Best and Worst States to Live In

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46. Kentucky
> 10-yr. population change: +3.6% (17th lowest)
> 2018 unemployment: 4.3% (10th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.9% (6th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.4 years (3rd shortest)

Kentucky is one of the least healthy states in the country. The state’s life expectancy of 75.4 years is third lowest among states and about three and a half years below the national average life expectancy. Smoking is the leading cause of premature death in the United States, and nearly one in every four Kentucky adults smoke — the second highest smoking rate in the country. Kentucky also has one of the highest adult obesity rates and one of the lowest shares of adults who exercise regularly.

One bright spot is the state’s relatively low violent crime rate. There were 212 reported violent crimes per 100,000 people in Kentucky in 2018, the seventh lowest among states.

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47. Arkansas
> 10-yr. population change: +4.3% (22nd lowest)
> 2018 unemployment: 3.7% (24th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 17.2% (5th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.8 years (5th shortest)

By almost every major socioeconomic measure, Arkansas ranks poorly compared to the vast majority of states. Nearly 25% of adults surveyed in the state said they were in fair or poor health, the highest share of any state. Arkansas also ranks among the worst five states in obesity, smoking, and physical inactivity. Adults in the state report the second longest average time spent in a state of poor mental health.

Arkansas residents are among the most likely in the United States to be poor. The typical household has an annual income of $47,062, nearly $15,000 below the national median household income. The state’s poverty rate of 17.2% is the fifth highest among states.

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48. Louisiana
> 10-yr. population change: +3.7% (18th lowest)
> 2018 unemployment: 4.9% (3rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.6% (3rd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.1 years (7th shortest)

Louisiana is one of only six states where fewer than one in every four adults have a bachelor’s degree. Americans with a college education are less likely to be unemployed, and Louisiana’s annual unemployment rate of 4.9% is nearly the highest among states and well above the comparable 3.9% national rate.

With a weak job market, Louisiana is also home to a large share of residents facing serious financial hardship. The state’s 18.6% poverty rate is higher than all but two other states and well above the 13.1% national poverty rate.

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49. West Virginia
> 10-yr. population change: -0.8% (2nd lowest)
> 2018 unemployment: 5.3% (2nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 17.8% (4th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.0 years (2nd shortest)

West Virginia’s population has declined by 0.8% over the past decade, making it one of just two states home to fewer people now than in 2009. This decline comes as the state continues to struggle with long-term social and economic issues. The state ranks either worst or second worst in nearly every major measure of health — it has the highest smoking rate and the longest average time spent by adults in a state of poor mental health per month.

The state has the lowest median home value, at just $121,300, compared to a national median home value of $229,700. This low home value reflects both the shrinking population and West Virginia’s nation-lowest median household income of just $44,097 a year.

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50. Mississippi
> 10-yr. population change: +1.2% (7th lowest)
> 2018 unemployment: 4.8% (5th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.7% (the highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 74.8 years (the shortest)

As it has in each of the last two years, Mississippi ranks as the worst state in which to live. It is the only U.S. state that has a life expectancy at birth of less than 75 years. It has the highest adult obesity rate, at 36.5%, and the largest share of adults who report no leisure-time physical activity, at 31.3%. Mississippi is also the only state in the country where more than 10% of households have an income of less than $10,000. It also has a poverty rate of nearly 20% — the highest of any state.

The state ranks among the worst five in the country in a number of other socioeconomic indicators, including adult bachelor’s degree and high school diploma attainment and unemployment.

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