Special Report

All 50 States Ranked by Livability

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46. Kentucky
> Population change; 2010-2019: +2.8% (17th smallest increase)
> 2019 unemployment: 4.3% (8th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.3% (4th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.4 years (4th shortest)

The poverty rate in Kentucky is 16.3% — 4 full percentage points higher than the national poverty rate. Those without a college degree are more likely to live below the poverty line, and Kentucky has the fifth lowest bachelor’s degree attainment rate in the nation, at 25.1%. The high school attainment rate is also relatively low in the state, at 87.2%. Those without college degrees are also less likely to be employed, and the state’s 2019 unemployment rate of 4.3% was the eighth highest in the country.

Kentuckians have the fourth shortest life expectancy at birth of any state, at just 75.4 years.

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47. Arkansas
> Population change; 2010-2019: +3.3% (19th smallest increase)
> 2019 unemployment: 3.5% (24th highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.2% (5th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 75.9 years (5th shortest)

Arkansas is one of just three states in which less than a quarter of adults 25 and older hold at least a bachelor’s degree, at 23.3%. Incomes are in large part tied to educational attainment, and Arkansas has the third lowest median household income of any state, at just under $49,000. Somewhat offsetting the low incomes in the state is the low cost of living. Goods and services are 14.7% less expensive than the nationwide average, giving it the lowest cost of living of any state.

Arkansas has one of the five lowest life expectancies in the country, at 75.9 years. The national average life expectancy at birth is 79.1 years.

48. Louisiana
> Population change; 2010-2019: +2.3% (11th smallest increase)
> 2019 unemployment: 4.8% (5th highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.0% (2nd highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 76.1 years (8th shortest)

Nationwide, 12.3% of Americans live in poverty. Yet in Louisiana, 19.0% of residents live below the poverty line, the second highest share of all states. Louisiana is the only state in which more than 10% of households earn less than $10,000 annually. The state’s median household income of about $51,000 is nearly $15,000 lower than the national median.

Incomes are closely tied to educational attainment, and just 25% of Louisiana residents 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree, compared to nearly a third of Americans in that age group. Louisiana’s life expectancy at birth is 76.1 years, three years lower than the nationwide expectancy.

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49. West Virginia
> Population change; 2010-2019: -3.3% (largest decrease)
> 2019 unemployment: 4.9% (3rd highest)
> Poverty rate: 16.0% (6th highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 74.8 years (the shortest)

West Virginia has the lowest life expectancy at birth of any state in the country, at 74.8 years, more than four years shorter than the national average life expectancy. West Virginia also has the lowest educational attainment rate of any state, as just 21.1% of residents 25 and older hold at least a bachelor’s degree.

Even as the U.S. population overall increased by 6.1% from 2010 to 2019, West Virginia’s population during that time. The 3.3% population decline was by far the largest of any state, accounting for over 60,000 people.

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50. Mississippi
> Population change; 2010-2019: +0.2% (smallest increase)
> 2019 unemployment: 5.4% (2nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 19.6% (the highest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 74.9 years (2nd shortest)

Because of Mississippi’s comparatively poor socioeconomic and health conditions, the state ranks as the worst to live. No state has a higher share of residents living in poverty than Mississippi, at 19.6%. It also has the lowest median household income of any state by thousands of dollars, as the typical household earns less than $46,000 annually. Nationwide, the typical household earns $65,712 annually.

Health and economic status are closely linked, and Mississippians have some of the worst health outcomes in the country. The life expectancy at birth in the state is 74.9 years — lower than all states but West Virginia. The American life expectancy at birth is 79.1 years. Mississippi is also one of just three states in which fewer than one-quarter of its adult residents 25 and older hold at least a bachelor’s degree.