Best and Worst States to Live In

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16. Illinois
> 10-yr. population change: -1.3% (the lowest)
> 2018 unemployment: 4.3% (10th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.1% (22nd lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.3 years (23rd longest)

Illinois is a relatively well-educated state. Of all state residents 25 and older, 35.1% have a bachelor’s degree or higher, a larger share than the 32.6% share of adults nationwide. As educational attainment increases, incomes and job security typically do as well. This may partially explain the relatively low poverty rate of 12.1% in Illinois, which is lower than the 13.1% national poverty rate.

Unlike nearly every other state, Illinois has reported a population decline in recent years. There are 1.3% fewer people living in the state now than there were a decade ago, the largest population drop of any state. The only other state to report a population decline over the same period is West Virginia, which ranks as the second worst state to live in.

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17. Rhode Island
> 10-yr. population change: +0.4% (5th lowest)
> 2018 unemployment: 4.1% (15th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.9% (23rd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.8 years (13th longest)

Though it ranks among the 20 best states to live in, Rhode Island trails far behind its neighbors Connecticut and Massachusetts on this list. Rhode Island’s poverty rate of 12.9% — while lower than the national rate of 13.1% — is the highest of the six New England states. Similarly, Maine is the only state in the region with a lower bachelor’s degree attainment rate than the 34.4% rate in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island, however, has an average life expectancy higher than most states in the region. Life expectancy at birth in Rhode Island is 79.8 years, slightly lower than the life expectancy of over 80 years in Connecticut and Massachusetts, but well above the 79.1-year national average.

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18. Oregon
> 10-yr. population change: +9.5% (12th highest)
> 2018 unemployment: 4.2% (13th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.6% (25th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.6 years (16th longest)

Oregon ranks behind the other two states along the Pacific coast in the continental U.S. Though the bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 34.0% in the state is larger than the 32.6% rate nationwide, it lags slightly behind educational attainment rates in the neighboring states of Washington and California.

Like other states in the region, Oregon is growing rapidly in terms of population. In the last decade, the number of people living in the state climbed by 9.5%, well above the 6.6% national population growth rate over the same period.

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19. North Dakota
> 10-yr. population change: +17.5% (the highest)
> 2018 unemployment: 2.6% (4th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.7% (12th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.8 years (12th longest)

Just 29.7% of adults in North Dakota have a bachelor’s degree, a smaller share than the 32.6% of adults nationwide. Job security tends to rise with educational attainment, but despite the low bachelor’s degree attainment rate, North Dakota’s 2.6% annual unemployment rate is among the lowest of any state.

The strong job market may explain the state’s rapid population growth and relative lack of serious financial hardship. In the last decade, the state’s population surged by 17.5%, the most of any state. Additionally, just 10.7% of North Dakota residents live below the poverty line, well below the 13.1% national poverty rate.

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20. Wisconsin
> 10-yr. population change: +2.8% (15th lowest)
> 2018 unemployment: 3.0% (11th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.0% (16th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.5 years (18th longest)

Just 30.0% of adults in Wisconsin have a bachelor’s degree or higher, a slightly smaller share than the 32.6% share of adults nationwide.

Higher educational attainment typically leads to higher incomes and increased job security. But despite Wisconsin’s smaller than average college-educated population, both unemployment and poverty are relatively uncommon in the state. Just 3.0% of workers in the state were unemployed in 2018, and 11.0% of the state’s population live below the poverty line, compared to the respective national rates of 3.9% and 13.1%.

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