I have lived in both Florida and Wisconsin for roughly the same amount of time, and honestly, both states are extremely similar in many ways. There are some obvious visual differences between this extreme north and extreme south state, but it turns out much of the living experience is actually comparable.
Now, that’s not to dismiss the fact that someone will be swimming at the beach in November in Florida while Wisconsiners are shoveling snow off the sidewalk, but in terms of costs, politics, and overall quality, the differences are not too big.
To quantify the quality of these two states, US News ranks Wisconsin as the 8th best state overall and Florida as the 10th.
15. Taxes: Advantage Florida
Let’s start with a big difference. Floridians do not pay state income tax and haven’t had to since 1924. Oppositely, Wisconsin has a state income tax rate of 7.65%, which is actually about the US average.
Florida’s sales tax is higher than Wisconsin’s at 7.01%, as Wisconsin’s sales tax is 5.43%.
To compare the tax burden more directly, here is a small table of the total tax burden of these two states
|State||Overall Rank||Total Tax Burden||Property Tax||Individual Tax||Sales & Excise Tax|
14. Sports: Advantage Florida
For someone who loves sports, either watching or playing, Florida is going to be better than Wisconsin. Florida not only has near-perfect weather all year to allow year-round sports, but its professional and college sports ensure there is never an offseason for viewers.
Florida is home to 9 professional teams from the four major sports of America (NHL, NBA, NFL, MLB). Those teams, with the number of championships they have won are:
- Miami Dolphins: 2
- Miami Heat: 3
- Miami Marlins: 2
- Tampa Bay Lightning: 3
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 2
- Tampa Bay Rays: 0
- Florida Panthers: 0
- Jacksonville Jaguars: 0
- Orlando Magic: 0
The impressive part about this is how spread out these teams are. Having sports teams in 4 different cities in a single state is extremely rare, with only California and Texas being comparable.
Florida is also home to a number of prestigious colleges when it comes to sports like the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles.
Wisconsin, while home to some important franchises, just doesn’t have the same quantity of sports teams as Florida. Wisconsin has only 3 franchises in the four major sports:
- Green Bay Packers: 13
- Milwaukee Bucks: 2
- Milwaukee Brewers: 0
So, it is actually funny to see that Wisconsin holds more world championships from the Packers alone than the entire state of Florida combined, but Florida still has the edge when it comes to sports.
13. Low-stress: Advantage Wisconsin
This might not be straightforward, but this is an important aspect in my opinion
Florida is known to be an extremely popular vacation destination and it is where thousands of retired people go when they no longer have to work. However, being in Florida is anything but relaxing. It is a high-energy state filled to the brim with entertainment and events. For roughly half the year, the state is visited by migrating college students and vacationers, causing insane traffic and acting like they own the place.
Florida is stressful. There’s nothing like trying to buy groceries and every person you see is either annoyed at all the people or trying to gain as much attention as possible.
The nice part about Wisconsin is that most people are locals and everyone sort of sticks to themselves while still being extremely friendly. There aren’t many beaches, but I find Wisconsin much more relaxing than Florida.
12. Diversity: Advantage Florida
Florida is much more diverse than Wisconsin.
Florida, especially the south, is an easy immigration spot for those from Latin America and the Caribbean. Florida’s population is about 52.7% White and the Hispanic population is huge, with Miami being a majority Hispanic city now. There is also a huge population of Haitians living in Southern Florida as well as Seminoles.
Wisconsin, on the other hand, is about 80% White, with both its Black and Hispanic populations making up less than 8% of the population each. Needless to say, Wisconsin is not very diverse.
11. Alcohol: Advantage Wisconsin
Wisconsin, specifically Milwaukee, is the beer capital of the world. That should be enough to convince anyone that Wisconsin wins this category.
Now, with all the partying that is done in Florida, some people might think that Floridians are just guzzling alcohol, but Florida is actually only just about the national average of 2.47 gallons per capita per year. Florida ranks 18th with 2.61 gallons and Wisconsin is 8th with 2.93 gallons.
Milwaukee, all on its own, makes more than 10 million barrels of beer every year. That’s a lot of beer. So, if alcohol is something that you treasure, try going to Wisconsin rather than Florida.
10. Travel: Advantage Florida
This is a no-brainer. Florida, while already a travel destination itself, is a wonderful state for anyone who likes to travel. With easy access to the Caribbean, Latin America, South America, and Europe (not to mention the entire Southern United States), it is easy to get around to wherever the heart desires.
Wisconsin, while not horrible, just doesn’t lend itself to the same mobility. Yes, Canada is close by, but honestly, not that many people travel there. Cities like Chicago, Des Moines, Detroit, St. Louis, and Cleveland are all reasonably close, but they don’t match up to the Bahamas very well.
9. Weather: Depends
It would appear that Florida wins this outright, but there’s more to good weather than just warm temperatures.
Florida is indeed beautiful year-round, with temperatures rarely dropping below 60°F and the summer bringing fantastic thunderstorms, but the cost of this beautiful weather is hurricanes, intense heat, and overwhelming humidity. Taking a run in December feels amazing, but constantly sweating is the opposite of amazing.
Wisconsin instead experiences all four seasons to the adoration of most people. The winters are extremely cold and shoveling snow in the mornings is laborious, but almost none of the weather is too extreme. It can be humid, but it’s nothing like Florida.
So, here are the options: live in Florida where the sun is constant (for better or worse) and live in fear of a hurricane from June to November, or live in Wisconsin where the weather is diverse and safe, but winters can be tough.
8. Pests: Advantage Wisconsin
To be fair, Wisconsin has a good number of mosquitos and can have something of a mold problem, but it doesn’t compare to Florida. Never in my life did I think I would be able to tell the difference between two different kinds of cockroaches, but Florida merrily gave me that chance.
Not only are cockroaches a problem, but so are mosquitos (which can carry the Zika virus), spiders, ants, ticks, termites, rats, and flies. I have never ever seen a rat in my life, and truly I thought they were a problem only of abandoned buildings, caves, and pipers, but after my time in Florida I can add Florida to the list.
7. Internet Coverage: Advantage Florida
This is becoming increasingly important and taking it into consideration when moving somewhere is imperative.
All states have a majority of the state covered in terms of internet access and most states are around the 80% line, so it doesn’t always make the biggest difference. And actually, Wisconsin and Florida have nearly identical coverages at around 89.5%.
The biggest differences come down to speed and cheap-plan access. The average speed in Wisconsin is 277.1 Mbps while Florida’s is 322.3 Mbps, a noticeable difference. Also, Florida’s “Wired Low-Priced Plan Access” is at 94.7% compared to Wisconsin’s 84.4%.
6. Schools: Advantage Florida
Florida has one of the best education systems in the nation, especially when speaking about higher education. In fact, Florida ranks 1st in the nation in terms of higher education. Wisconsin is not far behind at 8th overall.
Florida has many wonderful universities like the University of Florida, the University of Miami, Florida State University, and the University of South Florida. Florida ranks high in universities that have had graduation rates as well as low student debt.
Wisconsin actually might have better grade schools, with high school graduation rates at 92% compared to Florida’s 88%, but again, the differences are small. Standardized test scores are also similar, with the average ACT score in Florida being 20.4 and Wisconsin at 20.0.
So, don’t worry too much about schooling because both states are excellent in this category.
5. Voting Responsibility: Tie
This is actually much closer than I thought it would be. I thought Florida’s elections were closer, but it doesn’t quite seem that way. Both Wisconsin and Florida are considered swing states, and each year the election results show that both states are usually decided by only a few points.
Since 1984, Florida has voted for 6 Republican candidates and 3 Democratic candidates. In that same span, Wisconsin has voted for 8 Democratic candidates to only 1 Republican candidate. But how much a candidate won is where it gets interesting.
Of the 9 elections since 1984, the average margin of victory for the presidential elections in Florida was 4.80 points. For Wisconsin, the average margin of victory over the same span was 4.57, showing Wisconsin’s elections are closer.
However, there’s a little more to it. The 1988 election saw George H.W. Bush winning Florida by more than 22 points, so if we remove that year the average for Florida goes all the way down to 2.61 points while for Wisconsin it goes up to 4.69 points.
However, the last two elections for Wisconsin were decided by less than 1 point while those same two elections for Florida were decided by 1.19 and 3.36 points. So really, both states are in a huge battleground. And really no matter where you live you should vote, but maybe it matters slightly more in these two states.
4. Cost of Living: Advantage Wisconsin
Get ready for another close one. Wisconsin ranks 24th in terms of cost of living in the US, while Florida is 30th. The average cost of groceries, housing, and utilities are all cheaper in Wisconsin, though not by much.
The average cost of a home in Florida is $237,900 and in Wisconsin, that number is only $191,600. So I hope everyone living in Wisconsin over Florida enjoys an average extra $46,300!
3. Nature: Advantage Florida
Easy. Florida is home to the Everglades and is one of the most diverse states in America in terms of flora and fauna. Florida hosts black bears, iguanas, alligators, crocodiles, anacondas, panthers, deer, lizards, dolphins, manatees, and more birds than can be counted (there are actually 196 species).
Wisconsin, while beautiful for its own reasons, does not quite have the same diversity of life as Florida. Wisconsin is home to the rare lynx and marten, but those don’t match up to alligators extremely well.
2. Gas Prices: Advantage Wisconsin
Before reading this section, keep in mind that gas prices change daily, so these gas prices may not be completely accurate.
As of right now, the average cost of a gallon of regular gas in Florida is $3.837, and in Wisconsin, it is $3.791. So, the difference we are talking about is only $0.046, so I’m not sure if less than 5 cents is really an advantage, but the more someone drives, the more it matters.
1. Income and Poverty: Advantage Wisconsin
According to the U.S. Census, 10.0% of Wisconsin residents are in poverty while 12.4% of Floridians are in poverty, which makes sense because Florida has many more immigrants coming over who typically are very poor when they first enter the country.
The average income per capita per year of a Wisconsin resident is $34,450, while in Florida it is $32,848.
So, once again, Florida and Wisconsin, while separated by about 1,400 miles, are extremely similar, so it is ultimately up to you which state you choose to move to.