America’s Best and Worst States to Live In

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20. Illinois
> 10-yr. population growth:
3.5% (3rd lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 7.1% (7th highest)
> Poverty rate: 14.4% (25th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.0 years (24th highest)

Like a few other states on the higher end of the livability ranking, Illinois has plenty of amenities and entertainment venues to offer. There are 169 movie theaters, 142 theater companies, and 48 sports clubs per 100,000 people — each concentration among the top 10 nationwide. Crime is also not a major problem in the state, but it is also not unusually rare. Illinois’s violent crime rate of 370 incidents per 100,000 residents is similar to the national rate of 365.5 incidents per 100,000 residents.

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19. Rhode Island
> 10-yr. population growth:
2.2% (2nd lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 7.7% (3rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 14.3% (24th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.9 years (13th highest)

In Rhode Island, 30.4% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, roughly in line with the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults. The education level of a population is frequently closely tied to its income levels, and Rhode Island is no exception. The state’s annual median household income of $54,891 is only slightly higher than the national median of $53,657. In states with the best living conditions, demand for housing is often very high, which tends to drive up home values. Despite the average incomes, a typical home in Rhode Island is valued at $236,000, well above the national median home value of $181,200.

18. Wisconsin
> 10-yr. population growth:
7.1% (15th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.5% (18th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.2% (19th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.0 years (11th highest)

Wisconsin ‘s living conditions are far from being the best in the nation, but they are not the worst either. The state’s annual median household income of $52,622 is only slightly below the national median of $53,657. Also, 28.4% of adults in Wisconsin have at least a bachelor’s degree, approaching the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults. While the difference between life expectancies among states is not large, Wisconsin’s life expectancy at birth of 80 years is one of the longest in the nation.

17. California
> 10-yr. population growth:
10.0% (25th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 7.5% (4th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.4% (17th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.8 years (3rd highest)

As in many other states on the higher end of the livability ranking, California residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earns $61,933 each year, the ninth highest annual median household income in the nation. The income may not be particularly well distributed, however, as California’s poverty rate of 16.4% is higher than in most states. The average California resident will still enjoy a relatively long life. The life expectancy at birth in California of 80.8 years is the third longest of all states. In states with relatively good living conditions, demand for housing is often very high, which tends to drive up home values. A typical home in California is valued at $412,700, well more than double the national median home value of $181,200.

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16. Iowa
> 10-yr. population growth:
8.5% (18th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.4% (10th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.2% (15th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.7 years (16th highest)

Iowa’s median household income of $53,712 is in line with the national figure, although this income likely goes further than incomes in other areas. Goods and services in Iowa cost around 10% less than they do across the country. A typical home in Iowa is worth $133,100, well below the national median home value of $181,200. The low cost of housing contributes to the relative affordability in Iowa. Despite the relatively low home values, other indicators point to (relative) economic health. For example, just 4.4% of the workforce is unemployed, one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. By contrast, the national unemployment rate is 6.2%.