Do you live in one of the best states in America?
The above map shows which states are the worst to live in. That means #50 – Nebraska – is the best state.
You might think people across the nation like to think they live in the best place in the country. After all, you wouldn’t spend your lives somewhere that you truly didn’t love. Right? Not always. In fact, according to a Pew Research Center study not too long ago determined that almost half of Americans would rather live somewhere else than they do now.
Well, if you’re in one of the states we’re about to highlight, odds are you don’t want to go anywhere.
The purpose of this study is to use science to determine which of our great American states are the absolute best. While unbiased, this research does take into account factors that almost all Americans would agree are desirable. Therefore, while you may have strong opinions either way, you can’t argue against the methodology.
Turns out Nebraska is the best state to live in the country. The worst? You might not be too surprised that Mississippi takes the cake.
After analyzing all 50 U.S. states, we came up with this list as the 10 best states in our nation:
Read on below to see how we crunched the numbers and how your town ranked. If you live in the midwest, things are looking pretty rosy about now. Or check out more on the worst states in America.
How do you decide if a state is awesome or not?
In order to rank the best states to live in the United States, we had to determine what criteria people like about a place. It isn’t a stretch to assume that people like low crime, solid education, great weather, things to do and a stable economy.
So we scraped the internet for those criteria, and it spit out the answer. Like magic.
How we crunched the numbers
We threw a lot of criteria at this one in order to get the best, most complete results possible. Using FBI crime data, the government census, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Sperling’s Best Places, this is the criteria we used:
- Lowest Unemployment Rates
- Adjusted Median Income (Median income adjusted for the cost of living)
- Low Housing Vacancy Rate
- Education (High expenditures per student and low Student Teacher Ratio)
- Short Commute Times
- Low Crime
- The Best Weather
If you’d like to see the complete list of states, from worst to best, scroll to the bottom of this post to see the abridged chart.
Median income: 4th highest in the country
Commute time: 4th shortest
Unemployment rate: 3rd lowest in the country
It was close, but Nebraska finished a tad bit ahead of Iowa when it comes to the best state to live in America. Is that a surprise? Possibly for everyone who lives outside of Nebraska, it is.
The adjusted household income for Nebraska residents average $57,000, which is actually just about the highest in the country. (Maryland residents earn the most money in the nation).
Not only do Nebraska folks earn great salaries, almost all of them are employed. Only 3.3% of the people here are without jobs. And as you can imagine, commute times are just about as low as you’ll see here, too. It takes about 18 minutes to drive to work, on average in Nebraska.
In a lot of states, it takes 18 minutes just to get to the highway in the morning.
Add it all up (other factors included), and you can’t find a better place to live than in the Cornhusker State.
Income: 5th highest in the nation
Commute time: 6th lowest
Household vacancy rate: 2nd lowest in the U.S.
Iowa is an awesome place to live for some of the same reasons that makes Nebraska so great. Households bring in an adjusted $51,000 a year, which isn’t too shabby. And money goes a long way in Iowa.
Only 8.5% of the houses in Iowa are vacant. That’s a good sign that the overall economy in the Hawkeye State is stable, and there’s demand to live there. And less abandoned homes means better neighborhoods and involvement.
Like Nebraska, getting to work is a breeze. It takes about 19 minutes, door to door. That’s some real extra family time they’re getting in Iowa.
Crime: 6th lowest in the U.S.
Education: 4th best
Weather 8th best in the country
Wyoming is a great place to live for completely different reasons. Crime here is really low; Wyoming is the 6th safest state you can live in. (South Carolina is the most dangerous).
If you value a good public school education, then Wyoming is your place. The schools here are well funded, and just about the least crowded that you’ll find in the country. That’s not a surprise, since just more than a half million people live in the entire state.
It might surprise you to hear that Wyoming’s comfort index is really high. When you factor in sunny days, annual temperatures and humidity levels, you can’t get much more comfortable than here. (Nevada and Colorado are rated as the most comfortable states, weather wise.)
Plus, you don’t pay income tax in Wyoming. Everyone’s on board with that one.
4. North Dakota
Unemployment rate: Lowest in the country
Commute time: Lowest in the country
Crime: Lowest in the U.S.
While North Dakota might get a lot of grief for its excitement level, it scores a perfect 10 when it comes to three really desirable factors: safety, jobs and time with the family.
A lot of the job growth can be attributed to the natural gas industry, which has sprung up due to the controversial fracking boom here. But if you don’t have a job in North Dakota it’s either because you don’t want a job or are unable to work.
Income levels here are actually quite decent as well.
Income levels: 6th highest in the country
Crime: 13th lowest
Household vacancy rate: 10.4%
Minnesota is part of what we refer to as the ‘nidwest’ – for northern midwest. And when you look at the numbers, the nidwest rocks when it comes to livability.
In Minnesota, families earn about $57,000 a year after adjustments, which is one of the highest numbers in the nation. And not only do they live relatively comfortable lives, folks in Minnesota are a lot safer than most other states, too.
You can’t really ask for a better combination.
Houses are selling faster than in most other states. The only knock on Minnesota is of course, the weather. The number of sunny days here is towards the bottom, and of course, you can expect snow here at any time for a six-month stretch.
Household income: 3rd highest in the nation
Crime: 7th lowest
Teacher-student ratio: 11th lowest
Virginia and Maryland are just about the wealthiest states in the country. We’re not saying that money is the cure-all for happiness, but it sure does help a lot. And you might be surprised to hear that Virginia is actually the third least dangerous state in the country. That’s according to the latest FBI statistics, which measure violent and property crimes per capita.
The public schools in Virginia are above average, but they are some of the least crowded you’ll find.
The only real category where Virginia did poorly is commute time. Virginians can expect to sit in their cars for about an hour a day, which is the 6th highest in the nation.
Sunny days: 10th most
Median income: 5th highest in the U.S.
Education spending: 4th highest
Sunshine on your shoulders can make you happy. It’s been proven. And in Kansas, the sun shines a lot. That can make a huge difference, especially during the winter months.
Kansas families command some of the highest salaries in the U.S. with more than $57,000 a year combined income, on average. That goes a long way in the Sunflower State.
The public schools in Kansas are some of the highest funded, per student in the country. In Kansas, each student gets about $1,000 more than the national average.
Household income: 11th highest
Household vacancy: Lowest in the nation
School spending: 5th highest
Connecticut families are some of the wealthiest in the country, no doubt. But when you factor in the cost of living, those salaries don’t go quite as far here as they would in other states, like in the midwest.
Homes sell quickly here, and there are less vacant housing units in Connecticut than any other state. That’s a very positive sign for the Constitution State.
The public schools are great here – perhaps a little overcrowded, but not too bad. And it’s one of the least dangerous states in the country as well.
Weather: 3rd best in the country
Crime: 16th lowest
Unemployment rate: 2nd lowest
Utah’s unemployment rate is staggeringly low – just 3.2%. Which is a sign that the economy is strong here. It’s relatively safe, and homes sell quickly.
And if you like sunny days, Utah is your place. There aren’t too many other areas in the nation where the sun shines more often.
However, the public school system is rated at just about the lowest in the country when you measure spending and student attention. There’s only one other state with a school system that’s funded even worse. Here’s looking at you, New York.
10. New Jersey
Crime: 10th lowest in the U.S.
Education: 3rd best in the country
New Jersey residents are some of the wealthiest in the country; families here earn about $56,000 after cost of living adjustments. They actually earn more than $70,000 before that high cost of living is taken into account.
It’s pretty safe in New Jersey, as a whole. and you’d be hard pressed to find a state with a better funded and managed public school system. At least for now.
The downside? It’s the most densely populated place in the state, and commute times are longer than almost anywhere else. That’s even taking into account the long stretches in Jersey where there are more cows than people.
There You Have It
Like we said earlier, trying to determine the best states in America is usually a subjective matter. But if you’re analyzing states with the best economic situations, where there’s low crime and decent weather (for the most part), this is an accurate list.
If you’re curious enough, here are the worst states in the USA, according to science. Apparently, things are not too charming in the south.
- Mississippi (Pop. 2,967,033)
- Florida (Pop. 18,885,343)
- Alabama (Pop. 4,777,353)
- Arizona (Pop. 6,410,443)
- Nevada (Pop. 2,704,877)
We also wrote about the 10 worst cities to live in America. Click here to read that one.
List Of All The States From Best To Worst