America’s Best States to Live In

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Source: flickr

30. Florida
> 10-yr. population change: +13.9% (10th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.9% (tied — 20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 14.7% (tied — 16th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.7 years (13th longest)

Florida has the highest life expectancy of any southern state. Life expectancy at birth in Florida is 79.7 years — nearly a year longer than life expectancy nationwide. While state residents tend to live longer and healthier lives, most of them do so on a tighter than average budget. While the cost of living in the state is comparable to that of the U.S. as a whole, the typical Florida household earns only $50,860 a year, or about $6,800 less than the typical American household. Additionally, 14.7% of Floridians live on poverty level incomes, slightly more than the 14.0% of Americans.

Like many states in the South, Florida is growing rapidly. In the last 10 years, the state’s population expanded by 13.9%, far faster than the U.S. population growth of 7.9%.

Source: Thinkstock

29. Wyoming
> 10-yr. population change: +13.7% (11th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 5.3% (tied — 13th highest)
> Poverty rate: 11.3% (tied — 14th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.5 years (18th shortest)

On an individual level, education offers the opportunity of a long, healthy life. Across a population, high educational attainment rates often translate to greater economic prosperity. Only 27.1% of adults in Wyoming have at least a bachelor’s degree — a smaller share than in most states and well below the 31.3% share of American adults. However, the state also has the highest high school diploma attainment rate of any state, at 93.2%.

Other socioeconomic measures important to quality of life range widely in Wyoming. For example, both poverty and violent crime are less common in Wyoming than across the nation as a whole. The state’s unemployment rate of 5.3%, on the other hand, is slightly above the U.S. rate of 4.9%.

Source: Thinkstock

28. Montana
> 10-yr. population change: +10.4% (18th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.1% (tied — 16th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.3% (tied — 24th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.8 years (22nd shortest)

Adults with a college education are more likely to lead longer, healthier lives and avoid serious financial hardship. In Montana, 31.0% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher, roughly in line with the 31.3% share of adults nationwide. Additionally, at 78.8 years, life expectancy in the state is also nearly in line with average life expectancy at birth nationwide.

The typical household in Montana earns $50,027 a year, or about $7,600 less than the typical American household. Despite the lower incomes, only 13.3% of state residents live in poverty — a smaller share than the 14.0% of Americans.

Source: Thinkstock

27. Pennsylvania
> 10-yr. population change: +2.8% (10th smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 5.4% (tied — 9th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.9% (23rd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.6 years (21st shortest)

Like many states ranking in the middle of this list, Pennsylvania’s population is by some measures better off and by others worse off compared to the U.S. population as a whole. The state’s violent and property crime rates of 316 and 1,743 per 100,000 people, respectively, are both below the respective national crime rates of 397 and 2,450 per 100,000. The state population is also much more likely to have health insurance, an important indicator of financial stability. Just 5.5% of Pennsylvanians lack health insurance compared to 8.5% of Americans.

In other measures of quality of life, however, the state lags behind. For example, Pennsylvania’s annual unemployment rate of 5.4% is the ninth highest among states.

Source: Thinkstock

26. South Dakota
> 10-yr. population change: +10.7% (16th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 2.8% (tied — the lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.3% (tied — 24th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (19th longest)

Across broad populations, some socioeconomic measures — such as poverty and life expectancy — tend to improve as educational attainment levels increase. In South Dakota, 28.9% of adults have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to 31.3% of adults nationwide. Despite the lower educational attainment, the state’s poverty rate of 13.3% is lower than the national poverty rate of 14.0%. Further, life expectancy at birth in South Dakota is 79.5 years compared to 78.9 years nationwide.

South Dakota’s annual average unemployment rate of 2.8% last year was tied for the lowest in the country. The monthly rate ticked up to 3.4% in September, still one of the lowest jobless rates in the country.