America's Unluckiest State

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Luck, says the Collins Dictionary, is success or good things that happen to you that do not come from your own abilities or efforts.

People often are considered lucky because they are rich, have good jobs, enjoy good relationships or live a long time. There, somewhere, is a separation between luck and skill or hard work. In many people’s lives, that separation is hard to find. Is Jeff Bezos rich because he was in the right place at the right time in the history of online businesses? Or was he smarter than all the people who might have started the world’s largest e-commerce company? Ultimately, no one will ever be able to say without a shadow of a doubt.

People can be lucky, but so can groups of people. A team is lucky to win a game over a much better team. A poker player is lucky to beat the skilled competition. “The cards fell his way,” so to speak.

Can governments and places be lucky? Maybe so. To determine the unluckiest state, 24/7 Tempo created an index based on a number of factors, using the most recent data available: average lottery winnings per adult, number of traffic fatalities, total number of accidental deaths, life expectancy and unemployment rate.

We weighted each factor, giving full weight to lottery winnings per capita, traffic fatalities and overall accidental deaths. Slightly less weight was given to life expectancy and unemployment rate. Not every state has a lottery, however, and in those cases, only the other factors were considered. Data came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau.

For those looking to change their luck, a move to the Northeast looks like your best bet. Although the Northeast gets somewhat of a bad rap for its high cost of living and crowded cities, the residents of those states are pretty lucky. Among the top five luckiest states we considered, four (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and, yes, much-maligned New Jersey) are located along the upper eastern seaboard. (The outlier is Utah, which ranked number five.) People in those states can expect to live to the age of about 80.

If those states have an abundance of good fortune, other states we considered are less lucky. Unfortunately, several of those states are found in the South. The unluckiest one on our list is Mississippi, followed by Alabama and Oklahoma. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that Mississippi and Alabama lack state lotteries, thereby lowering their residents’ chances of being lucky. If those states want to change their luck, a lottery may be a good idea.

Here are the details about Mississippi, the unluckiest state:

  • Lottery winnings per adult in 2019: N/A
  • Deaths from accidents in 2018: 1,216.30 per 100,000 people (third highest)
  • Traffic fatalities in 2019: 21.61 per 100,000 people (second highest)
  • Life expectancy at birth: 74.6 years (second lowest)
  • May 2021 unemployment rate: 6.1% (17th highest)

Click here to see all of America’s luckiest and unluckiest states.

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