Special Report

All 50 States Ranked by Livability

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41. South Carolina
> Population change; 2010-2019: +11.1% (10th largest increase)
> 2019 unemployment: 2.8% (9th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.8% (10th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 77.0 years (10th shortest)

Despite a relatively low pre-COVID-19 recession unemployment rate of 2.8% in 2019, Americans living in South Carolina are more likely than most to struggle financially. An estimated 7.2% of households in the state earn less than $10,000 a year, and 13.8% of the population lives below the poverty line — compared to 5.8% of all American households and a 12.3% U.S. poverty rate.

Incomes tend to rise with educational attainment, and a relatively small share of adults in South Carolina have a four-year, post-secondary education. Just 29.6% of the 25 and older population has a bachelor’s degree, compared to 33.1% of Americans nationwide in the same age group.

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42. Tennessee
> Population change; 2010-2019: +7.4% (17th largest increase)
> 2019 unemployment: 3.4% (24th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.9% (9th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.0 years (7th shortest)

Based on life expectancy, Tennessee has one of the least healthy populations of any state. Average life expectancy at birth in the state is just 76 years — lower than in all but six other states and about three years below average life expectancy at birth in the U.S.

Tennessee is also one of the least educated states in the country. It is one of only a dozen states in which fewer than 29% of the 25 and older population have a bachelor’s degree or higher. For context, 33.1% of adults nationwide have a four-year college degree.

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43. New Mexico
> Population change; 2010-2019: +1.5% (9th smallest increase)
> 2019 unemployment: 4.9% (3rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 18.2% (3rd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 78.1 years (16th shortest)

New Mexico has one of the poorest populations of any state in the country. An estimated 18.2% of the population lives below the poverty line, and 8.3% of all households in the state earn less than $10,000 a year. The widespread financial insecurity is likely due in part to a weak job market. In 2019, before the COVID-19 recession, 4.9% of the labor force in New Mexico was out of work, the third highest unemployment rate of any state that year.

College-educated adults are less likely to face serious financial hardship than those with lower levels of education, and in New Mexico, just 27.7% of adults have a bachelor’s degree, well below the comparable share of 33.1% of adults nationwide.

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44. Oklahoma
> Population change; 2010-2019: +5.2% (22nd largest increase)
> 2019 unemployment: 3.3% (22nd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 15.2% (8th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.0 years (6th shortest)

Oklahoma residents are far more likely to struggle financially than the typical American. An estimated 15.2% of the population lives below the poverty line, and 6.9% of households in the state earn less than $10,000 a year — compared to a 12.3% U.S. poverty rate and 5.8% of all American households earning less than $10,000 a year.

Higher-income individuals often have greater access to health care and can afford a greater range of healthy options related to diet and lifestyle, and partially as a result, are more likely to live longer, healthier lives. The low incomes and more pervasive financial hardship in Oklahoma may explain, in part, why average life expectancy at birth in the state, at 76 years, is over three years shy of the national average.

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45. Alabama
> Population change; 2010-2019: +2.5% (15th smallest increase)
> 2019 unemployment: 3% (14th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 15.5% (7th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.4 years (3rd shortest)

Alabama ranks as one of the worst states to live in in large part because of the high poverty rate in the state, which at 15.5% is seventh highest in the nation. Alabama also has the fifth highest share in the nation of households earning less than $10,000, at 8.1%. Its median household income is also $14,000 lower than the national median. However, goods and services are more than 13% cheaper in Alabama than they are on average nationwide.

The state’s 75.4 year life expectancy at birth is lower than all but two other states.