Special Report

All 50 States Ranked by Livability

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16. Nebraska
> Population change; 2010-2019: +5.7% (21st largest increase)
> 2019 unemployment: 3% (14th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 9.9% (11th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.6 years (17th longest)

With a median annual household income of $63,229 — about $2,500 below the national median — Nebraska is not a particularly wealthy state. Still, serious financial hardship is not especially common as the state is one of only 11 where fewer than one in every 10 residents live below the poverty line.

People living below the poverty line are restricted in their access to health care and their ability to afford a range of healthy lifestyle options in addition to the stress associated with poverty. As a result, those living below the poverty line are less likely to live long and healthy lives. With a lower than average poverty rate, Nebraska’s average life expectancy at birth of 79.6 years is about half a year longer than the national average.

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17. Oregon
> Population change; 2010-2019: +9.9% (11th largest increase)
> 2019 unemployment: 3.7% (18th highest)
> Poverty rate: 11.4% (24th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.8 years (15th longest)

Oregon ranks higher than most states as a desirable place to live because of its higher than average life expectancy at birth. At 79.8 years, average life expectancy in Oregon is higher than in all but 14 states and the 79.1 year national average.

Oregon also has a better educated population than most of the rest of the nation. Of state residents 25 and older, 34.5% have a bachelor’s degree or higher, a larger share than in all but 15 other states and the 33.1% national average.

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18. Illinois
> Population change; 2010-2019: -1.3% (2nd largest decrease)
> 2019 unemployment: 4% (12th highest)
> Poverty rate: 11.5% (25th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.3 years (23rd longest)

Illinois has a bachelor’s degree attainment rate of 35.8% — making it one of the better educated states in the country. Better-educated adults are less likely to face financial insecurity and hardship than those with lower educational attainment, and in Illinois, 11.5% of the population lives below the poverty line, a smaller share than the 12.3% national poverty rate.

Despite outranking most states on this list, Illinois is not drawing in new residents and families. The state is one of only four nationwide to be home to fewer people today than in 2010.

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19. North Dakota
> Population change; 2010-2019: +13.0% (8th largest increase)
> 2019 unemployment: 2.4% (2nd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.6% (17th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.9 years (13th longest)

North Dakota is home to a smaller than average share of college-educated adults. Just 30.4% of state residents 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 33.1% of all U.S. adults. Still, the state ranks as a better place to live than most states due to its low poverty rate and high average life expectancy.

Only 10.6% of North Dakota residents live below the poverty line, and the average person born in the state lives about 80 years. Nationwide, the poverty rate stands at 12.3%, and average life expectancy at birth is about 79 years.

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20. Wisconsin
> Population change; 2010-2019: +2.3% (12th smallest increase)
> 2019 unemployment: 3.3% (22nd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.4% (16th lowest)
> Life expectancy at birth: 79.4 years (20th longest)

In Wisconsin, the typical household earns about $64,000 a year, nearly $1,500 less than what the typical U.S. household earns. Despite slightly lower than average incomes, Wisconsin residents are less likely to face serious financial hardship than the typical American. An estimated 10.4% of the state population lives on poverty-level incomes, compared to 12.3% of the U.S. population.

Other measures, such as life expectancy at birth, we used to rank the best places to live are more closely in line with the national average in Wisconsin. Average household life expectancy is 79.4 years in the state, only slightly higher than the 79.1 year national average.