture
In the American Midwest, there’s a certain culture that can be difficult for outsiders to grasp. People are nice and polite, but a lot of the time this is more about appearances than anything else. There is a heavy stigma against displaying negative emotions in public, which can lead to a lot of miscommunications between transplants and people who grew up in the area.
There is also an expectation that people will offer help without having to be asked to. This seems like it would be a good thing, but it can lead to some experiences where someone who needs help expects it from someone who’s new in town and doesn’t know they have a responsibility to provide it, which can be confusing and upsetting for all parties involved.
However, people who are willing to put in the work of understanding the culture and learning to work with people where they’re at may find this lifestyle rewarding after the learning period is through.
17: Big Tech
A lot of big tech people are moving to Des Moines. Is this a good thing? Probably. Is it annoying? For a lot of people, yes. While the stereotype of annoying tech bros is less of a reality than a lot of people think, it can still be unpleasant to accidentally run into someone who works for some company with a one-word name where the e in between another letter and an r is removed to make room for a marketing gimmick.
However, with work-from-home becoming a more valid option for many workers, it may become harder and harder to avoid big tech in the coming years everywhere in the country, so it may be better to just bite the bullet and face them head-on by moving directly to Iowa. Who knows.
18: Summer Construction
The harsh weather conditions in the Fall and Winter make it a yearly ritual that the roads in town need to be repaired, only for them to be destroyed again by thunderstorms and snow. Once again, Des Moines proves that cities are nothing but an expression of our collective spite for the will of nature.
This construction can make driving difficult during the summer, and the potholes caused by the weather make it difficult to drive for the rest of the year too.
Every summer, Des Moines is flooded with enough pollen to make a blue whale sneeze. This can be wildly unpleasant for people who suffer from allergies for obvious reasons. It may be necessary for people moving into town to increase their medicine budget with the money they save on rent. However, if you have a blue whale who you think needs to experience allergies as a punishment for its great size, well do I have a pitch for you…
20: Few Public Resources For Single Parent Families
For a city that works so hard to be family-friendly, this seems like a tremendous oversight. Many single parents report struggling to receive aid from either the city itself or from public organizations with that as their supposed purpose. Because of this, single-parent families who don’t already have a solid hold on their finances may not be able to come here.