Special Report

The 10 States With the Best Quality of Life

10. Wisconsin
> Employment rate: 74.8% (9th highest)
> Household disposable income per capita: $29,536 (23rd highest)
> Homicide rate: 2.72 per 100,000 people (15th lowest)
> Voter turnout: 73.6% (2nd highest)

Based on nine distinct well-being measures, Wisconsin is one of the top states in the nation for quality of life. Like nearly all top-ranked states, Wisconsin’s housing score was quite high. A typical home had 2.7 rooms per person. Additionally, nearly three-quarters of households had broadband Internet access, both among the higher rates nationwide. Residents are also more politically active than people in a majority of states. The state reported a 74% voter turnout rate, better than almost every other state.


9. Washington
> Employment rate: 67.8% (21st lowest)
> Household disposable income per capita: $31,307 (16th highest)
> Homicide rate: 2.55 per 100,000 people (11th lowest)
> Voter turnout: 65.6% (16th highest)

Nearly four in five Washington residents had broadband Internet access last year, tied with New Hampshire for the highest rate in the country. Washingtonians also enjoy exceptional air quality and a relatively healthy environment. Just 4.1 mg of airborne dangerous particulate matter per cubic meter was recorded in the state, nearly the lowest level of pollution measured. Washington also leads the nation for renewable energy production, with more than 1,012 trillion BTUs produced in 2012, far more than any other state.

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8. Maine
> Employment rate: 72.7% (11th highest)
> Household disposable income per capita: $28,333 (22nd lowest)
> Homicide rate: 1.88 per 100,000 people (8th lowest)
> Voter turnout: 68.6% (9th highest)

Based on OECD metrics, Maine — which advertises itself as “Vacationland” — is far more than merely a tourist destination. Like more than half of the best states for quality of life, Maine received a nearly perfect score for its housing. Maine homes had an average of nearly three rooms per person, more than all but one other state. Spacious households are likely favored by Maine residents as the state’s long winter can keep people indoors for long periods. And while heating costs can be a burden, falling U.S. crude oil prices have considerably reduced the financial strain of buying home heating oil, which is more-widely used in Maine than in any other state.

7. Massachusetts
> Employment rate: 71.3% (14th highest)
> Household disposable income per capita: $38,620 (2nd highest)
> Homicide rate: 2.62 per 100,000 people (12th lowest)
> Voter turnout: 70.8% (4th highest)

Only one state received a higher income score than Massachusetts. Last year, the state’s per capita disposable income was $38,620, more than anywhere else in the United States except Connecticut, and among the top 4% of regions reviewed by the OECD across 28 countries. Massachusetts was also a top state for health, with one of the lowest mortality rates, as well as one of the highest life expectancies, at 80.5 years, in the country. However, compared to all country regions measured by the OECD, Massachusetts’ score is barely in the top 40% for health.

6. Colorado
> Employment rate: 71.2% (15th highest)
> Household disposable income per capita: $30,999 (18th highest)
> Homicide rate: 2.90 per 100,000 people (17th lowest)
> Voter turnout: 70.4% (5th highest)

Colorado residents are active participants in local and state politics, and they have among the best accessibility to services. More than 70% of eligible Coloradans participated in elections last year, among the higher rates in the nation. While Colorado’s unemployment rate of 7.7% was not particularly good, its economy has grown relatively rapidly in the past two years. A report released earlier this year by the Colorado Secretary of State showed strong numbers of new business filings and predicted future employment gains.

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