America’s Most Livable States
> Future livability score: 18.5
> Full-time employment: 3rd best
> Job creation index: 24th best
> Outlook on life in five years: 16th best
Maryland is the state with the 10th-best outlook in the country, according to Gallup’s Future Livability survey. The state has the wealthiest population in the nation based on median household income, according to recent Census data. Also, just 8.4% of Maryland households live below the poverty line, compared to the nearly 12% of households nationwide. In Gallup’s Economic Confidence Index survey, the state ranks the second-most optimistic about the economy in the country. It also has the third-highest percentage of residents reporting being employed full-time by an employer.
9. South Dakota
> Future livability score: 18.1
> Full-time employment: 13th best
> Job creation index: 6th best
> Outlook on life in five years: 10th worst
South Dakota has a strong job market, scoring sixth best in Gallup’s Job Creation Index. And the state’s unemployment rate of 4.3% as of June is nearly 50% of the national figure for the month. It is not surprising then that South Dakota has the third-largest proportion of respondents feeling positive about the current economy and the seventh-largest proportion of respondents who felt their standard of living was getting better. But despite the rosy projections, South Dakotans are surprisingly pessimistic about their own future lives. When asked to evaluate their lives in five years, they scored 10th worst of all states.
> Future livability score: 17.5
> Full-time employment: 4th worst
> Job creation index: 20th worst
> Outlook on life in five years: 7th best
While most of the states on this list are near the top in terms of employees working full-time, Hawaii is the only state in the top 10 for future livability that is among the worst in this category. Nevertheless, Hawaii fares well economically otherwise. Its median household income of $63,030 is the fifth highest in the country and well higher than the U.S. average of $50,046. Hawaiians are healthier than the average American, too. As of 2011, the state has the third-lowest rate of smokers at 16% and the 10th-lowest rate of obese residents at 23.3%, besting the national rate of 21% and 26.1%, respectively.
> Future livability score: 17.5
> Full-time employment: 6th best
> Job creation index: 3rd best
> Outlook on life in five years: 5th worst
A large part of why Iowa is a great place to live is the state’s relatively strong economy. The unemployment rate is the seventh lowest in the country at 5.2%, while the national rate is 8.2%. Iowa ranks third for job creation in the nation. Manufacturing added the most jobs of any nonfarm sector in Iowa in 2011. Meanwhile, the housing sector also seems to be rebounding in the state. While home prices declined almost 2% nationwide between the first quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012, they increased by 5.7% in the Hawkeye state during that period — the most of any state in the country.
> Future livability score: 16.8
> Full-time employment: 9th best
> Job creation index: 16th best
> Outlook on life in five years: 20th best
Virginia has one of the lowest poverty rates in the country, as well as one of the highest median incomes. The housing market is improving, as evidenced by the 4.8% increase in home prices between the first quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2012. While the state is not exceptional in any of the 13 metrics Gallup uses to create its Future Livability score, it is in the top 25 in every category but one — obesity, in which it ranks 26th. The state’s unemployment rate in June was just 5.7%, the 10th lowest in the country. The state also has the ninth-highest percentage of residents employed full-time.