Who wouldn’t want to get paid to live in Alaska? Yes, you read that right! The state cuts the Alaskan people a check each year solely because they reside in the state.
It all started back in 1976 when Alaska developed the Permanent Fund Dividend to start paying their residents. The amount varies each year but in 2015, Alaskans received $2,072 each. The state feels that if they reward their residents for living in Alaska, they’ll never want to leave!
Alaska was originally purchased by the United States from the Russian Empire on March 30, 1867 for $7.2 million. It became an “organized territory” on May 11, 1912. On January 3, 1959, Alaska officially became the 49th state in the country.
Alaska is the largest state in the United States. It is 663,268 square miles, which is twice the size of Texas. Alaska is also larger than the 22 smallest states in the U.S. combined. You could even fit the entire state of Rhode Island into Alaska 425 times!
Things to Know Before Moving to Alaska
The largest city in Alaska is Anchorage. According to the 2015 census, the population of Anchorage is 298,695. Next up is Juneau, the state capital. There are about 32,765 people that call Juneau home. The third largest city in Alaska is Fairbanks, which has a population of 32,325. This makes Fairbanks the 82nd largest city in the United States.
With an estimated population of 739,828 people, Alaska has the lowest population density in the nation at one person per square mile. Only 29 cities in the whole state have a population over 1,000.
Weather & Climate
Of course the first thing that comes to mind about Alaska is snow, and lots of it!
In South-Central Alaska, the town of Valdez typically receives the most snow in the state. The annual average snowfall here is 305.8 inches. In fact, it is named the “Snow Capital of Alaska”. In the winter of 1989-90, the record for snowiest winter in Valdez was broken with an insane total of 506.7 inches (46 feet). The daily record was set on January 16, 1990 when they got 45.7 inches of snow within 24 hours!
Southeast Alaska is simultaneously the wettest and warmest part of the state. The city of Ketchikan, Alaska averages over 150 inches of precipitation annually. This is also the only place in Alaska with an average temperature above freezing during the winter season.
The highest temperature ever recorded in Alaska was 100 degrees fahrenheit on June 23, 1971 in Fort Yukon. The official lowest temperature ever recorded in Alaska was -80 degrees fahrenheit in Prospect Creek on January 23, 1971.
The Alaskan way of transportation is a bit different than most places in the country. Many Alaskan cities offer no subway system or bus line. With this said, you will most likely need a car if you move to Alaska. The average price for a gallon of gas is $2.37. The state has the 6th highest gasoline price in the entire nation.
With such high prices for gas, fortunately there are a lot of places in Alaska where you don’t need a car at all. Many places in the state are only reachable by boat or plane. Even Juneau, the capital, is only accessible by plane or ferry. Having such limited access to transportation means that many places in Alaska are supplied solely by summer shipments from planes or boats.
Alaskan Housing Market
Like many things in Alaska, housing will cost you more than the rest of the country. The average cost for a single family home is about 40% more than most houses in the U.S.
If you’re looking to purchase a home in Alaska, the average price is $278,950. According to Zillow, home values here have gone up .3% in the past year. They also predict that the value of a home will go up 5.1% over the next year. The median home value in Alaska is around $266,900.
For a less permanent housing option, renting an apartment or townhouse may be your best option. According to MyApartmentMap.com, the average cost of rent for a studio apartment is $1,190. This is $128 above the national average.
If you need more space, a basic one bedroom apartment will cost you around $1,169. A 2 bedroom apartment is around $1,332, and a three bedroom is about $1,762. Like many other states, saving up to purchase a home in Alaska may be a cheaper option than renting.
Income and Expenses in Alaska
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 American Community Survey, Alaska has one of the lowest percentages of families or individuals living below the poverty line. The survey showed that only 9.9% of Alaskan household incomes fall below the poverty line. This is an encouraging statistic when compared to the national average, which is a 14.8% poverty rate.
The median income in Alaska is around $72,237. A yearly income in the state can range from lower to upper class depending on a number of employment factors, such as the industry. $48,158 is considered lower middle class, whereas the average annual income for upper middle class is around $144,474.
Cost of Living
It’s no surprise that the cost of living in Alaska is higher than the rest of the U.S. In rural Alaska, the cost of food and consumer goods is higher due to the limited transportation options. As mentioned previously, some places in Alaska are only accessible by plane or boat. For this reason, many items in short supply cannot be easily obtained, thus increasing the price.
A four person family will pay around $3,400 for basic needs, not including rent. A single person will pay around $1,125, in addition to rent. To put this into perspective, the cost of living in Anchorage is .36% higher than New York — a state renowned for its extremely high cost of living.
Alaskan Job Market
With an employment growth rate of less than one percent, Alaska ranks 20th in the country for per capita income. A recent study ranked Kodiak, Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage in the top 10 most expensive cities to live. Unemployment in Alaska is also above the national average.
Great news! Alaska has no state income tax. Even better, it doesn’t have a state sales tax! However, it’s important to be mindful that some cities can enforce their own sales tax.
The average property tax in Alaska is 1.23%, compared to the national average of 1.19%. In 2014, the Tax Foundation labeled Alaska the fourth most “business friendly” tax policy state. So, if you’re looking to open your own business, Alaska is the place for you!
Major Industries, Food and Culture
The oil and natural gas industry is Alaska’s most important revenue source. In fact, Alaska produces 25% of the country’s entire oil supply. The largest oil field in North America is located in Prudhoe Bay, AK. The Trans-Atlantic Pipeline transports 88,000 barrels of oil each hour.
In addition, the seafood and fishing industry is Alaska’s largest private employer. Most of the crab, salmon, halibut and herring we enjoy around the U.S. comes from Alaska.
Safety and Crime
An unfortunate fact about Alaska is that it has one of the highest violent crime rates in the United States. According to the FBI’s 2012 crime report, Alaska experiences 603.2 violent crimes per 100,000 people. The national average is only 386.9 violent crimes per 100,000 people.
Since a lot of places in Alaska are remote, this affects how soon law enforcement can appropriately respond to a crime or emergency. Due to the state’s geography, it can take the Alaskan State Troopers hours to respond to a call. In fact, there are at least 75 Alaskan villages that don’t have any law enforcement at all.
Alaska is very well-known for their seafood. This is considered the centerpiece of Alaskan cuisine. Salmon is one of the most loved foods in the state and it is usually served smoked, cured, as jerky, or even as “salmon candy”!
In addition to fishing for your next meal, you can also hunt for food. Alaskan hunters regularly bag large game such as moose, reindeer, bears or caribou. In most parts of the U.S., these meats aren’t very common. But in Alaska, they are all the rage!
In addition to seafood and wild game, sourdough bread is extremely popular among Alaskans. In fact, a common slang term for an Alaskan native is “sourdough”. It all started back in the Klondike Gold Rush time when people always had a pot of sourdough starter. They would add flour to the sourdough starter to bake bread. The legend says that the miners even took the pots to bed with them to stay warm during the freezing nights!
It’s no secret that Alaska is big on culture. The natives in Alaska are divided into 11 distinct groups, who speak 11 different languages with 22 different dialects. Each group has learned to thrive based on their unique surroundings. Popular Alaskan legends and customs typically depend on which area you settle in.
Each year, there is a Festival of the Native Arts at the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. The event is to celebrate all of the different Alaskan groups, and serves as way to educate others on the significance of the state’s culture.
Attractions in Alaska
If you were worried about being bored in Alaska, great news! There is constantly something to do in this state. Whether it’s camping in the amazing national parks, kayaking through the massive glaciers or soaking in natural hot springs, you really can’t go wrong here.
Denali National Park
Located in Northern Alaska is one of the largest national parks in the United States, the Denali National Park. This park is home to North America’s highest mountain, Denali, which is a staggering 20,320 feet high.
The rest of the park consists of six million acres made up of river valleys, high alpine ranges, tundras and glacier-draped mountains. If you’re interested in wildlife, the park is home to grizzly bears, wolves and even reindeer. You can also stop by the park’s sled dog kennel and meet over a dozen huskies just waiting to play and run.
Tracy Arm Fjord Glaciers
When exploring Alaska, one thing you’ll definitely see are glaciers. Located just south of Juneau, Tracy Arm Fjord is edged with glaciers. This is a popular stop for the cruise ships and boat tours. You’re pretty much guaranteed to run into some beautiful wildlife here, including moose, bears and seals.
One Alaskan attraction that draws thousands of tourists each year is the infamous Northern Lights. Commonly known as Aurora Borealis, this breathtaking light show is worth the trip — it’s beauty simply cannot be captured in photos or videos alone.
During the long, dark winters, the sky lights up with a gorgeous color spectrum that seems too beautiful to be real. The best viewing area for the Northern Lights is said to be in Fairbanks, and always after midnight. The Northern Lights is definitely an attraction that can’t be missed.
Universities and Schools in Alaska
When it comes to education in Alaska, there seems to be an ongoing phenomenon commonly referred to as “brain drain”. The name stems from the trend that most young, smart people in Alaska leave the state after high school graduation and never return.
Even with over a dozen colleges and universities, the state can’t seem to keep its students around after high school. In an effort to entice high schoolers to stay, the University of Alaska has offered partial four year scholarships to the top 10% of Alaska’s high school graduates.
Some of the accredited universities in Alaska include University of Alaska Fairbanks, University of Alaska Southeast, University of Alaska Anchorage and Alaska Pacific University. As of 2013, Alaska did not have a law or medical school. It is also the only state that does not have a NCAA Division 1 college team.
Alaska Sports Teams
The official sport of Alaska is, you guessed it, dog sledding! The sport, also referred to as mushing, was adopted by the state back in 1972. But the sport of dog sledding can be traced all the way back to the Eskimos in the 15th century.
Before pilots began using air routes in the 1920s, dog sledding was the primary mode of transportation for Alaskans. In 1908, the first All Alaska Sweepstakes race took place between Nome and Candle.
Today, the most famous race for dog sleeping is the Iditarod. This takes place every March, with a course running between Anchorage and Nome. These days, dog sledding is mostly seen as a recreational sport.
In addition to dog sledding, there are tons of other outdoor activities to enjoy in Alaska. With the beautiful sights and terrain, there really aren’t many reasons to stay inside — other than the bitter cold of course!
Hiking in the Denali National Park, Tongass National Forest or the Kenai Peninsula are very popular pastimes for Alaskans. Many people also choose to explore the waterways on boat tours, stopping by the Kenai Fjords National Park, Prince William Sound and the Alaska Marine Highway System.
Speaking of waterways, fishing is also a great activity that many locals and visitors can take part in. Salmon, halibut and trout are among the most common and delicious fish that can be caught in the area.
State Politics in Alaska
Even though it started out mostly Democratic, Alaska now identifies as a Republican-leaning state. Many political issues in Alaska are related to land development, fishing and tourism. In the last seven elections, Alaskans have mostly voted Republican.
Like most things in Alaska, healthcare can be expensive. According to ValuePenguin, the average monthly premium was $426 in 2015, which translates to $5,112 annually. This is 73% higher than the average of the nation.
The state governor, Bill Walker, recently announced that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services approved Alaska’s State Innovation Waiver. This means that individual health care costs for Alaskans will stabilize over the next five years. Health care premiums are expected to decrease by 20% with the program.
Churches, Places of Worship
Alaska has one of the lowest rates for church memberships in the United States. According to the Association of Religion Data, about 34% of Alaskans identified with some sort of religion congregation.
The 2010 census showed that 100,960 people identified as Evangelical Protestants. About half of that (around 50,866) identified as Roman Catholic. The third most popular religion (32,550) identified as mainline Protestants. Mormons make up about 4% of the population, 1% are Muslim, and .5% are Jewish.
History of Alaska
Around 14,000 BC, just after the last Ice Age, wanderer groups trekked across the Bering land bridge into an unknown land. This land would later be identified as modern day western Alaska. Historians believe the first people to arrive in Alaska were from Northern Asia. The settlers went on to form various tribes around Alaska, Canada and the Americas.
During 1896 in the Klondike territory of Alaska, large pieces of gold were discovered. News traveled quickly by word of mouth and soon enough, everyone wanted to make it rich in Alaska. Over a period of three years (1896-1899), over 100,000 people traveled to Alaska to mine for gold. It’s estimated that over 1 million pounds of gold were mined from the area.
Fun Facts About Alaska
If you’re planning a move to Alaska, it will help to come with some fun facts about the state. You never know when you’ll need them!
Did you know…
- Alaska is only about 50 miles from Russia
- While you can hunt bears, you are not allowed to wake a sleeping bear to take a picture
- It is illegal to whisper in someone’s ear when they are hunting for moose
- There are no poisonous plants in Alaska
- Alaska has more inland water than any other state in the country
- It’s the only state that has coastlines on three different seas: Arctic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and the Bering Sea
- More than half of the glaciers in the entire world can be found in Alaska
So, How Are You Getting To Alaska?
If you’re moving to the coldest state in America, you better pack warm! Beyond that, it’s fairly easy to get to the state by plane. Once you’re there though, transportation might become an issue.
If you are planning to move to a remote part of Alaska, you’ll have to end your journey by plane or boat. There are plenty of moving companies that can help with the shipment of your items. Rest assured that your personal items can make the trip safely, and will be delivered in the most convenient way possible.
With so much to offer in one state, Alaska is a great option for anyone seeking an adventure. And, not to mention, you’re one step closer to claiming that bonus check from the state just for being a resident!