Special Report

America's Best States to Live In

Boca Raton, Florida
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30. Florida
> 10-yr. population growth: 16.6% (12th highest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 4.8% (25th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.7% (16th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.0 years (19th highest)

Florida is one of the largest and fastest growing states in the country. Now home to 20.3 million people, the state’s population has surged by 16.6% in the last decade, faster than the population growth of 11.5% nationwide. Though it may be a popular destination for national migration, Florida lags behind the nation as a whole in several important measures.

For many state residents, a healthy lifestyle is likely out of reach. Nearly 16% of Floridians live at or below the poverty line, and 13.3% of people in the state lack health insurance, each among the higher shares of any state.

Montana ghost town, dirt road
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29. Montana
> 10-yr. population growth: 13.4% (21st highest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 4.3% (19th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.6% (24th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.3 years (24th lowest)

The median household income in Montana is only $49,509 a year, roughly $6,300 less than the median income nationwide. However, goods and services cost nearly 6% less in Big Sky Country than they do on average nationwide. Lower incomes are partially offset by a lower cost of living, and possibly as a result, the state’s 14.6% poverty rate is roughly in line with the corresponding national figure.

Education is often a critical component of quality of life. While Montana’s 30.6% bachelor’s degree attainment rate is exactly in line with the average nationwide, 93.5% of adults in the state have completed high school, the largest share of any state in the country.

South Dakota, Road Sign
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28. South Dakota
> 10-yr. population growth: 15.1% (16th highest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 2.8% (2nd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.7% (24th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.9 years (22nd highest)

Though only 27.5% of adults in South Dakota have a four-year college degree, some of the state’s socioeconomic measures rival states with higher educational attainment. Life expectancy at birth is slightly higher than the 78.5 year average life expectancy nationwide. Similarly, the state’s poverty rate is a full percentage point below the U.S. figure.

Relatively strong socioeconomic measures across the state are likely tied to the availability of well-paying jobs with low educational requirements in the state’s large agriculture and manufacturing industries. The state’s 2.8% annual unemployment rate is nearly the lowest in the nation.

Coal Mine Dump Truck, Wyoming
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27. Wyoming
> 10-yr. population growth: 18.4% (9th highest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 5.1% (19th highest)
> Poverty rate: 11.1% (10th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.0 years (19th lowest)

Despite having a bachelor’s degree attainment rate roughly 4.5 percentage points below the 30.6% nationwide rate, incomes are relatively high in Wyoming. The typical household earns $60,214 annually, well above the $55,775 median income nationwide. The state’s high incomes go even further as goods and services are nearly 4% cheaper than they are across the country on average.

Despite the state’s population growing by a relatively high 18.4% rate over the last decade, Wyoming remains the least populated state in the country.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
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26. Pennsylvania
> 10-yr. population growth: 6.9% (14th lowest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 5.8% (6th highest)
> Poverty rate: 13.2% (21st lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.3 years (23rd lowest)

As of this October, 5.8% of Pennsylvania’s labor force was unemployed, the sixth highest jobless rate of all states. Several other socioeconomic measures in the state suggest the quality of life for Pennsylvanians is slightly better or in line with that of most Americans. For example, Pennsylvania’s poverty rate of 13.2% is just under the national rate of 14.7%, and the typical Pennsylvania household earns $55,702 annually, in line with the national median household income of $55,775.