Special Report

America's Best States to Live In

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

15. Rhode Island
> 10-yr. population change: +0.2% (the smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.5% (21st highest)
> Poverty rate: 11.6% (20th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.8 years (15th longest)

Rhode Island has one of the highest life expectancies in the country at 79.8, which makes it one of the better places to live. It is also one of the safer states. In Rhode Island, the murder rate is just 1.9 per 100,000. Nationwide, the rate of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter is 5.3 per 100,000 people. Lower murder and violent crime rates can give area residents a better sense of security and increased well-being as compared to a high-crime area.

Rhode Island residents are some of the more affluent in America, with a median household income of $63,870 a year. They are also better able to visit the doctor as there are 96 primary care physicians per 100,000 people, a concentration well above the national one. Despite these advantages, few people are moving to the state. Rhode Island’s population change of 0.2% over the last decade is one of the lowest of all states.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

14. North Dakota
> 10-yr. population change: +18.1% (2nd largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 2.6% (2nd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.3% (9th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.0 years (12th longest)

North Dakota, the state that has become the poster child to shale oil extraction, continues to attract newcomers. The state’s population posted an 18.1% growth over the past 10 years, more than double the national population growth rate of 8.0% over the same time, and the second highest rate of all states.That is more than double the national population growth rate of 8.0% over the same time and the second highest rate of all states. The state’s low annual unemployment rate of just 2.6% likely contributes to its desirability. For perspective, the national unemployment rate is 4.4%. North Dakota also has one of the lowest poverty rates. Only 10.3% of residents in live in poverty, the ninth lowest rate of any state and below the national poverty rate of 13.4%.

Life expectancy is also high in North Dakota. If born today, the average state resident is projected to live to 80 years, the 12th longest life expectancy of all states.

Source: Thinkstock

13. California
> 10-yr. population change: +8.2% (24th smallest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.8% (12th highest)
> Poverty rate: 13.3% (22nd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.8 years (3rd longest)

California is one of the best states to live in, largely because its residents tend to be relatively healthy. The state’s 80.8 year average life expectancy is the third highest nationwide. The state ranks near the top in a number of key health indicators. Very few Californians smoke, and a high percentage of adults in the state exercise. These healthy behaviors contribute to lower risk of heart disease and other conditions.

California’s $71,805 median annual household income is more than $11,000 higher than the U.S. median. Some 13.2% of California households are very wealthy, earning at least $200,000 a year. Roughly the same share of Californians live in poverty at 13.3% — just under the U.S. poverty rate of 13.4%.

Source: Thinkstock

12. Washington
> 10-yr. population change: +14.5% (8th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 4.8% (12th highest)
> Poverty rate: 11.0% (14th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 80.0 years (11th longest)

Americans often relocate to places where they can find work, and Washington state’s strong economy may help explain the influx of new residents. The state’s population increased by 14.5% in the last decade alone — the eighth largest increase of any state. The median household income of $70,979 a year greatly exceeds the national figure of $60,336. It is also the 10th highest median household income among all states.

Washington adults are also more likely to be active and less likely to smoke and be obese. Healthy lifestyle habits such as these likely contribute to the state’s low premature death rate. About 287 out of every 100,000 state residents die before the age of 75, the ninth lowest premature death rate in the nation and well below the national rate of 336 per 100,000. This likely contributes to Washington’s long life expectancy of 80 years, one of the longest of all states.

Source: ablokhin / Getty Images

11. Virginia
> 10-yr. population change: +9.8% (16th largest increase)
> Annual unemployment: 3.8% (20th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.6% (11th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.2 years (24th longest)

Virginia ranks highly in several important indicators. The state has the fifth highest college attainment rate, at 38.7%. Nationwide, 32.0% of adults have at least a bachelor’s degree. Virginia also has one of the lower state poverty rates in the country, at 10.6%. Virginia households tend to be relatively affluent, pulling in a median income of $71,535 a year.

While Virginia’s life expectancy is nearly in line with the U.S. life expectancy, the state is improving faster than the nation. From 1980 to 2014, Virginia’s life expectancy increased by 8.3%, the fifth greatest increase in the country and more than a full percentage point ahead of the U.S. increase. Virginia is also one of the safest states, with a violent crime rate of 208.2 incidents reported per 100,000 residents. The U.S. violent crime rate is 382.9 per 100,000.