America’s Best States to Live In

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Kentucky Tobacco Field With Barn in Background
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45. Kentucky
> 10-yr. population growth: 9.0% (18th lowest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 5.1% (19th highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.5% (5th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.7 years (6th lowest)

Kentucky is one of the poorest states in the country. Median household income across the state is only $45,215 a year, about $10,600 less than the median income nationwide. Home values across the state are also among the lowest in the country. The typical Kentucky home is worth only $130,000, about $64,500 less than the median home value nationwide.

Unhealthy habits likely contribute to some poor health outcomes in Kentucky. More than one in four adults in the state are smokers, nearly the highest smoking rate in the country. Because the habit is so common, it likely plays a role in the state’s average life expectancy, which at 75.7 years is one of the lowest in the country.

Fracking oil rig drills in Oklahoma field, gas extraction
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44. Oklahoma
> 10-yr. population growth: 13.9% (19th highest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 5.2% (14th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.1% (13th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.6 years (5th lowest)

Household income in Oklahoma is one of the lowest of all states, and the state’s poverty rate one of the highest. Earnings are closely tied to educational attainment, as postsecondary education yields greater opportunities for higher-paying jobs. In Oklahoma, just 24.6% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, the eighth lowest college attainment rate in the country.

Due to factors such as stress and a lack of access to healthier lifestyle choices and care, poverty is associated with a variety of negative health outcomes. About one in every five Oklahoma residents are in either fair or poor health, among the worst of all states.

Road to Nashville, Tennessee
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43. Tennessee
> 10-yr. population growth: 13.6% (20th highest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 4.8% (25th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.7% (10th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.1 years (8th lowest)

Tennessee has one of the worst violent crime rates in the nation. There were more than 600 violent incidents reported per 100,000 residents last year, much higher than the national rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans. The state also has among the highest poverty rates and lowest incomes in the country.

Living in conditions of poverty or in areas with high crime has been shown to have harmful effects on residents’ mental and physical well-being. This appears to have been a factor in Tennessee, where 22.9% of adults report being in less than optimal, the third highest proportion in the country and well above the national proportion of 14% of adults reporting such poor health.

Albuquerque, New Mexico skyline of downtown
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42. New Mexico
> 10-yr. population growth: 10.5% (25th highest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 6.7% (2nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 20.4% (2nd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.9 years (18th lowest)

New Mexico has the second highest unemployment rate in the country at 6.7%. It also has the third highest violent crime rate at 656 incidents per 100,000 residents, compared to a national rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans.

Nationwide, 14.7% of the population lives at or below the poverty line. In New Mexico, over 20% of the population is poor, the second highest poverty rate of any state. High poverty tends to yield a variety of negative health outcomes, and more than one in five adults in the state report being in less than optimal health, compared to the national proportion of 14% of adults.

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Road In Aiken, South Carolina after a summer shower.
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41. South Carolina
> 10-yr. population growth: 19.0% (7th highest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 4.7% (24th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 16.6% (11th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.5 years (9th lowest)

South Carolina ranks as the 10th worst state to live in based on its high poverty, low educational attainment, and relatively low life expectancy. Most states that share these three characteristics also tend to have above average violent crime rates, and South Carolina is no different. Over 500 violent crimes were committed per 100,000 state residents last year, significantly higher than the national violent crime rate of 373 incidents per 100,000 Americans.

High crime has been shown to have a negative impact on populations, not just on victims but on entire neighborhoods by causing stress, depressing property values, and making areas less attractive to businesses.