BUSINESS
12/04/2015 03:17 pm ET

10 Best States To Live In

Massachusetts, home to one of the nation’s wealthiest and most highly educated populations, leads the nation.

Life satisfaction in a given state is often based on highly subjective measures — whether the climate is nice, whether friends and family are present, and other factors. While a connection to a place can often be based on intangibles, a good quality of life in a given state is largely predicated upon a few key factors. The levels of poverty, education, and health can largely capture living conditions in a state, which tend to vary considerably across the country.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed statewide social and economic measures to rank each state’s living conditions. Massachusetts, home to one of the nation’s wealthiest and most highly educated populations, leads the nation. Mississippi, the poorest state in the country, trails the other 49 states.

Let's all move to Hawaii.
Jason Short 2008/Flickr
Let's all move to Hawaii.

While satisfactory living conditions are possible to obtain with high and low incomes, this is true only to a point. Once incomes fall below the poverty line, for example, financial constraints are far more likely to diminish quality of life. In 18 of the 25 states on the lower end of the livability ranking, the poverty rate exceeds the national rate of 15.5%. New Mexico and Mississippi report poverty rates of over 20%.

Education is another major contributor to living conditions — not just as a basis of economic prosperity, but also as a component of an individual’s quality of life. Adults living in the nation’s best states report higher than average college attainment rates. Also, due in part to the greater access to high paying jobs an education can offer, incomes tend to be higher in these states as well. In 17 of the 25 best states to live, the annual median household income and the percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree both exceed the respective national figures.

Many of these strong socioeconomic measures lead to a higher quality of life, which in turn often results in a longer life — itself a desirable outcome. The difference in life expectancy between MIssissippi, where people tend to live the shortest lives, and Hawaii, where people live the longest is 6.3 years. While this variance is not very large, the likelihood of living a relatively long life as a resident of a particular state is closely associated with that state’s living conditions. In only 10 states — all among the 25 best states to live in — the average resident can expect to live more than 80 years. To compare, the nationwide life expectancy at birth is 78.9 years.

Housing markets in these states are also indicative of quality of living. A high median home value, for instance, frequently means high demand for housing in the area. Nationwide, the typical home is worth $181,200. In most of the 25 states at the top of the ranking, the median home value far exceeds this value. The opposite tends to be true on the lower end. Of the 18 states where the typical home is valued at more than $200,000, 17 are in the top 25 states for livability.

Lower home values are indicative of, and contribute to, relatively affordable costs of living. Of course, low home values are also a product of a lack of demand in a housing market, which is often driven by poor living conditions. The average cost of goods and services in most of the best states to live is greater than the national average, while the average cost of living is less than the national average in all of the 25 states on the lower end of the livability ranking.

To identify the best and worst states in which to live, 24/7 Wall St. devised an index composed of three socioeconomic measures for each state: poverty rate, the percentage of adults who have at least a bachelor’s degree, and life expectancy at birth. The selection of these three measures was inspired by the United Nations’ Human Development Index. Poverty rates and bachelor attainment rates came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey (ACS). Life expectancies at birth are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and are as of 2010, latest year for which data is available.

These are the best and worst states to live in, according to 24/7 Wall St.

  • 10. Virginia
    <strong>&gt; 10-yr. population growth:</strong> 13.6% (18th highest)<br> <strong>&gt; 2014 unemployment rate:</strong> 5.2% (
    > 10-yr. population growth: 13.6% (18th highest)
    > 2014 unemployment rate: 5.2% (17th lowest)
    > Poverty rate: 11.8% (12th lowest)
    > Life expectancy at birth: 79.0 years (24th highest)
    An education helps improve access to the job market, and states with high college attainment rates also often have low unemployment rates. Virginia’s unemployment rate of 4.3% is one of the lower jobless rates in the nation. As in many of the other best states to live in, Virginia residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earns $64,902 each year, the eighth highest annual median household income in the nation. In states with the best living conditions, demand for housing is often very high, which tends to drive up home values. A typical home in Virginia is valued at $247,800, well above the national median home value of $181,200.

    Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
  • 9. Hawaii
    <strong>&gt; 10-yr. population growth:</strong> 14.7% (13th highest)<br> <strong>&gt; 2014 unemployment rate:</strong> 4.4% (
    > 10-yr. population growth: 14.7% (13th highest)
    > 2014 unemployment rate: 4.4% (10th lowest)
    > Poverty rate: 11.4% (7th lowest)
    > Life expectancy at birth: 81.3 years (the highest)
    Based on the relative value of the dollar, no state is more expensive than Hawaii. Still, as in many of the other best states to live in, Hawaii residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earns $69,592 each year, the fifth highest annual median household income in the nation. The state also has one of the lowest poverty rates in the country, with just 11.4% of the population living below the poverty line, compared to a national rate of 15.5%. As in most states with low poverty rates and high incomes, the average Hawaii resident will enjoy a relatively long life. The state’s population lives to be 81.3 years, a longer average life expectancy at birth than any other state population. The 31% share of adults in Hawaii who have at least a bachelor’s degree is roughly in line with the national attainment rate of 30.1% of adults.

    Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
  • 8. Vermont
    <strong>&gt; 10-yr. population growth:</strong> 4.0% (6th lowest)<br> <strong>&gt; 2014 unemployment rate:</strong> 4.1% (6th
    > 10-yr. population growth: 4.0% (6th lowest)
    > 2014 unemployment rate: 4.1% (6th lowest)
    > Poverty rate: 12.2% (15th lowest)
    > Life expectancy at birth: 80.5 years (5th highest)
    While income is often a determinant of quality of life in a state, in many cases states offer a high quality of life despite a relatively lower income. In Vermont, the typical household earns $54,166, only slightly above the national median of $53,657. The state is above average, however, by many other measures. The average Vermont resident, for example, will enjoy a relatively long life. The life expectancy at birth in Vermont of 80.5 years is higher than the national life expectancy of 78.9 years. An education helps improve access to the job market, and states with high college attainment rates also often have low unemployment rates. Vermont’s unemployment rate of 3.7% is one of the lower jobless rates in the nation.

    Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
  • 7. Maryland
    <strong>&gt; 10-yr. population growth:</strong> 9.4% (24th lowest)<br> <strong>&gt; 2014 unemployment rate:</strong> 5.8% (24
    > 10-yr. population growth: 9.4% (24th lowest)
    > 2014 unemployment rate: 5.8% (24th lowest)
    > Poverty rate: 10.1% (2nd lowest)
    > Life expectancy at birth: 78.8 years (25th lowest)
    Populations in the best states to live tend to earn more money, and in Maryland the typical household has the highest median income of any state at $73,971 a year, more than $20,000 above the typical U.S. household. The state’s poverty rate of 10.1% is also the second lowest rate in the nation. The high incomes help residents afford some of the nation most expensive housing. The typical home in Maryland is worth $288,500, the fifth highest median home value in the country. For many potential homeowners, nothing is more important than a safe neighborhood. Yet Maryland has one of the higher violent crime rates in the country at 446.1 incidents per 100,000 residents, much higher than the national rate of 356.5 incidents for every 100,000 residents.

    Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
  • 6. Colorado
    <strong>&gt; 10-yr. population growth:</strong> 17.4% (8th highest)<br> <strong>&gt; 2014 unemployment rate:</strong> 5.0% (1
    > 10-yr. population growth: 17.4% (8th highest)
    > 2014 unemployment rate: 5.0% (15th lowest)
    > Poverty rate: 12.0% (13th lowest)
    > Life expectancy at birth: 80.0 years (11th highest)
    Not only is an education important to better employment and income, but also it is — on its own — a major component of a better quality of life. Of adults in Colorado, 38.2% have a college degree, the second highest bachelor attainment rate in the nation. An education helps improve access to the job market, and states with high college attainment rates also often have low unemployment rates. Colorado’s unemployment rate of 4.0% is one of the lower jobless rates in the nation. In states with the best living conditions, demand for housing is often very high, which tends to drive up home values. A typical home in Colorado is valued at $255,200, well above the national median home value of $181,200.

    Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
  • 5. Minnesota
    <strong>&gt; 10-yr. population growth:</strong> 9.4% (23rd lowest)<br> <strong>&gt; 2014 unemployment rate:</strong> 4.1% (6t
    > 10-yr. population growth: 9.4% (23rd lowest)
    > 2014 unemployment rate: 4.1% (6th lowest)
    > Poverty rate: 11.5% (9th lowest)
    > Life expectancy at birth: 81.1 years (2nd highest)
    As in many of the other best states to live in, Minnesota residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earns $61,481 each year, the 10th highest annual median household income in the nation. As in most states with low poverty rates and high incomes, the average Minnesota resident will enjoy a relatively long life. The state has one of the lowest poverty rates in the country, 4 percentage points below the national rate of 15.5%. The life expectancy at birth in Minnesota of 81.1 years is slightly higher than the national life expectancy of 78.9 years. An education helps improve access to the job market, and states with high college attainment rates also often have low unemployment rates. In Minnesota, more than one in three adults have a college degree, one of the highest proportions in the nation. Minnesota’s unemployment rate of 3.8% is one of the lowest jobless rates in the nation.

    Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
  • 4. New Jersey
    <strong>4. New Jersey<br> &gt; 10-yr. population growth:</strong> 4.9% (9th lowest)<br> <strong>&gt; 2014 unemployment rate:<
    4. New Jersey
    > 10-yr. population growth:
    4.9% (9th lowest)
    > 2014 unemployment rate: 6.6% (13th highest)
    > Poverty rate: 11.1% (4th lowest)
    > Life expectancy at birth: 80.3 years (8th highest)
    In states with the best living conditions, demand for housing is often very high, which tends to drive up home values. A typical home in New Jersey is valued at $313,200, well above the national median home value of $181,200. As in many of the other best states to live in, New Jersey residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earns $71,919 each year, the second highest annual median household income in the nation. New Jersey also has the fourth lowest poverty rate at 11.1%. As in most states with low poverty rates and high incomes, the average New Jersey resident will enjoy a relatively long life. The life expectancy at birth in New Jersey is 80.3 years, compared to the national life expectancy of 78.9 years.

    Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
  • 3. New Hampshire
    <strong>3. New Hampshire<br> &gt; 10-yr. population growth:</strong> 4.3% (7th lowest)<br> <strong>&gt; 2014 unemployment rat
    3. New Hampshire
    > 10-yr. population growth:
    4.3% (7th lowest)
    > 2014 unemployment rate: 4.3% (8th lowest)
    > Poverty rate: 9.2% (the lowest)
    > Life expectancy at birth: 80.3 years (8th highest)
    Relative to some other best states to live, like New Jersey or Massachusetts, New Hampshire lacks the attractions and facilities that people look for. The state has among the lowest concentrations of restaurants, bars, and hotels in the country. Still, the state is one of the best in the country based on fundamental factors such as income, poverty, and employment. New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate in the country at 9.2%, relative to the national poverty rate of 15.5%. A typical home in New Hampshire is valued at $236,400, well above the national median home value of $181,200. A typical household earns $66,532 each year, the 7th highest annual median household income in the nation. As in most states with low poverty rates and high incomes, the average New Hampshire resident will enjoy a relatively long life. The life expectancy at birth in New Hampshire is 80.3 years, versus the national life expectancy of 78.9 years.

    Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
  • 2. Connecticut
    <strong>&gt; 10-yr. population growth:</strong> 5.9% (12th lowest)<br> <strong>&gt; 2014 unemployment rate:</strong> 6.6% (13
    > 10-yr. population growth: 5.9% (12th lowest)
    > 2014 unemployment rate: 6.6% (13th highest)
    > Poverty rate: 10.8% (3rd lowest)
    > Life expectancy at birth: 80.8 years (3rd highest)
    A typical home in Connecticut is valued at $267,200, well above the national median home value of $181,200. Connecticut residents, like those in many of the best states to live in, have relatively high incomes. A typical household earns $70,048 each year, the fourth highest median household income in the nation. Connecticut’s poverty rate of 10.8% is also lower than in all but two other states. Low poverty rates and high incomes often coincide with longer lives, and tended to be the case for Connecticut residents as well. The life expectancy at birth in Connecticut is 80.8 years, versus the national life expectancy of 78.9 years. In states with the best living conditions, demand for housing is often very high, which tends to drive up home values.

    Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
  • 1. Massachusetts
    <strong>&gt; 10-yr. population growth:</strong> 9.1% (21st lowest)<br> <strong>&gt; 2014 unemployment rate:</strong> 5.8% (24
    > 10-yr. population growth: 9.1% (21st lowest)
    > 2014 unemployment rate: 5.8% (24th lowest)
    > Poverty rate: 11.6% (10th lowest)
    > Life expectancy at birth: 80.5 years (5th highest)
    As in many of the other best states to live in, Massachusetts residents are quite wealthy. A typical household earns $69,160 each year, the sixth highest annual median household income in the nation. Similarly, the state’s poverty rate of 11.6% is one of the lowest in the nation. As in most states with low poverty rates and high incomes, the average Massachusetts resident will enjoy a relatively long life. The life expectancy at birth in Massachusetts is 80.5 years, versus the national life expectancy of 79 years. Massachusetts’ nation-leading college attainment rate of 41.2% — it is the only state where more than two in five adults have a bachelor’s degree — is a major driver of the state’s strong economy and high quality of life. Students in the state also score well above average on standardized tests. In states with the best living conditions, demand for housing is often very high, which tends to drive up home values. A typical home in Massachusetts is valued at $338,900, well above the national median home value of $181,200.

    Read more at 24/7 Wall St.
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