Special Report

America's Best and Worst States to Live In

45. Kentucky
> 10-yr. population growth:
8.7% (19th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.5% (15th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.1% (5th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.0 years (7th lowest)

Of Americans living in Kentucky, 19.1% earn incomes below the poverty line. Poverty frequently contributes to poorer health outcomes, which in turn often lead to a higher incidence of premature death. As in other states with especially high poverty rates, the life expectancy at birth in Kentucky of 76 years is one of the lowest in the country, in contrast with the national life expectancy of 79 years. Worse health outcomes, and poor economic conditions are often tied to a lack of education. In Kentucky, 22.2% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, significantly lower than the 30.1% of adults nationwide with similar education.

Unlike most states falling on the lower end of the livability ranking, Kentucky’s violent crime rate of 211.6 incidents per 100,000 residents is one of the lowest in the nation.

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44. Tennessee
> 10-yr. population growth:
12.7% (20th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.7% (12th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.3% (7th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.3 years (8th lowest)

Tennessee has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country at 608.4 incidents per 100,000 residents, much higher than the national rate of 356.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents. A lack of education often limits access to good jobs and economic prosperity, and residents of states on the lower end of the liveability ranking tend to have relatively low college attainment rates. In Tennessee, 25.3% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, lower than the 30.1% of adults nationwide with similar education. Despite this, job growth from 2012 through last year was in line with the nationwide job expansion of 3.7%. In states with relatively poor living conditions, demand for housing is often relatively low, which tends to drive down home values. A typical home in Tennessee is worth $142,900, well below the national median home value of $181,200.

43. Oklahoma
> 10-yr. population growth:
12.9% (19th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.5% (12th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 16.6% (14th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.9 years (5th lowest)

The average American can expect to live around 79 years, although this can vary considerably between states. In Oklahoma, the life expectancy at birth of 75.9 years is the fifth lowest in the nation. Life expectancy tends to drop in areas with poor economic and social conditions. For example, a lack of education often limits access to good jobs and economic prosperity, and residents of states on the lower end of the liveability ranking tend to have relatively low college attainment rates. In Oklahoma, 24.2% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, lower than the 30.1% of adults nationwide with similar education. Additionally, in states with relatively poor living conditions, demand for housing is often relatively low, which tends to drive down home values. A typical home in Oklahoma is worth $119,800, well below the national median home value of $181,200.

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42. New Mexico
> 10-yr. population growth:
10.5% (23rd highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.5% (15th highest)
> Poverty rate: 21.3% (2nd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.4 years (20th lowest)

A typical household in New Mexico earns $44,803 each year, and 21.3% of New Mexicans live in poverty, the eighth lowest annual median household income and the second highest poverty rate in the nation. Crime tends to be high in states with similarly relatively poorer living conditions as New Mexico. Indeed, there are 597.4 violent crimes each year in the state for every 100,000 residents, 231.9 incidents more than the national level per 100,000 residents, and the fourth highest rate of all states. Residents of states on the lower end of the liveability ranking also tend to have relatively low college attainment rates. In New Mexico, 26.4% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, lower than the 30.1% of adults nationwide with similar education.

41. South Carolina
> 10-yr. population growth:
17.5% (7th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.4% (18th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.0% (11th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.0 years (9th lowest)

As in other states with relatively challenging living conditions, South Carolina residents are among the least wealthy in the country. South Carolina’s annual median household income of $45,238 is the ninth lowest in the nation. Low incomes often coincide with low home values. A typical home in South Carolina is worth $140,000, well below the national median home value of $181,200.

For many potential homeowners, nothing is more important than a safe neighborhood, but South Carolina has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. At 497.7 violent crimes per 100,000 residents the state’s violent crimes rate is much higher than the national rate of 356.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents.