Special Report

America's Best States to Live In

Source: Ken Lund / Flickr

35. North Carolina
> 10-yr. population change: +13.4% (10th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.6% (17th highest)
> Poverty rate: 14.7% (13th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.9 years (13th shortest)

North Carolina’s population has grown significantly in the past decade. The Tar Heel State has witnessed a 13.4% population increase over the last 10 years, a faster growth rate than the national population growth rate of just 8.0%. However, North Carolina falls behind in a few socioeconomic indicators — in comparison with nationwide measures and some other states. For example, the state’s median annual household income of $52,752 is lower than the national figure of $60,336 a year, and 14.7% of the population lives in poverty, which surpasses the national poverty rate of 13.4%.

Life expectancy also falls short in North Carolina. If born today, an individual in the state is projected to live to nearly 78 years, one of the shorter life expectancies nationwide. The Chlamydia rate is also abnormally high in the state, at roughly 647 cases per every 100,000 people, the third highest rate among all states. Burglary is also an issue, with about 630 home break ins per 100,000 residents, the eighth highest burglary rate in the country.

Source: Thinkstock

34. Michigan
> 10-yr. population change: -1.1% (the largest decline)
> Annual unemployment: 4.6% (17th highest)
> Poverty rate: 14.2% (15th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.3 years (16th shortest)

Michigan’s population is declining at a faster rate than any other state. Michigan and Illinois are the only two states where the population has decreased since 2007. The population declined by more than 100,000 people in the last 10 years. Declining population is often a sign of poor economic and social conditions.

Michigan residents are more likely to be unemployed or live in poverty than the typical American. The state’s poverty rate is 14.2%, the fifteenth highest in the country. The state also has one of the lower median household incomes in the country. At $54,909 a year, the typical Michigan household earns more than $5,000 less than the typical American household.

Source: Thinkstock

33. Texas
> 10-yr. population change: +18.4% (the largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.3% (23rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 14.7% (13th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.5 years (19th shortest)

Most Americans get their health insurance through their employer. Even though Texas has one of the lower unemployment rates in the country, it has the largest share of uninsured residents. Of the state’s adult population, 17.3% have no health insurance, nearly double the U.S. uninsured rate. Texans could also struggle to find medical care, as there are just 61 doctors per 100,000 residents, one of the lowest doctor-to-population ratios nationwide.

Though the state has challenges, people are flocking to Texas. The state’s population has grown more quickly than the other 49 states over the past decade, growing to 28.3 million in 2017, an 18.4% increase since 2007.

Source: mdesigner125 / Getty Images

32. Arizona
> 10-yr. population change: +10.7% (14th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.9% (9th highest)
> Poverty rate: 14.9% (11th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.6 years (17th longest)

Arizona struggles with crime and economic issues more than many other states. For example, about 14.9% of state residents live in poverty, down from 16.4% the previous year but still above the national poverty rate of 13.4%. Violent crime can severely diminish the quality of life in a region — not just for the victims but the broader community as well. In Arizona, there were 508 violent crimes for every 100,000 state residents in 2017, well above the national violent crime rate of 383 for every 100,000 Americans.

Source: Thinkstock

31. Idaho
> 10-yr. population change: +14.5% (7th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 3.2% (9th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.8% (25th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (20th longest)

The typical household in Idaho earns $52,225 a year, the 10th lowest median household income among states. Though Idaho’s income ranks worse than the majority of states, not all measures point to the state being a bad place to live. A relatively small share of residents are impoverished. The state’s poverty rate of 12.8% is below the U.S. rate of 13.4%. Some 3.0% of families in the state live on less than $10,000 a year, compared to 3.8% of households across the country. Relatively few Idaho residents struggle to find a job, as its annual unemployment rate of 3.2% is lower than all but a handful of states.