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Ann Arbor vs. State College, PA – How Do We Compare?

November 8, 2023 Regional Updates

Game 10: Saturday, November 11, 2023 | Michigan vs. Penn State | Beaver Stadium | Noon 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.?

This weekend, the undefeated Michigan Wolverines, who hold an impressive 9-0 record, are preparing for a formidable Big Ten challenge as they head to Happy Valley to face the Nittany Lions of Penn State. As the Wolverines make their way to the iconic Beaver Stadium, anticipation is building for what is set to be another epic chapter in this storied rivalry. Fans from both sides know that when Michigan and Penn State collide, it’s more than just a game — it’s a spectacle of college football at its finest. But, how do our regions compare? 

Happy Valley, the endearing nickname for State College, carries with it a history of resilience and community spirit. Originating in the era of the Great Depression, the name symbolizes the town’s ability to withstand economic turmoil. Today, it represents the vibrancy of a college town that’s regularly recognized as one of the best places to live in the U.S.

A delightful piece of trivia that sweetens the Penn State story is the tale of the Berkey Creamery. This institution of ice cream craft has been delighting palates since the 1800s. It was here that Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, future founders of Ben & Jerry’s, took a $5 correspondence course in ice cream-making — an investment that would lead to the creation of one of the world’s most beloved ice cream brands.

While State College is smaller in size compared to Ann Arbor, both university towns are closely matched in terms of student population, with each boasting nearly 45,000 undergraduates and graduates. The cost of living in State College is a bit higher than in Ann Arbor (cost of living index of 102.2 vs 99.9, respectively), though the median household income in Happy Valley does not quite reach the levels seen in its Michigan counterpart ($43,015 vs $73,276, respectively). Both regions showcase high educational attainment, with more than 70 percent of the population holding a bachelor’s degree or higher.  

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