Special Report

America's Best States to Live In

Clinton, New Jersey
Source: Thinkstock

5. New Jersey
> 10-yr. population growth: 5.1% (9th lowest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 5.2% (14th highest)
> Poverty rate: 10.8% (8th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.8 years (8th highest)

A reliable and effective public transportation system can reduce traffic-related injuries, and increase physical activity on an individual level, which can lead to a number of positive health outcomes. In New Jersey, nearly 12% of workers commute using public transit, one of the largest such shares. The high share of New Jersey residents who use public transit may also point to the economic benefits of living within the New York City metro area, a locus of often high-paying job opportunities. While New Jersey’s most recent monthly unemployment rate of 5.2% is slightly above the national rate of 4.9%, incomes in the state are very high. The typical household earns $72,222 annually, the fourth highest median household income of all states.

Canoe in for the Day, Minnesota
Source: Thinkstock

4. Minnesota
> 10-yr. population growth: 10.0% (24th lowest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 4.0% (13th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.2% (4th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.4 years (4th highest)

The typical household in Minnesota earns substantially less annually compared to other top states to live in, but at $63,488 a year, Minnesota’s median household income is well above the national annual median of $55,775. The state’s near nation-leading life expectancy of over 80 years can be partially attributed to economic factors such as high income. Also, only 11.6% of state adults report being in suboptimal health, the second lowest share. Broad health insurance coverage has likely helped many residents stay in good health. Just 4.5% of Minnesotans do not have health insurance, less than half the comparable national percentage and fourth lowest of all states.

New Hampshire
Source: Thinkstock

3. New Hampshire
> 10-yr. population growth: 4.6% (8th lowest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 2.8% (2nd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 8.2% (the lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.9 years (7th highest)

New Hampshire is one of several states with a high quality of life located in New England, where state populations tend to be financially well-off and healthy. New Hampshire’s poverty rate of 8.2% is the lowest of all states, and its unemployment rate of 2.8% is second lowest in the nation. The life expectancy in New Hampshire, at roughly 80 years, is also longer than in all but a handful of states.

The best states in which to live tend to have very healthy economies that usually drive the pace of population growth higher. However, this is not the case in New England states such as New Hampshire. While New Hampshire’s economy is performing well compared with other areas, its population grew by less than 5% over the past decade, the eighth slowest in the country.

New London, Connecticut - Downtown
Source: Thinkstock

2. Connecticut
> 10-yr. population growth: 5.8% (10th lowest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 5.1% (19th highest)
> Poverty rate: 10.5% (6th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.4 years (2nd highest)

Quality of life in the United States is heavily dependent on financial status. As a consequence, the nation’s best states to live in often report very high incomes. With a median household income of $71,346 a year, fifth highest of all states, Connecticut is the second best state to live in and an especially good example of this pattern.

Like the vast majority of states on the higher end of our list, Connecticut is also relatively safe. There were 219 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 state residents in 2015, among the lowest rates of all states.

Town of Newton, Massachusetts
Source: Thinkstock

1. Massachusetts
> 10-yr. population growth: 9.9% (22nd lowest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 3.3% (8th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.5% (14th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.2 years (5th highest)

Based on social and economic conditions, including measures of educational attainment, poverty, and health, Massachusetts is the nation’s best state in which to live. More than two out of every five adults have at least a bachelor’s degree, by far the highest proportion of any state. Because a college degree tends to open economic opportunities, the high level of education across the state’s population helps lower the incidence of poverty. With a poverty rate of 11.5%, poverty is considerably less common in Massachusetts than it is across the nation.

Economic factors play a major role in the health of a population, and the health of a state’s residents is a basic determinant of quality of life. Massachusetts residents are expected to live over 80 years on average, the fifth longest life expectancy of all states.

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