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

November 30, 2023 Regional Updates

Big Ten Championship Game: Saturday, December 2, 2023 | Michigan vs. Iowa | Lucas Oil Stadium | 8:00PM EST

Ann Arbor SPARK’s popular football blog series is back for Michigan’s 144th 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 Michigan Wolverines make their way to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship Game this weekend. The Wolverines, having secured their spot in the 2023 championship with a 30-24 victory over their rivals, the Ohio State Buckeyes, are now set to face the Iowa Hawkeyes. This matchup is particularly significant as Michigan stands on the cusp of achieving something they’ve never done before — winning a third straight outright conference title!

As we look forward to this exciting game, let’s also explore the unique aspects of Ann Arbor and Iowa City, the homes of these two distinguished universities.

Iowa City, while about 60 percent smaller than Ann Arbor, shares a similar atmosphere due to the University of Iowa’s integral role in the community, much like the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Both cities have a vibrant college-town feel, with their universities deeply woven into the fabric of everyday life.

In economic terms, Ann Arbor has a higher cost of living (albeit only slightly higher with a cost of living index of 99.9 vs. 97.5), and boasts a higher median household income and educational attainment level compared to Iowa City. As of the latest data, Johnson County, IA, where Iowa City is located, has an unemployment rate of 2.6 percent, while Washtenaw County, MI, home to Ann Arbor, has a slightly higher rate of 3.5 percent.

Notably, Iowa City is home to the renowned Iowa Writers’ Workshop, a prestigious graduate-level creative writing program at the University of Iowa. This program has an impressive roster of alumni, including 17 Pulitzer Prize winners, six recent U.S. Poets Laureate, and numerous recipients of major literary awards like the National Book Award and MacArthur Foundation Fellowships.

As the Wolverines and the Hawkeyes prepare to face off in what promises to be a thrilling Big Ten Championship Game, fans from both universities can take pride in the rich academic and cultural traditions that their respective cities uphold. Whether you are cheering for Michigan or Iowa, this game is a celebration of the spirit, determination, and excellence that define both these institutions.

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, 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: 

Benchmarking the Ann Arbor Region: 2023 Economic Competitive Assessment

Game 1: Ann Arbor vs. Greenville, NC

Game 2: Ann Arbor vs. Las Vegas, NV

Game 3: Ann Arbor vs. Bowling Green, OH

Game 4: Ann Arbor vs. New Brunswick, NJ

Game 5: Ann Arbor vs. Lincoln, NE

Game 6: Ann Arbor vs. Minneapolis, MN

Game 7: Ann Arbor vs. Bloomington, IN

Game 8: Ann Arbor vs. East Lansing, MI

Game 9: Ann Arbor vs. West Lafayette, IN

Game 10: Ann Arbor vs. State College, PA

Game 11: Ann Arbor vs. College Park, MD

Game 12: Ann Arbor vs. Columbus, OH