America’s Best States to Live In

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15. California
> 10-yr. population change: +7.7% (23rd smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 5.4% (tied — 9th highest)
> Poverty rate: 14.3% (20th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.9 years (2nd longest)

Life expectancy at birth is 80.9 years in California, the longest of any state with the exception of Hawaii. Long lives in the state are largely the product of healthy lifestyles. Adults in California are more likely to be physically active and less likely to be obese than the typical American adult. Amenities in the state support healthy lifestyles. Nearly 94% of the state’s population has easy access to venues for physical activity like parks and recreation centers — the fourth largest share among states.

The most populous state in the country, the social and economic picture in California is especially complex. Though a larger than typical share of adults in the state have at least a bachelor’s degree at 32.9%, only 82.4% of adults have a high school diploma, the smallest share of any state. California also struggles with higher than average unemployment and crime rates.

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14. Rhode Island
> 10-yr. population change: -1.0% (2nd largest decline)
> Annual unemployment: 5.3% (tied — 13th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.8% (22nd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.7 years (14th longest)

While it ranks as one of the better states to live, Rhode Island is far from perfect. For example, it has the highest annual unemployment rate in New England at 5.3%, which is higher than the national unemployment rate of 4.9%. Also, the state’s population has actually declined by 1% over a 10-year period. Rhode Island is one of just two states to lose people over the past decade, even as the national population increased by 7.9%.

There are, however, aspects of the state’s quality of life that make up for its shortcomings. For example, Rhode Islanders are less likely to die prematurely and more likely to earn more than the typical American. Goods and services in the state are also less expensive than average prices nationwide.

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13. New York
> 10-yr. population change: +2.3% (7th smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.8% (tied — 24th highest)
> Poverty rate: 14.7% (tied — 16th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.5 years (6th longest)

New York may be a great place to live for many, but the quality of life varies considerably in the state at least by one important measure — income. Those in the 80th percentile of income in the state earn 5.6 times the income those in the 20th percentile in the state earn. This is the second highest level of income inequality in the country. The state also has a poverty rate of 14.7%, the highest of any state on this half of the list.

For those who do not live in poverty, New York appears to offer a relatively high quality of life. The typical household earns about $5,000 more than the typical American household. New York also has a high bachelor’s degree attainment rate among adults and nearly the longest life expectancy of any state population.

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12. Utah
> 10-yr. population change: +19.7% (the largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 3.4% (8th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.2% (7th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.9 years (11th longest)

Over the past decade, Utah’s population expanded by 19.7%, the largest growth of any state. Many Americans move to where they can find work, and Utah’s strong economy may help explain the influx of new residents. The state’s annual unemployment rate of 3.4% ranks among the lowest nationwide, and many of those working in the state are well compensated. The typical household in Utah earns $65,977 a year, about $8,400 more than the typical American household. Additionally, only 10.2% of Utah’s residents live in poverty, well below the 14.0% U.S. poverty rate.

Raising children as a single parent can increase the risk of a range of health problems of both parent and child. In Utah, only 12.8% of children live with only one parent, nearly the smallest share of any state.

11. Vermont
> 10-yr. population change: +0.1% (the smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 3.3% (tied — 6th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.9% (19th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.8 years (12th longest)

At $57,677 a year, the median household income in Vermont is roughly in line with the median income nationwide. Though incomes are comparable, Vermonters are far less likely than most Americans to face serious financial hardship. An estimated 11.9% of Vermont residents live in poverty, a smaller share than the 14.0% share of Americans.

Better-educated populations are less likely to struggle financially, and In Vermont, 36.4% of adults have earned a bachelor’s degree and 92.1% have completed college — each among the 10 highest comparable attainment rates of any state. Vermont residents also benefit from low unemployment and low crime rates.