America’s Best States to Live In

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45. Alabama
> 10-yr. population change: +5.7% (17th smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 6.0% (tied — 4th highest)
> Poverty rate: 17.1% (7th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.4 years (2nd shortest)

As a whole, Alabama’s population is one of the least healthy in the United States. The average life expectancy at birth is only 75.4 years, the second lowest after Mississippi. More than 1 in 5 adults are smokers, and more than 1 in 3 are obese, each among the higher shares compared to all states. Adults in Alabama are also less likely to have physically active lifestyles than adults in other states. The tendency towards relatively sedentary lifestyles may partially be the result of a lack of opportunity. Only 62.8% of Alabama residents have adequate access to places for physical activity like parks, gyms, and recreation centers, a smaller share than in all but three other states.

Rent prices in the state are approximately 63% of what they are on average nationwide, less than in any other state. Low housing costs often reflect low demand. On the other hand, Alabama residents benefit from cheap rent.

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44. Oklahoma
> 10-yr. population change: +9.6% (25th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.9% (tied — 20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.3% (9th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.8 years (5th shortest)

The average life expectancy at birth is 75.8 years in Oklahoma, about three years less than the average life expectancy nationwide. The shorter life expectancy is partially due to unhealthy lifestyles. Among adults in the state, 22.2% are smokers, 32.7% are obese, and 29.1% get no exercise beyond getting up and going to work — each among the higher such shares in any state. A relatively large uninsured population exacerbates the problem. Oklahoma’s 13.5% uninsured rate is the third highest among states and well above the 8.5% uninsured rate nationwide.

Adults with a college education typically live longer, healthier lives than those without a college degree. In Oklahoma, only 25.2% of residents 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree, well below the comparable share of American adults of 31.3%.

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43. New Mexico
> 10-yr. population change: +6.5% (20th smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 6.7% (the highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.8% (3rd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.2 years (16th shortest)

New Mexico is grappling with a range of social and economic problems. For example, New Mexico has the second highest violent crime rate and the highest property crime rate of among states. And nearly 1 in every 5 state residents live below the poverty line, the largest share of any state after only Mississippi and Louisiana. Some of these issues can be traced to the prevalence of single-parent households. More than 1 in every 4 children in the state live in a single parent household, the third highest such share among states. Adults in single parent households are at greater risk of substance abuse and depression, and children raised by single parents are vulnerable to adverse health outcomes and have higher rates of mortality compared to children of parents living as couples.

42. Tennessee
> 10-yr. population change: +10.1% (19th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.8% (tied — 24th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.8% (11th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.4 years (8th shortest)

Most of the worst states to live in are located in the South, as is Tennessee. Across broad populations, higher levels of educational attainment often lead to greater economic prosperity and better overall health outcomes. In Tennessee, only 26.1% of adults have earned a bachelor’s degree, versus the 31.3% of adults nationwide. In Tennessee, the lower educational attainment rates may partially explain the greater financial insecurity. Some 15.8% of the state’s population live in poverty compared to 14.0% of the total U.S. population.

Tennessee residents are also less healthy than the typical American. Adults in the state report feeling physically unhealthy an average of 4.8 days per month, the most of any state except West Virginia.

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41. South Carolina
> 10-yr. population change: +14.8% (6th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.8% (tied — 24th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.3% (14th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.9 years (9th shortest)

For many living in South Carolina, the high crime rates dramatically reduce their quality of life. There were 502 violent crimes and 3,244 property crimes for every 100,000 state residents in 2016, each among the 10 highest crime rates of any state. Incomes in the state are also relatively low. The typical household in South Carolina earns $49,501 a year, well below the median income nationwide of $57,617. Additionally, 15.3% of state residents live on poverty level incomes, slightly higher than the 14.0% U.S. poverty rate.

Despite some negative socioeconomic indicators, Americans appear to be flocking to South Carolina. The state’s population spiked by 14.8% in the last decade, nearly double the comparable U.S. population growth of 7.9%.