America’s Best States to Live In

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20. Oregon
> 10-yr. population change: +10.6% (17th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.9% (tied — 20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 13.3% (tied — 24th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (17th longest)

Oregon’s population is among the most likely in the country to feel unwell. State residents report feeling physically unwell an average of 4.4 days every month, and say they feel mentally unhealthy 4.6 days a month. These are the sixth and third most unhealthy days, respectively, in the country. Still, state residents have among the easiest access to care. The state has among the highest concentrations of primary care physicians, dentists, and mental health providers of any state.

Crime conditions in the state are somewhat uneven. The state’s violent crime rate of 264 incidents for every 100,000 residents is below average, while the property crime rate of nearly 3,000 cases per 100,000 people annually is well above the national average.

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19. Illinois
> 10-yr. population change: -0.2% (3rd largest decline)
> Annual unemployment: 5.9% (6th highest)
> Poverty rate: 13.0% (24th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.2 years (24th longest)

Adults in Illinois are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree than the typical American adult. Additionally, state residents are less likely to live in poverty than Americans nationwide. Despite such favorable conditions, the state’s annual jobless rate of 5.9% in 2016 was well above the nationwide 4.9% unemployment rate. Additionally, crime in parts of Chicago is far higher than average, contributing to the state’s higher than average violent crime rate of 436 incidents per 100,000 residents.

The high crime and unemployment levels may be driving people out of the state. Over the past decade, the state’s population contracted by 0.2%, making Illinois one of only a handful of states to report a 10-year net population decline.

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18. Alaska
> 10-yr. population change: +10.7% (15th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 6.6% (2nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 9.9% (tied — 6th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.8 years (23rd shortest)

High household wealth can positively affect quality of life in an area, and Alaska is one of the most affluent states in the country. The typical household earns $76,440 a year, second in the country only to Maryland. Other factors also speak to high livability in the state, including a low poverty rate as well as high levels of physical activity among residents.

However, Alaska not only falls short in other measures on this list, but ranks among the worst. Of perhaps greatest concern are the state’s crime rates — Alaska has the third highest property crime rate and the highest violent crime rate, at 3,353 and 804 incidents per 100,000 residents, respectively. The premature death rate in the state is higher than that of the nation. Alaska also has the second highest annual unemployment rate in the country, at 6.6%.

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17. North Dakota
> 10-yr. population change: +19.2% (2nd largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 3.2% (tied — 4th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.7% (10th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (18th longest)

North Dakota is the fastest growing state in the country after only Utah. In the last decade, North Dakota’s population expanded by 19.2%, more than double the U.S. population growth of 7.9% over the same period. The state’s strong population growth can largely be ascribed to a strong job market, which has been boosted by the state’s recent energy boom. Only 2.4% of the state’s labor force were out of a job in September, the lowest unemployment rate of any state. Strong economic conditions in the state have led to widespread financial prosperity. The typical household in North Dakota earns $60,656 annually, for example, about $3,000 more than the typical American household.

On the other hand, the state may have an alcohol problem. Approximately 25% of adults report regular, excessive drinking, the highest percentage of all states.

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16. Nebraska
> 10-yr. population change: +7.8% (24th smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 3.2% (tied — 4th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.4% (15th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (20th longest)

Steady employment is essential to maintaining a minimum standard quality of life. In 2016, just 3.2% of Nebraska’s labor force was looking for a job, tied for the fourth lowest annual jobless rate among states. Compared to most of the states that rank as better places to live, goods and services are also relatively inexpensive in the state, costing 91 cents on the dollar on average compared to prices nationwide.

Nebraskans also happen to feel healthier than residents of most states. On average, state residents report feeling physically unwell 3 days a month and feeling mentally unwell a similar amount, the fifth and third lowest periods nationwide, respectively. Other health metrics point to potential problems. More than 20% of adults drink excessively, for example, which could contribute to the relatively high alcohol-related driving fatality rate. More than 35% of driving deaths in the state involve alcohol, the ninth highest percentage of all states.