Economic measures such as gross domestic product or gross national income are often used to rank the level of development in a country or state. Yet these measures do not reveal much about the well-being of the population.
According to the Human Development Index created by the United Nations, one way to assess the development of an area is to consider the well-being of its population. This index comprises three measures of well-being: education, standard of living, and life expectancy.
24/7 Wall St. created its own index using the HDI model in order to rank the best and worst states to live in. Our index consists of three measures: life expectancy at birth, bachelor’s degree attainment, and poverty rate. Poverty rates and bachelor’s degree attainment rates came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 American Community Survey. Life expectancy at birth is from the 2020 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program, and is based on data from the years 2016-2018.
After ranking all 50 states, geographic patterns begin to emerge — the states in the Northeastern part of the country tend to rank towards the top of the list, while nearly all of the worst states to live are in the South.
The three measures — education, life expectancy, and poverty rate — are all connected. Americans with higher educational attainment tend to live longer, healthier lives and have a smaller chance of living in poverty. More and more American adults are becoming college educated, though this growth has been uneven — some states have a bachelor’s degree attainment rate of more than 40%, while in others the rate is less than 25%. These are the most and least educated states.