Special Report

America's Best States to Live In

Source: AppalachianViews / iStock

25. Pennsylvania
> 10-yr. population change: +3.0% (10th smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.9% (9th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.5% (23rd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.8 years (23rd shortest)

At 4.9%, Pennsylvania has one of the 10 highest 2017 unemployment rates in the country. The state’s median household income is also more than $1,000 below the U.S. median. This high unemployment rate and lower income may contribute to the state’s relatively stagnant population growth. Over the past decade, Pennsylvania’s population increased just 3.0%, while America’s population grew 8.0%. Still, Pennsylvania is the fifth-most populous state with more than 12.8 million people.

Pennsylvania is one of the safer states in the country, as the violent crime rate is 313.3 per 100,000. The U.S. violent crime rate is 382.9 reported instances per 100,000 Americans.There are also relatively few property crimes in the state. Pennsylvania has some of the lowest incidence of burglary, larceny, and car theft nationwide.

Source: Thinkstock

24. Montana
> 10-yr. population change: +9.7% (17th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.0% (21st lowest)
> Poverty rate: 12.5% (23rd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.9 years (24th shortest)

Adults with a college education are more likely to lead longer, healthier lives and avoid serious financial hardship. In Montana, 32.3% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, which is in line with the 32.0% nationwide attainment rate. The poverty rate in Montana of 12.5% is also among the lowest in the nation, and less than the national rate of 13.4%. However, just like other states, Montana has its issues.

The state has the second highest share of alcohol-related driving deaths. Nearly 48.0% of all driving deaths are attributable to driving while intoxicated, well above the national rate of 29.0%. Additionally, the median annual household income of $53,386 a year is about $7,000 below the national figure of $60,336.

Source: marekuliasz / iStock

23. Kansas
> 10-yr. population change: +4.9% (14th smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 3.6% (15th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.9% (21st lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.7 years (22nd shortest)

Though the life expectancy at birth in Kansas of 78.7 years is better than most other states, it is still slightly below the U.S. life expectancy of 79.1 years. The state’s life expectancy has increased 4.9% since 1980, behind the national increase of 7.2%. Kansas has one of the highest obesity rates in the country, at 32.4%, meaning nearly a third of Kansas adults are at an elevated risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease.

Kansas residents are some of the best educated in the country. The state has a 91.0% high school graduation rate and a 33.7% bachelor’s degree attainment rate — both some of the higher rates in the country. High levels of education make a person more likely to be able to find a job, and Kansas also has one of the lower annual unemployment rates, at 3.6%.

Source: BoucherPhotoStudio / iStock

22. Oregon
> 10-yr. population change: +10.5% (15th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.1% (23rd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.2% (23rd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.4 years (22nd longest)

While the median annual household income in Oregon of $60,212 a year is in line with the national figure of $60,336, the share of people using food stamps is very high. Approximately 15.4% of state residents use food stamps and SNAP benefits, a much greater share than the 11.7% who do nationwide and the fourth largest share among states. Oregon residents also experience comparatively little crime. There were only about 282 violent crimes for every 100,000 state residents, well below the national rate of 383 violent crimes per every 100,000 Americans.

As far as health measures go, Oregon residents appear to be in good health. Oregon has the second lowest share of babies born at a low birth weight, which is indicative of good health. Adults in Oregon are also more likely to lead active lifestyles. About 84.2% of adults in the state exercise, the second highest share in the nation. Oregon also has some of the highest concentrations of primary care, dentists, and mental health providers per 100,000 people of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

21. Illinois
> 10-yr. population change: -0.4% (2nd largest decline)
> Annual unemployment: 5.0% (6th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.6% (24th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.0 years (25th shortest)

Illinois is one of the only two states whose population declined since 2007, dropping by 0.4%. Only Michigan had a larger population decline. Still, Illinois is one of the better places to live in the country. The typical household in the state earns $62,992 a year, more than $2,500 higher than the U.S. median household income.

Though the state’s annual unemployment rate of 5.0% is the sixth highest among states, it is improving relatively quickly. The state’s unemployment rate dropped 0.8 percentage points, compared to the U.S. decline in annual unemployment of 0.5 percentage points.