Special Report

Best and Worst States to Live In

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11. Utah
> 10-yr. population change: +13.5% (5th highest)
> 2018 unemployment: 3.1% (12th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 9.0% (4th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.8 years (14th longest)

Supported by a strong economy and lower than average 3.1% annual unemployment rate, serious financial hardship is uncommon in Utah. Just 9.0% of state residents live below the poverty line, a lower poverty rate than in all but three other states and well below the national rate of 13.1%.

Utah’s desirability as a place to live is underscored by its surging population. In the last decade, the number of people living in the state spiked by 13.5%, more than double the national population growth rate of 6.6%.

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12. Vermont
> 10-yr. population change: +0.7% (6th lowest)
> 2018 unemployment: 2.7% (5th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.0% (16th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.7 years (15th longest)

Outranking New York, which lies along its western border, Vermont ranks as the 12th best state to live in. Like most other states in the New England region, Vermont has a well-educated population. The state’s 38.7% bachelor’s degree attainment rate is among the highest in the country and well above the 32.6% share of adults nationwide with a bachelor’s degree.

Vermonters also tend to be relatively healthy. They are less likely to lead sedentary lives and also less likely to be obese than the typical American adult. The prevalence of healthy lifestyles may help explain the state’s higher than average life expectancy. Life expectancy at birth in Vermont is 79.7 years, compared to the 79.1-year average national life expectancy.

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13. New York
> 10-yr. population change: 0.0% (3rd lowest)
> 2018 unemployment: 4.1% (15th highest)
> Poverty rate: 13.6% (17th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.2 years (3rd longest)

New York is one of the best educated states in the country. Some 37.2% of adults across the state have a bachelor’s degree or higher, a higher share than in all but seven other states and considerably higher than the 32.6% bachelor’s degree attainment rate nationwide. Better-educated adults tend to report healthier lifestyles, which may explain some of the positive health outcomes in the state. For example, life expectancy at birth in New York is 81.2 years, the third highest among states and over two years longer than the national average.

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14. California
> 10-yr. population change: +7.0% (21st highest)
> 2018 unemployment: 4.2% (13th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.8% (25th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 81.5 years (2nd longest)

California is one of the healthiest states in the country. Life expectancy at birth in the state is 81.5 years, second only to Hawaii and about two and a half years longer than the national average. Adults in California are far more likely than the typical American adult to regularly be physically active, likely due in part to easy access to places like parks and recreation centers. Nearly 93% of Californians have easy access to such venues for physical activity, compared to just 84% of adults nationwide.

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15. Nebraska
> 10-yr. population change: +7.4% (19th highest)
> 2018 unemployment: 2.8% (7th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.0% (16th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (17th longest)

Along with Minnesota, which ranks sixth on this list, Nebraska is one of only two states in the Midwest to rank among the top 15 best places to live. Although Nebraska is not a particularly wealthy state — the median household income of $59,566 is about $2,000 less than the national median — serious financial hardship is less common in the state than it is nationwide. Just 11.0% of state residents live below the poverty line compared to 13.1% of Americans nationwide.

Nebraskans tend to live longer, healthier lives than the typical American. The average life expectancy at birth in the state is 79.5 years, compared to the national average of 79.1 years.

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