The Best and Worst Thing About Each State

September 18, 2018 by Mike Sauter

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Residents of every state have at least one aspect of their home they can brag about, but also one they would probably rather forget.

New York state residents may gloat about the fact that the state has the highest-paid public school teachers, but probably wouldn’t want to broadcast that state workers have the longest average commutes. Alaskans are probably happy to live in a state with wide-open spaces, but they are likely less proud of the state’s nation-worst unemployment rate. Idahoans no doubt are proud of their potato production, but also are probably unhappy about their state’s high risk of wildfires.

Not all states are created equal. Some are home to major metropolises rich with culture and commerce. Others are blessed with natural resources, beautiful natural monuments, parks, and waterways. Some states have healthy populations; in others, important historical events unfolded, while highly positive social or economic factors are the main attraction of others.

The other side of this coin is that some states are devoid of resources or culture. In some states, the populations are struggling due to poor economic conditions or pollution. The histories of some states include events residents would prefer to be forgotten. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed many data sets and state facts to identify the best and worst features of every state.

Click here to see the best and worst thing about each state.

Correction: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Michigan borders two of the Great Lakes. In fact, it borders four.

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Alabama
Best: America’s best college football program

The University of Alabama has won 17 national football championships, including the 2017 title, and is No. 1 again this year.

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Alabama
Worst: nobody walks anywhere

Just 1.2% of Alabamians walk to work, the lowest rate in the country, and less than half the national rate.

Source: Lance King / Getty Images

Alaska
Best: wide open spaces

There are just 1.2 people per square mile in Alaska.The next lowest density state, Wyoming, has a density of 5.8 people per square mile, while the United States has 87.4 people per square mile.

Source: Andrew Burton / Getty Images

Alaska
Worst: high unemployment

Alaska’s 2017 unemployment rate of 7.2% is well ahead of the 4.4% national rate and a full percentage point higher than the next highest state.

Source: Meinzahn / iStock

Arizona
Best: The Grand Canyon

What is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep? America’s greatest natural wonder, the Grand Canyon.

Source: Ralph Freso / Getty Images

Arizona
Worst: it is very hot

In Phoenix and Tucson, the nation’s hottest cities, normal mid-summer temperatures are at least 100 degrees.

Source: BlazenImages / Getty Images

Arkansas
Best: Ozark Mountains

The picturesque Ozarks owe their name to French explorers. The name is derived from the French phrase “aux arcs,” the northernmost bend in the Mississippi River.

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Source: Jennifer R. Trotter / iStock

Arkansas
Worst: fewest broadband users

Just 73% of Arkansas households have access to a broadband internet connection and all the resources it can connect them to.

Source: Andreas Rentz / Getty Images

California
Best: lowest gender pay gap

California women make 89 cents for every dollar a man makes — certainly not perfect, but a higher rate than in any other state.

Source: David McNew / Newsmakers / Getty Images

California
Worst: lowest high school attainment

Roughly one in six Californians have not finished high school, the highest rate in the country.

Source: larn / iStock

Colorado
Best: least obese

Just 20.5% of Colorado adults are considered obese. Most states have obesity rates well over 25%.

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Colorado
Worst: into thin air

Colorado has an average altitude close to 7,000 feet above sea level, which means that it can be harder to breathe for those who aren’t acclimated. The “Mile High City” of Denver has an estimated 17% less oxygen.

Source: Joe Robbins / Getty Images

Connecticut
Best: UConn basketball teams

The women’s and men’s basketball teams at the University of Connecticut have won 15 national championships between them. In March 2018, though, the women’s team had its 36-game winning streak snapped by Notre Dame in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament.

Source: Thinkstock

Connecticut
Worst: most expensive electricity in lower 48

Connecticut is the only mainland U.S. state in which residents pay, on average, over 20 cents per kilowatt hour of electricity.

Source: gnagel / iStock

Delaware
Best: tax haven

More companies are incorporated in Delaware than in any other state. Over 60% of Fortune 500 companies are based in Delaware.

Source: Harry Collins / iStock

Delaware
Worst: blink and you’ll miss it

Delaware has no real identity — it has no major cities and is overshadowed by the sprawling metropolises of Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

Source: felixmizioznikov / iStock

Florida
Best: not falling apart

According to an index of structurally deficient bridges, hazardous dams, and unserviceable roads, Florida has the safest infrastructure in the nation.

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Florida
Worst: fewest libraries per capita

It may be tough for Floridians, especially children, to become avid readers as the Sunshine State has fewer libraries per person than any other state.

Source: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration / Wikimedia Commons

Georgia
Best: birth of civil rights movement

Georgia is the birthplace of both the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King Jr.

Source: Erik S. Lesser / Getty Images

Georgia
Worst: bad traffic on highways, particularly Atlanta

Atlanta’s “Spaghetti Junction” was ranked worst by the American Transportation Research Institute in its listing of the Top 100 Truck Bottlenecks in the U.S.

Source: ImagineGolf / iStock

Hawaii
Best: longest life expectancy

The island lifestyle may have unknown benefits, as Hawaii residents are the only ones in the country with an average life expectancy of 81 years.

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Hawaii
Worst: Least sleep

Experts recommend that adults get at least seven hours of sleep per night, but 44.7% of Hawaiians fail to meet that threshold.

Source: EyeShutterToThinkPhotography / iStock

Idaho
Best: Potatoes

Idaho’s soil is ideal for growing potatoes, and the state famously produces more of the crop than any other state.

Source: RCKeller / iStock

Idaho
Worst: most destruction due to wildfires

Between 2008 and 2017, most states had less than 1% of their land damaged by wildfires. In Idaho, 10.6% of the land was burned — accounting for nearly 5.6 million acres.

Source: MichaelHeimlich / iStock

Illinois
Best: quality education

Illinois is home to many of the country’s top-ranking public schools.

Source: Chanawat Phadwichit / iStock

Illinois
Worst: city of rats

Chicago was rated as the rat capital of the world in 2017, with more than 50,000 complaints about rats filed.

Source: Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Indiana
Best: a city that likes to go fast

The state capital of Indianapolis is arguably more connected with motor sport racing than anywhere in the country. The Indianapolis 500 race is considered one of the biggest single-day events in sports.

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Source: rcyoung / iStock

Indiana
Worst: a less than comfortable retirement

Indiana is one of only two states with an average retirement income of less than $20,000.

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

Iowa
Best: recession-proof

Iowa has had a remarkably stable economy over the years. While national unemployment rose above 10% after the housing crisis, Iowa unemployment topped out at 6.6%. Since January 2008, the state’s unemployment has averaged at 4.6%, one of the lowest of any state.

Source: Jacqueline Nix / iStock

Iowa
Worst: a bad place to bike

According to a recent report, Iowa is the least safe state to bike, as five of the 10 most dangerous cities to bike are in the state.

Source: booker5m / iStock

Kansas
Best: fewest roads in poor condition

Less than 1% of Kansas roads are deemed unserviceable, the lowest share of any state.

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Kansas
Worst: perhaps the most geographically boring state

Kansas is flat and geographically homogeneous. Driving through the state can put many to sleep.

Source: Chris Graythen / Getty Images

Kentucky
Best: horse breeding and racing

Home to the Kentucky Derby, the state is known for breeding and raising horses. Its famous bluegrass is ideal for horse pasture because it is considered nutritious and palatable for the animals.

Source: Courtesy of the American Cancer Society via Getty Images

Kentucky
Worst: highest cancer mortality

There were 512 cancer diagnoses and 196 cancer deaths per 100,000 Kentucky residents in 2015 — both are the highest rates in the nation.

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Louisiana
Best: least expensive electricity

Louisiana residents pay less per kilowatt hour of electricity than those in all other states.

Source: Daisy-Daisy / iStock

Louisiana
Worst: largest gender pay gap

American women make just over 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. In Louisiana, female workers make less than 69 cents on the dollar.

Source: krblokhin / iStock

Maine
Best: lowest violent crime rate

Maine ranks as the safest state in the country, as there were just 124 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 residents — less than a third of the national rate.

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Maine
Worst: least diverse

According to the latest Census data, 94.4% of Maine’s population is white, beating out nearby Vermont and New Hampshire as the least diverse states.

Source: qingwa / iStock

Maryland
Best: highest median household Income

Maryland residents are the most affluent in the country, with a median household income of $80,776 — more than $20,000 higher than the U.S. median.

Source: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Maryland
Worst: murder in Baltimore

There were over 50 murders committed in Baltimore per 100,000 residents last year, the highest murder rate among cities with a population of at least 100,000.

Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Massachusetts
Best: highest health insurance coverage

At 97.2%, Massachusetts has a higher share of residents with health insurance than anywhere else in the country.

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Source: Doug Pensinger / Getty Images

Massachusetts
Worst: Boston sports fans

Some may find Boston sports fans insufferable because their professional teams win frequently. It’s about to get worse. The Red Sox have already won 100 games and have their sights set on winning the World Series. The Patriots are primed to extend their streak of consecutive winning seasons to an NFL-record of 18 wins.

Source: csterken / iStock

Michigan
Best: Great Lakes

Michigan borders four of the Great Lakes, and has miles of beautiful shoreline to visit.

Source: Brett Carlsen / Getty Images

Michigan
Worst: Detroit and Flint, the two worst cities to live in

According to a 24/7 Wall St. index of crime, economy, education, environment, health, housing, infrastructure, and leisure, Detroit and Flint are the worst cities in the U.S. to reside in.

Source: Elsa / Getty Images

Minnesota
Best: lowest premature mortality

Minnesota residents are the most likely to live into old age, with a U.S.-low premature mortality rate. Just 263 state residents per 100,000 die before turning 75.

Source: Desja / iStock

Minnesota
Worst: lowest average winter temperatures

In the land of 10,000 lakes, you can bet almost all of them are frozen in winter. Minnesota has the lowest annual average temperature in the contiguous United States.

Source: Scott Olson / Getty Images

Mississippi
Best: Mississippi Delta, birthplace of the blues

Many American genres owe their origins to the blues, which were developed in the Mississippi River delta.

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Source: Spencer Platt / Getty Images

Mississippi
Worst: highest poverty rate

Those who live in Mississippi are more likely to be impoverished than residents of any other state. Some 19.8% of state residents earn incomes at or below the poverty line..

Source: ramonailumuscom / iStock

Missouri
Best: Kansas City and St. Louis Barbecue

Folks in Kansas City and St. Louis will put their barbecue up against offerings from Texas or North Carolina.

Source: Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Missouri
Worst: flooding

Author Mark Twain immortalized life on the Mississippi River, but for MIssouri residents, the waterway can be deadly. Some of the worst floods in American history are due to the Mississippi’s fury.

Source: jshontz / Flickr

Montana
Best: High school attainment

Montana has one of the highest high school attainment rates in the country among adults.

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Montana
Worst: Dangerous roads

Montana has among the highest driving fatality rate in the country, likely in part due to long drives on dangerous, remote country roads.

Source: Thinkstock

Nebraska
Best: officially nonpartisan legislature

Nebraska has the only unicameral — or single chamber — legislature in the country.

Source: woodleywonderworks / Wikimedia Commons

Nebraska
Worst: lowest state pre-k spending

Among the states that offer pre-kindergarten programs, Nebraska is the only one that spends less than $2,000 per child in state funding.

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Nevada
Best: lowest skin cancer rate

Even though it is hot and sunny in Nevada, its residents are less likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer than those in any other state.

Source: Maica / Getty Images

Nevada
Worst: Least Literate State

According to a 24/7 Wall St. index of reading skills, educational attainment, and library prevalence, Nevada ranks as the least literate state in the U.S.

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New Hampshire
Best: healthiest senior citizens

Some 83.2% of older adults in New Hampshire reported being in either good, very good, or excellent health — a higher share than all other states.

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Source: Thinkstock

New Hampshire
Worst: high property taxes

New Hampshire, which once had a reputation as among the most fiscally conservative states, assesses the second-highest property taxes in the nation.

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New Jersey
Best: highest state Pre-K spending

New Jersey spends over $12,000 per child enrolled in pre-kindergarten programs. No other state spends even $10,000 per child for pre-k.

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New Jersey
Worst: Most hazardous waste sites

Although New Jersey is one of the smaller states, it has 114 hazardous waste sites, the most of any in the country.

Source: Bet_Noire / iStock

New Mexico
Best: lowest average monthly energy bill

Power bills can be frustrating, but typically less so for New Mexico residents. The average state resident paid just $75.96 per month for energy in 2016.

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New Mexico
Worst: worst chance for school success

According to Education Week’s Quality Counts 2018 report, New Mexico children have just a 67% chance at success, meaning education does poorly in promoting positive outcomes over the course of an individual’s schooling.

Source: Chris Hondros / Newsmakers

New York
Best: highest paid public school teachers

New York public school teachers earn a U.S.-best median of $79,152, nearly $2,000 higher than the next state.

Source: B&M Noskowski / Getty Images

New York
Worst: longest average commute

The typical New York resident who commutes to work every day spends 34 minutes in their vehicles, or in public transit, the longest commute of any state.

Source: hmarvinaverett / Getty Images

North Carolina
Best: The Outer Banks

The Outer Banks, home to America’s first colony and where the first manned flight took off, are a tourist mecca because of their beaches, state parks, and shipwreck diving sites.

Source: Joe_Potato / iStock

North Carolina
Worst: evictions all too common

North Carolina has one of the highest rates of evictions in the country.

Source: Thinkstock

North Dakota
Best: oil boom

North Dakota’s economy has been through a boom period, thanks in part due to the development of the Bakken shale oil formation. Between 2011 and 2016, state GDP rose by roughly 25%.

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Source: Andrew Filer / Flickr

North Dakota
Worst: recent GDP decline

While GDP is up over five years, stalled oil prices have resulted in a recent decline in North Dakota’s economy. In the last year, state GDP has declined by almost 5%, the largest GDP decline.

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Ohio
Best: lowest projected Alzheimer’s increase

The number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to increase by just 13.5% between 2018 and 2025, the smallest increase of any state.

Source: Corey B. Stevens / iStock

Ohio
Worst: worst air pollution

Ohio has the highest average concentration of fine particulate pollution of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

Oklahoma
Best: excellent Pre-K

Oklahoma has one of the more comprehensive Pre-K programs in the country. It is one of only three states to mandate Pre-K for all four year olds.

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Oklahoma
Worst: smallest improvement in life expectancy

Life expectancy has improved across the country over the past few decades, but Oklahoma had the smallest improvement. Life expectancy at birth in the state increased by just 3.8% since 1980. Oklahoma’s current life expectancy is the fifth lowest among states.

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Oregon
Best: most environmentally friendly

According to a 24/7 Wall St. index, Oregon ranks as the most environmentally friendly in the country.

Source: Thinkstock

Oregon
Worst: homelessness is a serious problem

Soaring rents have contributed to Oregon’s homelessness problem. In some counties, homelessness has risen by more than 100%.

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Pennsylvania
Best: cheesesteak sandwich

Debate raged about the best maker of the Philadelphia delicacy, but the sandwich is popular enough to be made all across the country.

Source: LordRunar / Getty Images

Pennsylvania
Worst: highest gas tax

Pennsylvania has the highest gas tax in the country, at 58.7 cents per gallon.

Source: UpstateNYer / Wikimedia Commons

Rhode Island
Best: mansions of the rich and famous

You can see vestiges of the Gilded Age at estates such as the Breakers in Newport.

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Source: John Phelan / Wikimedia Commons

Rhode Island
Worst: falling apart

In 24/ Wall St.’s infrastructure index, Rhode Island rated the worst for the combined quality of its roads, bridges and other infrastructure.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

South Carolina
Best: Charleston one of best cities to travel

Tourists are beguiled by the antebellum charms of Charleston, annually ranked as one of the best U.S. cities according to Travel + Leisure magazine.

Source: Thinkstock

South Carolina
Worst: highest average monthly energy bill

South Carolinians pay an estimated $146 on average on their monthly energy bill, the highest in the country and more than double that of some states.

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South Dakota
Best: most sleep

Just 28.8% of South Dakota adults report getting insufficient sleep every night, the lowest share of any state, and well below the 36.5% of Americans who do.

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Source: Thinkstock

South Dakota
Worst: poorly paid teachers

The average salary for a public school teacher in the state is just $42,025 per year, the lowest of any state.

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Tennessee
Best: a city of music

Known as Music City, Nashville is home to one of the most vibrant music scenes of any city. And Elvis Presley himself called Memphis, which also has a strong music community, home.

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Tennessee
Worst: a violent crime problem

Tennessee has one of the highest violent crime rates of any state, and Memphis, the second largest city in the state, has the third highest violent crime rate in the country.

Source: Thinkstock

Texas
Best: energy production

Oil produced in Texas accounts for about 30% of the nation’s oil-refining capacity. A recent surge in oil prices is serving as a tailwind for the Texas economy.

Source: Thinkstock

Texas
Worst: lowest health insurance coverage

Just 82.7% of Texas’ population has health insurance coverage, the lowest share of any state. The national civilian health insurance coverage rate is 91.3%.

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Utah
Best: fewest smokers

Just 8.8% of Utah adults report smoking, the lowest share of any state.

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Utah
Worst: highest skin cancer rate

Utah has by far the highest rate of reported new cases of skin cancer among both men and women.

Source: Thinkstock

Vermont
Best: most doctors per capita

There are 112 primary care physicians per capita in Vermont, the most of any state in the U.S.

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Vermont
Worst: opioid epidemic

In 2014, the opioid crisis became so bad in Vermont that the state declared an emergency.

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Virginia
Best: home of the most U.S. presidents

Virginia is the birthplace of eight presidents — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Woodrow Wilson — more than other state.

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Virginia
Worst: bad state for sports fans

Virginia is the 11th most populous state, but does not have a single team in the NHL, NBA, MLB, or NFL.

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Washington
Best: highest one-year GDP growth

Washington’s GDP grew by nearly 4% in 2016, higher growth than in any other state.

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Washington
Worst: rain, rain, rain

Seattle doesn’t quite as much total rainfall as its reputation suggests compared with many other American cities, but it rains often — 152 days a year.

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West Virginia
Best: Fewest excessive drinkers

While some parts of West Virginia face addiction problems, that does not extend to alcohol. According to the latest CDC figures, less than 12% of state adults drink to excess, which is the lowest share among states.

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West Virginia
Worst: most smokers

Almost one in four West Virginian adults smoke, the highest share in the country.

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Wisconsin
Best: cheese

If you had any doubt that Wisconsin is the center of the cheese universe, this next fact should put it to rest. In August 2018, a cheese board with 4,437 pounds of fromage graced a Madison, Wisconsin, street to set a Guinness World Record.

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Wisconsin
Worst: most excessive drinkers

Over one in four Wisconsin adults drink to excess, which is the highest share of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

Wyoming
Best: Yellowstone

Almost all of Yellowstone National Park, one of the most beautiful places in the country, can be found in the northwest corner of Wyoming.

Source: Thinkstock

Wyoming
Worst: unequal representation

Just 11.1% of state senate and legislature seats are occupied by women, the smallest share of any state.