America’s Best States to Live In

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45. Arkansas
> 10-yr. population change: +6.0% (19th smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 3.7% (18th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 16.4% (7th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.2 years (6th shortest)

The median household income in Arkansas of $45,869 per year is well below the national figure of $60,336 per year and is the third lowest of all states. The cost of living is lower in Arkansas, with goods and services costing 13.1% less than they do on average nationwide. However, this is often not enough to offset the state’s low incomes as 16.4% of the population lives in poverty, more than the national rate of 13.4%.

Those who earn low incomes are less likely to be able to afford medical care. In Arkansas, 24.5% of adults report they are in poor health, the highest share in the nation. In addition, adults in Arkansas report a relatively high number of physically and mentally unhealthy days per month of about five for each — both the second most days of all states.

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44. Oklahoma
> 10-yr. population change: +8.7% (22nd largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.3% (23rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.8% (8th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.1 years (5th shortest)

Oklahoma has one of the lower statewide life expectancies at 76.1 years, which contributes to its ranking as the seventh worst state in which to live. In recent years, no state’s life expectancy has grown at a slower pace. From 1980 to 2014, Oklahoma’s life expectancy increased just 3.4%, a full percentage point behind the next lowest increase, which was in Arkansas.

Oklahoma households tend to have significantly lower incomes than the typical American household. The state’s median household income of $50,051 a year is more than $10,000 below the U.S. median household income. Better-educated workers are more likely to earn high salaries, but Oklahoma’s bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 25.5% is one of the lowest nationwide.

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43. New Mexico
> 10-yr. population change: +6.0% (20th smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 6.2% (2nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.7% (2nd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.4 years (17th shortest)

New Mexico has the second highest violent crime rate among states, as well as the highest property crime rate. The state’s high crime levels may be inhibiting economic development and could be a contributing factor in the state’s high unemployment rate. As of 2017, 6.2% of the workforce in New Mexico was unemployed, the second highest annual unemployment rate in the nation. New Mexico also has the highest share of families making less than $10,000 a year, at 6.6%, roughly double the national share of 3.8%. The poverty rate in the state of 19.7% also exceeds the national rate of 13.4%. It is the second highest poverty rate of all states.

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42. Tennessee
> 10-yr. population change: +9.1% (21st largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 3.7% (18th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 15.0% (10th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.3 years (8th shortest)

Adults in Tennessee are among the least active in the United States. Some 30.1% of adults say they do not exercise in their leisure time, the third highest rate among states and well above the U.S. rate of 23.0%. Adults who do not exercise are much more likely to be obese, and Tennessee also has one of the nation’s higher obesity rates, at 32.4%. Obese people are at higher risk of life-threatening conditions like heart disease and stroke. These health factors help explain Tennessee’s low life expectancy of 76.3 years, the eighth-shortest among states.

While crime is not part of the index, Tennessee’s high violent crime rate also affects quality of life in the state. There are 651.5 violent crimes per 100,000 state residents annually, much higher than the U.S. violent crime rate of 382.9 per 100,000.

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41. South Carolina
> 10-yr. population change: +14.0% (9th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.3% (23rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 15.4% (9th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.9 years (9th shortest)

Property crime is a serious issue in South Carolina. There were 3,195 property crimes for every 100,000 state residents in 2017, the fourth highest property crime rate of any state. The median household income is also relatively low in South Carolina, at $50,570 per year, the ninth lowest income among states and well below the national figure of $60,336.

Additionally, the state’s poverty rate of 15.4% is above the national poverty rate of 13.4% and is the ninth highest rate among all states. However, these socioeconomic drawbacks do not appear to be deterring newcomers to the state. In the past 10 years, the population grew by 14.0%, a much faster population growth rate than the U.S. population growth rate of 8.0%.