America’s Best and Worst States to Live In

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15. North Dakota
> 10-yr. population growth:
21.3% (the highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 2.8% (the lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.5% (9th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (18th highest)

As in many states on the higher end of the livability ranking, North Dakota residents are relatively wealthy. A typical household earns $59,029 each year, the 15th highest annual median household income in the nation. The state is experiencing an economic boom due to the discovery and development of the Bakken shale formation in the state. This has largely contributed to the state’s unemployment rate of 2.8%, which is the lowest in the country. Job opportunities have attracted Americans to the state by the thousands. North Dakota’s population growth of 21.3% in the last 10 years is more than double the national growth rate and faster than any other state. However, jobs have begun disappearing in recent months, perhaps signaling an end to the state’s recent prosperity.

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14. Nebraska
> 10-yr. population growth:
10.2% (24th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 3.3% (2nd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.4% (16th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.8 years (15th highest)

The state’s annual median household income of $52,686 is on par with the national median income of $53,657. The 29.5% share of adults in Nebraska who have at least a bachelor’s degree is roughly in line with the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults. The state’s poverty rate of 12.4% is 16th lowest on the other hand, versus the national rate of 15.5%. A typical home in Nebraska is worth $133,800, well below the national median home value of $181,200. However, the relatively low cost of housing in Nebraska helps lower the overall cost of living in the state, where goods and services cost nearly 10% less than they do across the nation on average.

13. New York
> 10-yr. population growth:
5.8% (10th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.3% (20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.9% (19th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.5 years (5th highest)

As is the case in many of the most livable states, residents are more likely to earn higher incomes and less likely to be poor. A typical New York household earns $58,878 each year, the 16th highest annual median household income in the nation. In addition to having wealthier residents, the state has one of the highest concentrations of attractions and amenities in the country, including the most libraries, theater companies, and bars per capita of any state. As in other states with the top living conditions, demand for housing is often very high, which tends to drive up home values. A typical home in New York is valued at $279,100, well above the national median home value of $181,200. Crime is not a major problem in the state, but it is also not unusually rare. New York’s violent crime rate of 381.8 per 100,000 residents is similar to the national rate of 365.5 incidents per 100,000 residents.

12. Washington
> 10-yr. population growth:
14.9% (11th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.2% (22nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 13.2% (19th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.9 years (13th highest)

As in many of the other best states to live in, Washington residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earns $61,366 each year, the 11th highest annual median household income in the nation. In states with the best living conditions, demand for housing is often very high, which tends to drive up home values. A typical home in Washington is valued at $266,200, well above the national median home value of $181,200. Like many of the better states to live, Washington has a higher than average share of attractions per capita than most. The state is among the top 20 in the country based on the concentration of movie theaters, restaurants, hotels, bars, and museums per capita.

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11. Utah
> 10-yr. population growth:
21.2% (2nd highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 3.8% (4th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.7% (11th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.2 years (10th highest)

Compared to many of the states with a higher quality of life, Utah lacks a high concentration of attractions and facilities. The state ranks behind most states in the number of libraries, theaters, museums, hotels, bars, and restaurants per capita. The state’s population, however, tends to be wealthier. A typical household earns $60,922 each year, the 13th highest annual median household income in the nation. As in most wealthier states, the average Utah resident will enjoy a relatively long life. The life expectancy at birth in Utah of 80.2 years is higher than the national life expectancy of 78.9 years. The 31.1% share of adults in Utah who have at least a bachelor’s degree is roughly in line with the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults.