Special Report

America's Best States to Live In

Iowa farmland, corn
Source: Thinkstock

25. Iowa
> 10-yr. population growth: 9.1% (19th lowest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 4.1% (15th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.2% (17th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.0 years (20th highest)

By many measures, quality of life in Iowa is representative of the country as a whole. The state’s median household income of $54,736 a year is only about $1,000 less than the corresponding median nationwide. Similarly, life expectancy at birth in Iowa is 79 years, approximately in line with the U.S. average life expectancy.

Despite some significant similarities, Iowans are far less likely to have a four-year college education than most Americans. The state’s 26.8% bachelor’s degree attainment rate trails the national rate by nearly 4 percentage points.

Corvallis, Oregon
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24. Oregon
> 10-yr. population growth: 13.2% (22nd highest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 5.3% (13th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.4% (17th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.1 years (17th highest)

Personal wealth can contribute significantly to quality of life, and homeownership can be a practical way to build wealth. With relatively low incomes and very high home values, however, homes may be prohibitively expensive for many Oregon residents. While the median home value in the state is over a quarter million dollars, nearly $70,000 more than the typical American home, incomes across the state are lower than average. The typical Oregon household earns $54,148 a year, about $1,600 less than the typical American household. Likely as a result, homeownership is slightly less common in Oregon than it is across the country.

Despite lower incomes, both the state’s bachelor’s degree attainment rate and average life expectancy are slightly higher than the corresponding nationwide figures.

Portland Fishing Harbour at Sunset, Maine
Source: Thinkstock

23. Maine
> 10-yr. population growth: 3.6% (4th lowest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 4.0% (13th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.4% (22nd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.7 years (23rd highest)

High crime rates can significantly detract from overall quality of life, and in Maine violent crime is very uncommon. There are only 130 violent crimes a year in the state for every 100,000 residents, less than half the corresponding average violent crime rate nationwide. People in Maine are also less likely to live in poverty than most Americans. Only 13.4% of state residents live at or below the poverty line, a considerably smaller share than the 14.7% of Americans who do nationwide. The state’s average life expectancy at birth and share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree are roughly in line with the corresponding national figures.

New Castle County, Delaware
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22. Delaware
> 10-yr. population growth: 15.6% (15th highest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 4.3% (19th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.4% (18th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.1 years (20th lowest)

For families who own land and their home, property values make up a substantial portion of wealth. In Delaware, 70.8% of housing units are owned by their occupants, nearly the highest homeownership rate of any state. High homeownership in a population is usually due to either very high incomes or very low home values and the median household income in Delaware of $61,255 a year is well above the national median income.

The state’s share of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree and average life expectancy at birth are similar to that of the nation.

Wichita, Kansas
Source: Thinkstock

21. Kansas
> 10-yr. population growth: 9.4% (20th lowest)
> Oct. unemployment rate: 4.4% (21st lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.0% (20th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.2 years (22nd lowest)

Incomes in Kansas are slightly lower than they are across the country as whole. The typical household in the state earns $53,906 a year, about $1,900 less than the typical American household. Still, likely due in part to a relatively low cost of living, the state’s poverty rate is only 13.0%, substantially lower than the 14.7% national poverty rate.

In measures of health outcomes and educational attainment, Kansas closely mirrors the country as a whole. Life expectancy at birth in Kansas is 78.2 years, roughly in line with life expectancy nationwide. Additionally, 31.7% of adults in the state have at least a bachelor’s degree, only about 1 percentage point higher than is typical nationwide.