America’s Best and Worst States to Live In

November 23, 2015 by Thomas C. Frohlich

Life satisfaction in a given state is often based on highly subjective measures — whether the climate is nice, whether friends and family are present, and other factors. While a connection to a place can often be based on intangibles, a good quality of life in a given state is largely predicated upon a few key factors. The levels of poverty, education, and health can largely capture living conditions in a state, which tend to vary considerably across the country.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed statewide social and economic measures to rank each state’s living conditions. Massachusetts, home to one of the nation’s wealthiest and most highly educated populations, leads the nation. Mississippi, the poorest state in the country, trails the other 49 states.

While satisfactory living conditions are possible to obtain with high and low incomes, this is true only to a point. Once incomes fall below the poverty line, for example, financial constraints are far more likely to diminish quality of life. In 18 of the 25 states on the lower end of the livability ranking, the poverty rate exceeds the national rate of 15.5%. New Mexico and Mississippi report poverty rates of over 20%.

Click here to see how all 50 states compare in quality of life.

Education is another major contributor to living conditions — not just as a basis of economic prosperity, but also as a component of an individual’s quality of life. Adults living in the nation’s best states report higher than average college attainment rates. Also, due in part to the greater access to high paying jobs an education can offer, incomes tend to be higher in these states as well. In 17 of the 25 best states to live, the annual median household income and the percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree both exceed the respective national figures.

Many of these strong socioeconomic measures lead to a higher quality of life, which in turn often results in a longer life — itself a desirable outcome. The difference in life expectancy between MIssissippi, where people tend to live the shortest lives, and Hawaii, where people live the longest is 6.3 years. While this variance is not very large, the likelihood of living a relatively long life as a resident of a particular state is closely associated with that state’s living conditions. In only 10 states — all among the 25 best states to live in — the average resident can expect to live more than 80 years. To compare, the nationwide life expectancy at birth is 78.9 years.

Housing markets in these states are also indicative of quality of living. A high median home value, for instance, frequently means high demand for housing in the area. Nationwide, the typical home is worth $181,200. In most of the 25 states at the top of the ranking, the median home value far exceeds this value. The opposite tends to be true on the lower end. Of the 18 states where the typical home is valued at more than $200,000, 17 are in the top 25 states for livability.

Lower home values are indicative of, and contribute to, relatively affordable costs of living. Of course, low home values are also a product of a lack of demand in a housing market, which is often driven by poor living conditions. The average cost of goods and services in most of the best states to live is greater than the national average, while the average cost of living is less than the national average in all of the 25 states on the lower end of the livability ranking.

To identify the best and worst states in which to live, 24/7 Wall St. devised an index composed of three socioeconomic measures for each state: poverty rate, the percentage of adults who have at least a bachelor’s degree, and life expectancy at birth. The selection of these three measures was inspired by the United Nations’ Human Development Index. Poverty rates and bachelor attainment rates came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey (ACS). Life expectancies at birth are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and are as of 2010, latest year for which data is available.

These are the best and worst states to live in.

50. Mississippi
> 10-yr. population growth:
6.0% (13th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 7.8% (the highest)
> Poverty rate: 21.5% (the highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.0 years (the lowest)

Based on a range of socioeconomic factors, Mississippi is the worst state in which to live. As in several other states with relatively more challenging living conditions, Mississippi residents are the least wealthy in the nation. A typical household earns $39,680 each year, and 21.5% of people live in poverty, the lowest annual median household income and the highest poverty rate in the nation. Poverty frequently contributes to poorer health outcomes, which in turn often lead to a higher incidence of premature death. The life expectancy at birth in Mississippi of 75 years is also the lowest in the country.

A lack of education often limits access to good jobs and economic prosperity. In Mississippi, 21.1% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, far lower than the 30.1% of adults nationwide with similar education. The state has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, at 7.8%.

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49. West Virginia
> 10-yr. population growth:
4.4% (8th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.5% (15th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.3% (7th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.4 years (3rd lowest)

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 West Virginia, fewer than one in five adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, the lowest college attainment rate in the nation. West Virginia’s September unemployment rate of 7.3% was the highest in the nation. Also, job growth from 2012 to 2014 was actually negative, the only state where this was the case. The state’s poverty rate of 18.3% is the seventh highest of all states. Not only does financial stress often lower quality of life, but it can also contribute to a shorter life. In West Virginia, the life expectancy at birth of 75.4 years is lower than in all but two other states. 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 West Virginia is worth $103,900, well below the national median home value of $181,200.

48. Louisiana
> 10-yr. population growth:
5.9% (11th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.4% (18th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.8% (3rd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.7 years (4th lowest)

For many potential homeowners, nothing is more important than a safe neighborhood. Louisiana’s violent crime rate is the highest in the country at 514.7 incidents per 100,000 residents, much higher than the national rate of 356.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents. Many states with similarly poorer living conditions have high crime rates. In Louisiana, nearly one in five residents lives in poverty, the third highest poverty rate in the country. Also, education attainment levels are relatively low in the state. 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 Louisiana, 22.9% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, significantly lower than the 30.1% of adults nationwide with similar education.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 Louisiana is worth $143,600, well below the national median home value of $181,200.

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47. Alabama
> 10-yr. population growth:
9.2% (22nd lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.8% (10th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.3% (4th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.4 years (3rd lowest)

As in other states with relatively difficult living conditions, Alabama’s poverty rate of 19.3% is one of the highest in the country. A typical household earns $42,830 each year, the fourth lowest annual median household income in the nation. In the same way an educated population is often the basis of economic prosperity, a lack of education often limits access to good jobs and lowers economic prosperity. In Alabama, 23.5% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, well below the 30.1% of adults nationwide with similar education. In states with relatively poor living conditions, demand for housing is also often relatively low, which tends to drive down home values. A typical home in Alabama is worth $125,600, the seventh lowest median home value in the country.

46. Arkansas
> 10-yr. population growth:
9.8% (25th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.1% (23rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.9% (6th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.0 years (7th lowest)

The often low demand for housing in states with relatively poor living conditions frequently drives down home values. A typical home in Arkansas is worth $112,500, lower than in all but two other states and well below the national median home value of $181,200. For many potential homeowners, nothing is more important than a safe neighborhood. Arkansas has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country at 480.1 incidents per 100,000 residents, much higher than the national rate of 356.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents. While the economy may be weaker in Arkansas than in many other states, the cost of living is also very low. Goods and services cost 12.5% less than they do across the nation on average, the lowest estimated cost of living of all states except for Mississippi.

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.

40. Georgia
> 10-yr. population growth: 14.5% (14th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 7.2% (6th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.3% (7th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.2 years (10th lowest)

Georgia ‘s living conditions are far from being the best in the nation, but they are not the worst either. Crime, for example, is not a major problem in the state, although it is also not unusually rare. Georgia’s violent crime rate of 377.3 incidents per 100,000 residents is similar to the national rate of 365.5 incidents per 100,000 residents. The 29.1% share of adults in Georgia who have at least a bachelor’s degree is roughly in line with the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults.A typical home in Georgia is worth $147,900, well below the national median home value of $181,200. Despite this indication of low housing demand, however, Georgia’s population growth of 14.5% over the 10 years through 2014 is one of the higher growth rates in the nation.

39. Nevada
> 10-yr. population growth:
19.2% (4th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 7.8% (the highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.2% (23rd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.1 years (15th lowest)

In Nevada, socioeconomic indicators, as well as the state’s livability ranking, are closer the middle compared with other states. The state’s annual median household income of $51,450, for example, is not much below the national median of $53,657. However, Nevada has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country at 635.6 incidents per 100,000 residents, much higher than the national rate of 356.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents. While for many potential homeowners nothing is more important than a safe neighborhood, many Americans seem to be moving to Nevada. The state’s population grew by over 19% in the 10w-year period through 2014, the fourth fastest growth in the nation.

In Nevada, 23.1% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, one of the lowest college attainment rates in the country. However, the state has one of the nation’s largest entertainment industries, and a significant number of jobs in the industry requires relatively low levels of education.

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38. Indiana
> 10-yr. population growth:
8.3% (17th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.0% (25th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 15.2% (23rd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.6 years (12th lowest)

The life expectancy in Indiana is roughly inline with that of the nation. The average American can expect to live around 79 years, while the life expectancy at birth in Indiana is 77.6 years. The state reports average socioeconomic measures in a number of areas. However, residents are far less likely to go to college than most Americans. Less than 25% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, versus the 30.1% of adults nationwide with similar education. Home values in the state, at a median of $124,300, are also substantially lower than the nationwide median of of $181,200.

37. North Carolina
> 10-yr. population growth:
18.2% (5th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.1% (23rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 17.2% (12th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.8 years (14th lowest)

North Carolina residents are not especially wealthy compared to most state populations. A typical household earns $46,556 each year, the 11th lowest annual median household income in the nation. By contrast, the typical American household earns $53,657 annually. The life expectancy at birth in North Carolina of 78 years is the 14th lowest in the nation but also not especially low compared to the national life expectancy at birth of 78.9 years. The likelihood of having a college education among North Carolinians also aligns with the nationwide norm. About 28.7% of adults in North Carolina have at least a bachelor’s degree, roughly in line with the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults.

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36. Ohio
> 10-yr. population growth:
3.9% (5th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.7% (21st lowest)
> Poverty rate: 15.8% (20th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.8 years (14th lowest)

Ohio residents tend to be less wealthy than the typical American. A typical household earns $49,308 each year, the 16th lowest annual median household income in the nation. Similarly, a typical home in Ohio is worth $129,100, well below the national median home value of $181,200. However, the low home values contribute to a lower cost of living. As in most relatively poorer states, the cost of living in Ohio is more than 10% lower than it is across the nation on average. Despite the attraction of cheap housing, goods, and services, Ohio’s population grew by just 3.9% over the 10 years through last year, much lower than the U.S. population growth rate of 10.6% over that period.

35. Missouri
> 10-yr. population growth:
7.7% (16th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.1% (23rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.5% (21st highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.5 years (11th lowest)

The national economy added jobs at a rate of 3.7% from 2012 through 2014. In Missouri, however, employment grew at less than half the nationwide rate over that period. Similarly, while the U.S. population grew by 10.6% over the 10 years through last year, Missouri’s population grew at a slower 7.7% rate. Incomes in the state are also relatively low, with a typical household earning $48,363, much lower than the national median household income of $53,657. As is often the case in states with relatively low incomes, home values are also low. A typical home in Missouri is worth $138,500, well below the national median home value of $181,200. While this reflects low demand, the low cost of housing makes living in Missouri more affordable. Goods and services cost roughly 10% less than they do across the nation on average.

Still, for many potential homeowners, nothing is more important than a safe neighborhood, and Missouri has one of the highest violent crime rates in the country. At 442.9 incidents per 100,000 residents, the state’s violent crimes rate much higher than the national rate of 356.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents.

34. Texas
> 10-yr. population growth:
21.0% (3rd highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.1% (16th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 17.2% (12th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.5 years (23rd lowest)

Texas ‘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 $53,035 is on par with the national median of $53,657. Despite average incomes, many Texas neighborhoods are not particularly safe. Texas has one of the higher violent crime rates in the country at 405.9 incidents per 100,000 residents, in contrast with the national rate of 356.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents. The high crime rates may have partially contributed to lower home values. A typical home in Texas is worth $139,600, well below the national median home value of $181,200. Despite this indication of low housing demand, Texas’ population growth of 21% over the 10 years through last year was the third fastest population growth rate of any state.

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33. Michigan
> 10-yr. population growth:
0.4% (the lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 7.3% (5th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.2% (18th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.2 years (16th lowest)

Socioeconomic indicators, and Michigan’s position on the livability ranking, are towards the middle compared with other states. The state’s annual median household income of $49,847, for example, is approaching the national median of $53,657. On the other hand, Michigan has one of the higher violent crime rates in the country at 427.3 incidents per 100,000 residents, in contrast with the national rate of 356.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents. Crime tends to be high in states that face the same challenges as Michigan. For instance, a high unemployment rate often increases the number of idle men, who are by far the most likely individuals to commit crimes. Michigan’s unemployment rate of 7.3% is the fifth highest in the nation.

32. Arizona
> 10-yr. population growth:
15.5% (10th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.9% (8th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.2% (10th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.6 years (17th highest)

Arizona ‘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 $50,068 is not much below the national median of $53,657. The income, while approaching average, may not be particularly well distributed as the state’s poverty rate of 18.2% is 10th highest in the nation. Poverty frequently contributes to poorer health outcomes, which in turn often lead to a higher incidence of premature death. However, unlike many other states with especially high poverty rates, the life expectancy at birth in Arizona of 79.6 years is actually higher than the national life expectancy of 78.9 years.

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31. Florida
> 10-yr. population growth:
14.4% (15th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.3% (20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.5% (16th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.4 years (22nd highest)

Amenities and entertainment venues are readily available in Florida. There are 153 theater companies, 95 sports clubs, 342 museums, and 53 zoos per 100,000 Floridians — each among the top five concentrations compared to other states. The typical Florida household, however, is not especially wealthy, earning $47,463 each year, the 12th lowest annual median household income in the nation. Florida is also not an especially safe state. Each year, around 540.5 violent crimes are reported per 100,000 residents, much higher than the national rate of 356.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents.

30. Idaho
> 10-yr. population growth:
17.1% (9th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.8% (14th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.8% (25th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (18th highest)

Idaho’s population growth has been impressive. Over the 10 years through last year, the state’s population grew by 17.1%, ninth fastest nationwide. Idaho’s low violent crime rate may be appealing to many new residents. Around 212 violent crimes are reported per 100,000 people each year, one of the lowest rates in the country. However, residents are not especially well educated. A lack of education often limits access to good jobs and economic prosperity, and residents of states in the bottom of the liveability ranking tend to have relatively low college attainment rates. In Idaho, 25% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, lower than the 30.1% of adults nationwide with similar education.

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29. Montana
> 10-yr. population growth:
12.4% (21st highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.7% (13th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 15.4% (22nd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.5 years (23rd lowest)

Living in Montana is not particularly harder or easier than living anywhere in the country on average. Montana residents are among the least wealthy states in nation. A typical household earns $46,328 each year, the 10th lowest annual median household income in the nation. The college attainment rate in Montana is on par with the nation. About 29.3% of adults in Montana have at least a bachelor’s degree, only slightly lower than the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults. Just 4.7% of the state’s workforce is unemployed, one of the lower rates in the country.

28. Oregon
> 10-yr. population growth:
11.5% (22nd highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.9% (8th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.6% (14th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (18th highest)

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 Oregon is valued at $239,800, well above the national median home value of $181,200. Despite the high home values, the state’s annual median household income of $51,075 is not much lower than the national median of $53,657. Similarly, the 30.8% share of Oregon adults with at least a bachelor’s degree is roughly in line with the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults.

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27. Pennsylvania
> 10-yr. population growth:
6.7% (14th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.8% (24th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.6% (21st lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.5 years (23rd lowest)

Pennsylvania’s jobs growth of just 1.1% from 2012 through last year was much lower than the nationwide job growth rate of 3.7%. By most other socioeconomic measures, Pennsylvania is an average place to live. The state’s annual median household income of $53,234 is on par with the national median of $53,657. Also, the 29% share of adults in Pennsylvania with at least a bachelor’s degree is roughly in line with the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults.

26. South Dakota
> 10-yr. population growth:
14.4% (16th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 3.4% (3rd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.2% (23rd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (18th highest)

Living in South Dakota is not particularly hard, nor particularly easy. The state’s annual median household income of $50,979 is not much lower than the national median of $53,657. South Dakota is also considerably more affordable than the nation as a whole. Goods and services cost more than 12% less than they do nationwide on average. Low home values contribute to the low cost of living in the state. A typical home in South Dakota is worth $142,300, well below the national median home value of $181,200.

25. Wyoming
> 10-yr. population growth:
18.0% (6th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.3% (8th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.2% (6th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.3 years (18th lowest)

Wyoming falls in the middle of the livability ranking. The state’s annual median household income of $57,055 is slightly higher than the national median of $53,657. Residents are also not especially well educated. In Wyoming, 26.6% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, lower than the 30.1% of adults nationwide with similar education. However, Wyoming’s violent crime rate of 195.5 incidents per 100,000 people is one of the lowest in the nation. In contrast, there are 365.5 violent crimes per 100,000 nationwide.

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24. Maine
> 10-yr. population growth:
3.6% (4th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.7% (21st lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.1% (22nd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.2 years (23rd highest)

Maine’s annual median household of $49,462 is slightly lower than the national median of $53,657. The nation’s most northeastern state has the second lowest violent crime rate after only its neighbor Vermont. Only 128 violent crimes are reported each year per 100,000 people, significantly lower than the national violent crime rate of 365.5 incidents per 100,000 Americans.

The average American can expect to live around 79 years, although this can vary considerably between states. The life expectancy in Maine is also around 79 years. The 29.4% share of adults in Maine who have at least a bachelor’s degree is roughly in line with the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults.

23. Alaska
> 10-yr. population growth:
14.8% (12th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.8% (10th highest)
> Poverty rate: 11.2% (6th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.3 years (18th lowest)

As in many of the states in the top half of the livability ranking, Alaska residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earns $71,583 each year, the third highest annual median household income in the nation. Similarly, a typical home in Alaska is valued at $254,500, well above the national median home value of $181,200. For many potential homeowners, nothing is more important than a safe neighborhood. Alaska, however, has the highest violent crime rate in the country at 635.8 incidents per 100,000 residents, considerably higher than the national rate of 356.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents.

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22. Kansas
> 10-yr. population growth:
9.1% (20th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.5% (12th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.6% (21st lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.7 years (24th lowest)

Kansas ‘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 $52,504 is on par with the national median of $53,657. Crime is not a major problem in the state, but it is also not unusually rare. Kansas’s violent crime rate of 348.6 incidents per 100,000 residents is just under the national rate of 365.5 incidents per 100,000 residents. The 31.5% share of adults in Kansas with at least a bachelor’s degree is also roughly in line with the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults. The typical home value in Kansas is below average, on the other hand. The median home is worth $132,100, significantly lower than the national median home value of $181,200. However, the low home prices contribute to the state’s relatively affordable cost of living. Goods and services in the state cost around 10% less than they do across the nation.

21. Delaware
> 10-yr. population growth:
14.3% (17th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.7% (21st lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.5% (17th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.4 years (20th lowest)

Delaware is one of the nation’s smallest states geographically. Its population is also small — but it is growing. Over the 10 years through last year, Delaware’s population growth of 14.3% was faster than the national growth rate of 10.6% over that period. As in many of the better states to live in, Delaware residents are also relatively wealthy. A typical household earns $59,716 each year, the 14th 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 Delaware is valued at $230,500, well above the national median home value of $181,200.

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%.

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.

10. Virginia
> 10-yr. population growth:
13.6% (18th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.2% (17th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.8% (12th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.0 years (24th highest)

An education helps improve access to the job market, and states with high college attainment rates also often have low unemployment rates. Virginia’s unemployment rate of 4.3% is one of the lower jobless rates in the nation. As in many of the other best states to live in, Virginia residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earns $64,902 each year, the eighth 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 Virginia is valued at $247,800, well above the national median home value of $181,200.

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9. Hawaii
> 10-yr. population growth:
14.7% (13th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.4% (10th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.4% (7th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.3 years (the highest)

Based on the relative value of the dollar, no state is more expensive than Hawaii. Still, as in many of the other best states to live in, Hawaii residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earns $69,592 each year, the fifth highest annual median household income in the nation. The state also has one of the lowest poverty rates in the country, with just 11.4% of the population living below the poverty line, compared to a national rate of 15.5%. As in most states with low poverty rates and high incomes, the average Hawaii resident will enjoy a relatively long life. The state’s population lives to be 81.3 years, a longer average life expectancy at birth than any other state population. The 31% share of adults in Hawaii who have at least a bachelor’s degree is roughly in line with the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults.

8. Vermont
> 10-yr. population growth:
4.0% (6th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.1% (6th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.2% (15th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.5 years (5th highest)

While income is often a determinant of quality of life in a state, in many cases states offer a high quality of life despite a relatively lower income. In Vermont, the typical household earns $54,166, only slightly above the national median of $53,657. The state is above average, however, by many other measures. The average Vermont resident, for example, will enjoy a relatively long life. The life expectancy at birth in Vermont of 80.5 years is higher than the national life expectancy of 78.9 years. An education helps improve access to the job market, and states with high college attainment rates also often have low unemployment rates. Vermont’s unemployment rate of 3.7% is one of the lower jobless rates in the nation.

7. Maryland
> 10-yr. population growth:
9.4% (24th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.8% (24th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.1% (2nd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.8 years (25th lowest)

Populations in the best states to live tend to earn more money, and in Maryland the typical household has the highest median income of any state at $73,971 a year, more than $20,000 above the typical U.S. household. The state’s poverty rate of 10.1% is also the second lowest rate in the nation. The high incomes help residents afford some of the nation most expensive housing. The typical home in Maryland is worth $288,500, the fifth highest median home value in the country. For many potential homeowners, nothing is more important than a safe neighborhood. Yet Maryland has one of the higher violent crime rates in the country at 446.1 incidents per 100,000 residents, much higher than the national rate of 356.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents.

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6. Colorado
> 10-yr. population growth:
17.4% (8th highest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.0% (15th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.0% (13th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.0 years (11th highest)

Not only is an education important to better employment and income, but also it is — on its own — a major component of a better quality of life. Of adults in Colorado, 38.2% have a college degree, the second highest bachelor attainment rate in the nation. An education helps improve access to the job market, and states with high college attainment rates also often have low unemployment rates. Colorado’s unemployment rate of 4.0% is one of the lower jobless rates 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 Colorado is valued at $255,200, well above the national median home value of $181,200.

5. Minnesota
> 10-yr. population growth:
9.4% (23rd lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.1% (6th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.5% (9th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.1 years (2nd highest)

As in many of the other best states to live in, Minnesota residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earns $61,481 each year, the 10th highest annual median household income in the nation. As in most states with low poverty rates and high incomes, the average Minnesota resident will enjoy a relatively long life. The state has one of the lowest poverty rates in the country, 4 percentage points below the national rate of 15.5%. The life expectancy at birth in Minnesota of 81.1 years is slightly higher than the national life expectancy of 78.9 years. An education helps improve access to the job market, and states with high college attainment rates also often have low unemployment rates. In Minnesota, more than one in three adults have a college degree, one of the highest proportions in the nation. Minnesota’s unemployment rate of 3.8% is one of the lowest jobless rates in the nation.

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4. New Jersey
> 10-yr. population growth:
4.9% (9th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.6% (13th highest)
> Poverty rate: 11.1% (4th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.3 years (8th highest)

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 New Jersey is valued at $313,200, well above the national median home value of $181,200. As in many of the other best states to live in, New Jersey residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earns $71,919 each year, the second highest annual median household income in the nation. New Jersey also has the fourth lowest poverty rate at 11.1%. As in most states with low poverty rates and high incomes, the average New Jersey resident will enjoy a relatively long life. The life expectancy at birth in New Jersey is 80.3 years, compared to the national life expectancy of 78.9 years.

3. New Hampshire
> 10-yr. population growth:
4.3% (7th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 4.3% (8th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 9.2% (the lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.3 years (8th highest)

Relative to some other best states to live, like New Jersey or Massachusetts, New Hampshire lacks the attractions and facilities that people look for. The state has among the lowest concentrations of restaurants, bars, and hotels in the country. Still, the state is one of the best in the country based on fundamental factors such as income, poverty, and employment. New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate in the country at 9.2%, relative to the national poverty rate of 15.5%. A typical home in New Hampshire is valued at $236,400, well above the national median home value of $181,200. A typical household earns $66,532 each year, the 7th highest annual median household income in the nation. As in most states with low poverty rates and high incomes, the average New Hampshire resident will enjoy a relatively long life. The life expectancy at birth in New Hampshire is 80.3 years, versus the national life expectancy of 78.9 years.

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2. Connecticut
> 10-yr. population growth:
5.9% (12th lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 6.6% (13th highest)
> Poverty rate: 10.8% (3rd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.8 years (3rd highest)

A typical home in Connecticut is valued at $267,200, well above the national median home value of $181,200. Connecticut residents, like those in many of the best states to live in, have relatively high incomes. A typical household earns $70,048 each year, the fourth highest median household income in the nation. Connecticut’s poverty rate of 10.8% is also lower than in all but two other states. Low poverty rates and high incomes often coincide with longer lives, and tended to be the case for Connecticut residents as well. The life expectancy at birth in Connecticut is 80.8 years, versus the national life expectancy of 78.9 years. In states with the best living conditions, demand for housing is often very high, which tends to drive up home values.

1. Massachusetts
> 10-yr. population growth:
9.1% (21st lowest)
> 2014 unemployment rate: 5.8% (24th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.6% (10th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.5 years (5th highest)

As in many of the other best states to live in, Massachusetts residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earns $69,160 each year, the sixth highest annual median household income in the nation. Similarly, the state’s poverty rate of 11.6% is one of the lowest in the nation. As in most states with low poverty rates and high incomes, the average Massachusetts resident will enjoy a relatively long life. The life expectancy at birth in Massachusetts is 80.5 years, versus the national life expectancy of 79 years. Massachusetts’ nation-leading college attainment rate of 41.2% — it is the only state where more than two in five adults have a bachelor’s degree — is a major driver of the state’s strong economy and high quality of life. Students in the state also score well above average on standardized tests.

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 Massachusetts is valued at $338,900, well above the national median home value of $181,200.