America’s Best States to Live In

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35. Missouri
> 10-yr. population change: +4.3% (12th smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.5% (22nd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.0% (22nd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.6 years (12th shortest)

Unhealthy behaviors in Missouri likely contribute to a high mortality rate and other negative health outcomes in the state. Some 22.3% of adults in the state smoke and 25.0% do not exercise regularly, each some of the largest shares in the country. Roughly 386 in every 100,000 Missouri residents die before the age of 75,the 11th highest premature mortality rate.

Crime is also relatively prevalent in Missouri. Largely concentrated in St. Louis, Missouri’s violent crime rate is one of the highest of any state. There were 519 violent crimes reported per 100,000 Missouri residents in 2016, far more than the national rate of 397 incidents per 100,000 Americans.

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34. North Carolina
> 10-yr. population change: +14.6% (8th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 5.1% (tied — 16th highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.4% (13th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.9 years (14th shortest)

North Carolina lags behind the nation as a whole in a few critical socioeconomic measures. For example, the median household income in North Carolina is only $50,584 a year, considerably lower than the $57,617 median income nationwide. Additionally, a larger than typical share of state residents face serious financial hardship. Some 15.4% of North Carolina’s population live in poverty compared to 14.0% of Americans. These could be the result of both slightly lower educational attainment rate — 30.4% of adults in the state have a bachelor’s degree compared 31.3% of adults nationwide — and a higher unemployment rate of 5.1% compared to 4.9% nationally.

Still, Americans appear to be flocking to the Tar Heel State. In the last decade, North Carolina’s population grew by 14.6% — nearly double the U.S. population growth of 7.9%.

33. Texas
> 10-yr. population change: +18.5% (3rd largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.6% (23rd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 15.6% (12th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.6 years (20th shortest)

On an individual basis, a basic level of education is the foundation for a healthy, financially stable life. In Texas, only 82.9% of adults have earned a high school diploma, the second smallest share among states. Many state residents face further obstacles to a healthy life as some 16.3% of Lone Star State residents are without health insurance, the highest uninsured rate of any state. Currently, some 19.3% of adults in Texas report being in fair or poor health, a considerably higher share than the 15.0% of Americans who report being similar health.

While Texas lags behind most states in some measures of educational attainment and health, it is does not appear to be struggling to attract new residents. In the last decade, the population of Texas grew by 18.5%, third fastest after North Dakota and Utah.

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32. Arizona
> 10-yr. population change: +12.4% (12th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 5.3% (tied — 13th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.4% (8th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.6 years (16th longest)

Arizona struggles more than most states from economic and social instability. An estimated 16.4% of state residents live in poverty, a larger share than in all but seven states and well above the U.S. poverty rate of 14.0%. The incidence of violent crime can severely diminish quality of life for individuals exposed to it. In Arizona, there were 470 violent crimes and 2,978 property crimes for every 100,000 state residents in 2016, well above the respective nationwide crime rates of 397 and 2,451 for every 100,000 Americans.

High crime rates can stifle economic growth, and in Arizona joblessness is relatively common. Some 5.3% of the state’s labor force was out of a job in 2016 compared to 4.9% of the U.S. workforce.

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31. Idaho
> 10-yr. population change: +14.8% (7th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 3.8% (11th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.4% (19th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.2 years (23rd longest)

People with a college degree tend to live longer, healthier lives and are more likely to avoid serious financial hardship than people without a college degree. In Idaho, only 27.6% the adult population have earned a bachelor’s degree, a smaller share than the 31.3% of American adults. This might explain in part why poverty is slightly more common in Idaho than it is nationwide. Some 14.4% of state residents live in poverty compared to 14.0% of Americans. Still, despite the smaller than typical college educated population and slightly higher poverty, life expectancy in Idaho is 79.2 years, slightly longer than the average life expectancy nationwide of 78.9 years.