America’s Best States to Live In

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40. Indiana
> 10-yr. population change: +5.1% (13th smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.4% (tied — 20st lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.1% (21st highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.3 years (10th shortest)

Of all 12 midwestern states, Indiana ranks as the worst on this index. Among adults in the state, only 25.6% have a bachelor’s degree, and 88.4% a high school diploma, each the smallest such share in the region. Better health outcomes are often tied to better education, and by several measures, Indiana’s adult population is the least healthy in the Midwest. About 32% of adults in Indiana are obese, and 26% get no exercise beyond getting up and going to work, each the largest such share in the region and among the 10 worst of all states.

The unhealthy lifestyles of state residents partially explain the low life expectancy in the state. At 77.3 years, life expectancy at birth in Indiana is about a year and a half shy of the U.S. life expectancy.

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39. Nevada
> 10-yr. population change: +17.8% (4th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 5.7% (8th highest)
> Poverty rate: 13.8% (23rd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.2 years (17th shortest)

Adults with a college education are often more resilient to economic downturns than those with only a high school diploma. In Nevada, only 23.5% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, the sixth smallest share among states. Nevada’s 5.7% annual unemployment rate is higher than in all but seven other states and well above the comparable U.S. rate of 4.9%. In addition to a relatively limited number of college-educated adults, high crime may also deter employers from the state. There were 678 violent crimes in Nevada for every 100,000 residents in 2016, the third highest violent crime rate among states.

Despite some negative socioeconomic indicators, Nevada’s population is growing. In the last 10 years, the number of people living in the state spiked by 17.8%, faster than in all but three other states and more than double the U.S. population growth rate over that time of 7.9%.

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38. Ohio
> 10-yr. population change: +1.2% (4th smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.9% (tied — 20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 14.6% (18th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.6 years (13th shortest)

Population growth is one indication of a state’s quality of life, as people tend to move to more desirable areas and avoid places where they do not expect high living standards. Ohio’s total population grew by only 1.2% in the last 10 years, well below the 7.9% U.S. population growth. Ohio’s slower than typical population growth has coincided with significant employment declines in the state’s once strong manufacturing sector. Further, economic conditions to do not appear to be improving. Some 5.3% of the state’s labor force is out of a job as of September, compared to the 2016 average unemployment rate of 4.9%.

Educational attainment rates in the state are indicative of the state’s past as a manufacturing powerhouse, a time when college degrees were not always required to obtain a high-paying job. Only 27.5% of state adults have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 31.3% of American adults.

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37. Georgia
> 10-yr. population change: +10.1% (20th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 5.4% (tied — 9th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.0% (10th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.5 years (11th shortest)

Though Georgia ranks better than most other southern states, it still ranks behind most states nationwide. Some 16.0% of Georgia residents live in poverty, the 10th highest poverty rate of any state. Relatively high unemployment partially explains the relatively widespread financial hardship. The state’s 2016 unemployment rate of 5.4% is higher than all but eight other states and well above the U.S. unemployment rate last year of 4.9%.

Despite some economic woes, Georgia’s population is growing faster than most other states. In the past decade, the Peach State’s population grew by 10.1%, faster than the U.S. population growth rate of only 7.9%.

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36. Michigan
> 10-yr. population change: -1.7% (the largest decline)
> Annual unemployment: 4.9% (tied — 20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.0% (15th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.1 years (15th shortest)

Michigan’s population shrank by 1.7% in the past decade, the steepest decline of any state. Population loss concentrated in the state’s largest city, Detroit, is partially to blame. The Motor City’s population fell from a high of 1.8 million in 1950 to 837,000 in 2005, to 680,000 in 2014.

Detroit’s decline mirrors the story of decline across the U.S. manufacturing industry, with losses concentrated in former manufacturing hubs. Educational attainment rates across Michigan still indicate the state’s past as a manufacturing powerhouse. The U.S. manufacturing sector used to provide high-paying jobs that did not require higher education. Today, some 90.4% of adults in Michigan have a high school diploma, more than the 87.5% share of adults nationwide. However, only 28.3% of adults in the state have a bachelor’s degree compared to 31.3% of American adults.