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Ann Arbor vs. Iowa City – How Do We Compare?

September 30, 2022 Regional Updates

Ann Arbor SPARK’s popular football blog series is back for Michigan’s 143rd season! We use the football season as an opportunity to compare Ann Arbor to cities around the country represented by our U-M football competition. The question is always – how does Ann Arbor compare to other college towns in the U.S.?

The undefeated Wolverines travel to Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, IA this week for their first away game of the season. The Michigan Wolverines and Iowa Hawkeyes last met in the 2021 Big Ten championship game where Michigan defeated Iowa 42-3. 

Fun fact: Kinnick Stadium is home to one of the best traditions in all college sports known as the Hawkeye Wave. When the Kinnick clock hits zero, at the end of the first quarter, 70,000+ football fans turn their attention from the field to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital to wave to the pediatric patients and their families watching the game. The patients and family members view this genuine act of kindness as life-changing, inspiring…a wave of hope.

Now, let’s get down to business and compare these two regions. Iowa City is smaller than Ann Arbor (about 60 percent) while the surrounding metropolitan area is comparable in size. Similar to the University of Michigan, the University of Iowa campus is located in downtown Iowa City and the university is woven into the fabric of the community. For this reason, the vibe and feel of the two cities are alike in many ways. 

The cost of living, median household income, and educational attainment levels are all higher in the Ann Arbor area when compared to Iowa City. In terms of unemployment, Johnson County, IA is holding steady at a rate of 2.5 percent while Washtenaw County, MI is currently at 3.5 percent. In addition to the university, Iowa City is home to ACT’s headquarters (the college testing service). 

The University of Iowa is perhaps best known for the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a graduate-level creative writing program whose graduates earn a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in creative writing. According to Iowa’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the program claims among its graduates winners of virtually every major literary award, including 17 Pulitzer Prize winners, six recent U.S. Poets Laureate, and numerous winners of the National Book Award, MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, and other major honors.

Be on the lookout for our blog posts ahead of each game all season long and be sure to tag us when you share these interesting tidbits with your friends via social media! And, if you want more information like this or are curious to learn more about the Ann Arbor region and what makes it such a great place to live, work, and locate your business in, please reach out to our Director of Research, Melissa Sheldon.

In case you missed it, here are links to the regional comparisons we’ve posted so far this year: 


Where do we get our numbers? And what do they mean?