Detailed Findings & Methodology
While money does not buy happiness, it helps improve quality of life, up to a point. A steady income well above the poverty level helps buy healthier food, better housing, time for leisure activities, and more. Most of the states that rank higher in other measures of quality of life, including health outcomes, tend to have higher median incomes and lower poverty.
There are some exceptions, however. High-ranked states like New York and Connecticut have high median household incomes as well as good outcomes across a variety of measures, but also high poverty rates and income inequality. These states are good places to live — as long as you aren’t one of the many who live in poverty.
Education levels are another major indicator of a community’s living conditions. Individuals with a college education tend to live longer and earn higher incomes, which contributes to a more stable economy and overall improved quality of life. In general, areas with higher educational attainment rates tend to have higher incomes.
Some of the measures considered for this piece, such as health outcomes and obesity, they also reflect quality of life in a state of a state that relate to these outcomes. For example, many of the states with high life expectancy and good physical and mental well-being also tend to have high rates of health insurance coverage as well as many doctors, dentists, and mental health practitioners.
To identify the best and worst states in which to live, 24/7 Wall St. constructed an index composed of three socioeconomic measures for each state: poverty rate, the percentage of adults who have at least a bachelor’s degree, and life expectancy at birth. The selection of these three measures was inspired by the United Nations’ Human Development Index. Poverty rates and bachelor attainment rates data came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 American Community Survey. Life expectancies at birth are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are as of 2013, latest year for which data is available. Unemployment rates are from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and are for the year of 2016.