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Section 1:Introduction

Last year, I packed my life into boxes and moved across town. It was just a few miles, but choosing the right neighborhood felt like a monumental decision. I wanted a safe area, good schools for my kids, and… honestly, that feeling of a great place to live.  We are all looking for the places that offer the highest quality of life and desperately want to avoid those states with the lowest quality of life.

In the quest to find the best states to live in the United States, we often encounter a variety of rankings and reports, each presenting its unique perspective. These rankings, while varied, converge on a crucial aspect of our lives – the quality of life. This article aims to synthesize information from multiple sources, including WalletHub, U.S. News & World Report, and specific studies like Select Software Reviews, to present a comprehensive view of where states stand in terms of livability.

Quality of life is a multifaceted concept, encompassing everything from economic stability to educational opportunities, from healthcare accessibility to environmental beauty. In our analysis, we look beyond mere economic metrics and delve into factors that genuinely contribute to the well-being and happiness of residents.

Particular attention will be paid to our home state of Georgia, a state with its unique blend of challenges and strengths. Known for its rich history, diverse culture, and significant economic growth, Georgia’s place in these rankings offers valuable insights into the factors that influence its quality of life.

As we embark on this journey across the U.S., from the bustling streets of New York to the serene landscapes of Wyoming, we aim to uncover what makes each state a desirable place to live. This article is not just a compilation of rankings; it’s a narrative about the American living experience, the pursuit of happiness, and the quest for a better life.

Section 2: How We Uncovered the Best (and Worst) States

To determine the best states to live in the U.S., we’ve incorporated data from various authoritative sources, each offering unique perspectives on quality of life. This comprehensive approach enables us to compile a more holistic ranking, considering a wide range of factors that influence livability.

  1. WalletHub Analysis: WalletHub’s study provides insights into affordability, economy, education, health, quality of life, and safety. They utilize detailed submetrics like property taxes, household income, and unique lifestyle factors such as outdoor recreational opportunities​​.
  2. U.S. News & World Report: This source offers a broad spectrum of data, evaluating states based on healthcare, education, economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime & corrections, and the natural environment. Their approach combines statistical data with comprehensive state surveys to provide a multifaceted view of each state’s strengths and weaknesses.
  3. Select Software Reviews: Focusing on job satisfaction, this source assesses factors like wages, quit rates, injury rates, commute times, and PTO laws, offering insights into the workforce’s contentment in each state.
  4. Scholaroo State Rankings: Scholaroo provides detailed metrics on safety, economy, and education, including aspects like the rate of property crime, business growth, and the quality of schools. These metrics are crucial in assessing the broader social and economic health of a state​​.
  5. Forbes Best States for Business: Forbes’ rankings give us insights into the economic aspects of each state, including business costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, economic climate, growth prospects, and quality of life.
  6. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center: This source provides data on child well-being, considering economic well-being, education, health, and family and community context. This perspective is vital for understanding how states support younger generations.

By integrating these diverse sources, our methodology considers not just economic indicators but also education, health, safety, environmental quality, and overall well-being. This multifaceted approach ensures that our ranking reflects the true quality of life offered by each state.

Section 3: Top 10 States for Quality of Life

Quality of life

  1. Massachusetts: Renowned for its exceptional education system and high-quality healthcare. It’s also a hub for innovation and technology, contributing to its strong economy.
  2. New Hampshire: Offers a unique blend of low crime rates, excellent educational facilities, and a robust healthcare system, alongside scenic beauty and a lower tax burden.
  3. Minnesota: Known for its excellent healthcare system, top-notch education, and a strong economy. The state also boasts a high quality of life, with abundant natural spaces and a focus on environmental sustainability.
  4. North Dakota: Despite its harsh winters, North Dakota excels due to its strong economy, fueled by natural resources, and has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. It also offers quality healthcare services.
  5. Utah: This state is noted for its strong economy, low crime rates, and high standard of living. It’s also famous for its outdoor recreational opportunities and natural beauty.
  6. Washington: Washington state is a leader in economic growth, driven by the tech industry. It also ranks high in education and healthcare, and is known for its environmental policies and stunning natural landscapes.
  7. Vermont: Praised for its educational system, healthcare, and safety, Vermont offers a serene living environment, with a strong focus on community and environmental conservation.
  8. Colorado: Colorado’s robust economy, high-quality healthcare, and education systems, coupled with its natural beauty and outdoor activities, make it a desirable place to live.
  9. Iowa: Known for its healthcare and education, Iowa also provides a safe, community-oriented environment. The state’s economy is bolstered by agriculture and manufacturing.
  10. Wisconsin: Balancing strong education and healthcare systems with economic stability, Wisconsin offers a high quality of life, with abundant natural beauty and a focus on community and family values.


The states ranking highest for quality of life excel in a combination of key areas: economic stability, educational and healthcare systems, environmental quality, and overall well-being. These states not only offer robust economies but also prioritize the health, education, and safety of their residents, providing a balanced and fulfilling living experience. This analysis highlights the importance of a holistic approach to state governance, where economic prosperity aligns with the social and environmental well-being of the community.

Section 4: Bottom 10 States for Quality of Life

Quality of life While some states excel in quality of life metrics, others face challenges that place them at the lower end of the rankings. Here are the bottom 10 states, each grappling with various issues that impact their residents’ quality of life:

  1. Mississippi: Known for its economic difficulties, including the highest poverty rate in the nation and low median household incomes. Healthcare and education systems in Mississippi also face significant challenges.
  2. Louisiana: Struggles with a violent crime rate double the national average coupled with poor healthcare access and educational challenges. Economic instability and environmental concerns further contribute to its low ranking.
  3. Mississippi: Known for its economic difficulties, including the highest poverty
  4. New Mexico: Faces issues with crime and education, alongside economic challenges. The state’s healthcare system is also under strain, affecting overall life quality.
  5. West Virginia: Deals with economic challenges, including the highest unemployment rate in the country and low household incomes. The state also struggles with healthcare access and quality.
  6. Arkansas: Has issues with healthcare access and quality, coupled with economic instability. High crime rates and environmental concerns further impact its quality of life.
  7. Alabama: Faces challenges in healthcare and education, with economic issues also affecting the state’s quality of life. High crime rates and poverty levels are significant concerns.
  8. Oklahoma: Struggles with healthcare access and quality, alongside educational challenges. Economic instability and environmental issues also impact the state’s quality of life.
  9. Alaska: Despite its natural beauty, Alaska faces economic challenges, including a high cost of living and limited job opportunities. Crime rates and healthcare access are also concerns.
  10. South Carolina: Deals with high crime rates and economic challenges. Issues in healthcare and education further impact the quality of life for its residents.
  11. Kentucky: Faces economic difficulties, including a high poverty rate and low household incomes. Healthcare and education systems are also under strain, affecting the state’s overall quality of life.

A Note of Hope: Understanding the challenges these states face is the first step towards positive change. By targeting healthcare access, education reform, and economic investment, these states hold the potential to significantly improve quality of life for their residents.

 Section 5: Focus on Georgia – Quality of Life Ranking

Georgia’s position in the overall U.S. quality of life rankings is an intriguing mix of strengths and challenges, reflecting its diverse economic and social landscape. After analyzing various sources, including our previous article on Georgia’s unhappy workforce, Georgia placed 35th out of 50 states in terms of overall quality of life. Let’s break down why:

  • Economic Growth: Georgia’s economic growth, particularly in the Atlanta metropolitan area, is robust. However, this economic dynamism is not uniformly distributed across the state, with rural areas lagging in development and job opportunities.

  • Healthcare and Education: Healthcare accessibility and quality vary significantly across the state, with rural areas facing more pronounced challenges. In education, while there are areas of excellence, the overall system shows disparities in outcomes and resource allocations.

  • Infrastructure and Environment: The state benefits from its rich natural environment and cultural heritage. However, Georgia grapples with infrastructural challenges, notably in transportation, leading to those notoriously long commute times that contribute to workplace unhappiness.

  • Workforce Satisfaction: As highlighted in our previous article, Georgia struggles with job satisfaction. Factors contributing to this include low wages in certain sectors, limited growth opportunities in some regions, and frustration with commute times.

Path to Improvement: Georgia’s ranking reflects a blend of its economic strengths and cultural richness alongside areas that require significant improvement. To elevate its ranking, the state needs a multi-faceted approach. This should include enhancing healthcare accessibility, elevating education standards, addressing infrastructural issues (particularly transportation), and stimulating economic growth beyond urban hubs.

Section 6: Comparing Different Rankings

The comparison of rankings from various sources reveals significant variations, offering insights into the multifaceted nature of quality of life assessments across the states.

  1. Economic Versus Social Metrics: Sources like Forbes, which emphasize economic factors such as business climate and growth prospects, often rank states like Texas and Florida higher. In contrast, rankings focusing on social metrics like healthcare and education, such as those from U.S. News & World Report, may place states like Massachusetts and Minnesota at the top. This contrast underscores the diverse criteria used by different sources and how they can yield varying results.
  2. Environmental Considerations: Rankings that prioritize environmental factors and natural beauty, like those from Lonely Planet or National Geographic, may rank states such as Colorado and Washington higher due to their emphasis on outdoor activities and sustainability. This shows the importance of environmental considerations in quality of life assessments, which may not be as prominently featured in other rankings.
  3. Safety and Infrastructure: Safety and infrastructure are key factors in some rankings, leading to higher positions for states with low crime rates and well-developed infrastructure. For example, states like New Hampshire and Vermont, which are known for their safety and small-town charm, often rank higher in such assessments.
  4. Discrepancies in Rankings: The discrepancies in rankings highlight the subjective nature of quality of life measurements. A state that ranks highly in one ranking for its economic prowess might rank lower in another for its environmental policies or healthcare systems.
  5. Interesting Findings: An interesting finding is the variance in rankings of states like California and New York. Despite their economic strength and cultural significance, factors like cost of living, congestion, and housing affordability can impact their rankings in quality of life assessments. These states might rank high in terms of economic opportunities and cultural offerings but might not fare as well in rankings focused on living costs or natural environment quality.
  6. Impact of Regional Differences: Regional characteristics also play a significant role. States in the Midwest, such as Nebraska and Iowa, often rank highly in rankings that value community bonds and lower cost of living. In contrast, states in the South might struggle in rankings due to challenges in healthcare access and educational quality.
  7. Consistency Across Rankings: Some states, like New Hampshire and Minnesota, consistently appear in top positions across different rankings, indicating a well-rounded quality of life. These states manage to balance economic stability, educational quality, healthcare access, and a clean, safe environment, making them stand out regardless of the specific focus of the ranking.


This side-by-side comparison of different rankings highlights the diverse criteria and perspectives used to assess the quality of life in U.S. states. It underscores the complexity of measuring livability and the importance of considering a range of factors beyond mere economic metrics when evaluating the best places to live. Each ranking provides a piece of the larger puzzle that is the quality of life in the U.S., offering valuable insights for individuals, communities, and policymakers.

Section 7: Analysis and Trends

The examination of different state rankings for quality of life reveals several key trends and provides valuable insights into what constitutes a high standard of living in the United States.

  1. Economic Stability and Prosperity: A recurring theme across most rankings is the significance of economic stability. States with strong economies, like Texas and California, often rank high due to their job opportunities and economic growth. However, these advantages can be offset by high living costs and income inequality.
  2. Healthcare and Education as Pillars: States that consistently rank high typically excel in healthcare and education. For instance, Massachusetts’ top-tier position is frequently attributed to its superior healthcare system and world-class educational institutions. This trend underscores the importance of these sectors in defining the overall quality of life.
  3. Importance of Safety and Environment: Safety, both in terms of low crime rates and effective emergency services, along with a clean and sustainable environment, are increasingly important in quality of life assessments. States like Vermont and New Hampshire, known for their safe communities and natural beauty, often see higher rankings.
  4. Regional Disparities: The rankings highlight regional disparities within the U.S. States in the Northeast and Upper Midwest generally fare better in quality of life due to their focus on healthcare, education, and community development. In contrast, some Southern states struggle with healthcare access and educational challenges.
  5. Emerging Trends: Recent trends indicate an increasing emphasis on mental health services, broadband access, and environmental sustainability. These emerging factors are becoming more crucial in determining a state’s livability, reflecting changing societal values and priorities.
  6. Impact of COVID-19: The COVID-19 pandemic has also influenced quality of life rankings, with states that managed the crisis effectively and maintained a balance between health and the economy often ranking higher. This has brought public health preparedness into sharper focus.


This analysis of quality of life rankings across U.S. states highlights the multifaceted nature of what makes a state desirable to live in. Economic stability, healthcare, education, safety, environmental quality, and societal well-being all play critical roles in shaping these rankings. For policymakers and community leaders, understanding these factors is essential to developing strategies that improve the overall quality of life for their residents.

Section 8: State Rankings for Best and Worst Quality of Life Ranked from 1 to 50

Without further ado, we have done the hard work of compiling and synthesizing all the various sources to create the most comprehensive and accessible state ranking list available. This list, based on a range of factors that contribute to the overall quality of life, is designed to give you a clear picture of how each state fares in different key areas.

Category Guide

  • (Health Care): Quality and accessibility of healthcare.
  • (Education): Quality of education systems.
  • (Economy): Economic health and job opportunities.
  • (Infrastructure): Quality of public infrastructure.
  • (Opportunity): Economic and social opportunities.
  • (Fiscal Stability): Fiscal health of state governments.
  • (Crime & Corrections): Crime rates and corrections systems.
  • (Environment): Environmental quality and sustainability. 
RankStateHealth CareEducationEconomyInfrastructureOpportunityFiscal Stab.Crime Corr.Environment
2New HampshireA-A-ABA-A-A-A
4North DakotaB+BAB+AA-B+B
13Rhode IslandA-BB-B-B+B-AA
21New YorkA-AB-B+BB-B-B
24North CarolinaB-BB+BB+B-B-B
30South DakotaB-B-A-C+B+B+B+B-
31New JerseyBA-B-B-BB-BB+
42South CarolinaB-BB+BB+B-B-B
47West VirginiaC-C+B-CC+B-CB-
48New MexicoCC+BC+B-B-C+B-

Section 9: Conclusion

The comprehensive analysis of various state rankings for quality of life offers crucial insights into what makes a state an ideal place to live. This exploration has revealed that a high quality of life is not defined by a single factor but is the result of a combination of various elements including economic stability, educational excellence, robust healthcare, environmental sustainability, and a strong sense of community and safety.

The key takeaways from this article are:

  1. Balanced Development: States that have managed to strike a balance between economic growth and social well-being consistently rank higher. This balance is key to ensuring that the economic prosperity of a state translates into an improved quality of life for its residents.
  2. Healthcare and Education: The importance of accessible, high-quality healthcare and education cannot be overstated. These are foundational elements that significantly impact the overall well-being of a state’s population.
  3. Environmental and Community Focus: States that emphasize environmental protection and community development tend to offer a more satisfying living experience. This is reflective of a growing societal emphasis on sustainability and quality of life.
  4. Regional Variations and Challenges: The rankings highlight the variations and unique challenges faced by different regions in the U.S. Understanding these can guide targeted improvements and policy-making to address specific regional needs.
  5. Future Directions: As societal values evolve, factors such as mental health services, digital connectivity, and sustainable living are becoming increasingly important in determining a state’s quality of life. States that adapt to these emerging trends will likely see improvements in their future rankings.

This analysis not only serves as a guide for individuals considering relocation but also provides a blueprint for state governments and policymakers. By focusing on these key areas, they can work towards enhancing the quality of life in their states, ensuring that their residents not only prosper economically but also enjoy a high standard of living.


Section 10: References

This article is based on a comprehensive analysis of various sources, each contributing to the understanding of quality of life across the states. For further detailed information, readers are encouraged to consult the following references:

  1. WalletHub: “Best States to Live in 2023 – State Rankings.” WalletHub provides a detailed overview of states based on affordability, economy, education, health, quality of life, and safety. Access WalletHub’s report.
  2. U.S. News & World Report: “Best States Rankings.” This source offers insights into states based on healthcare, education, economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime & corrections, and the natural environment. Visit U.S. News & World Report.
  3. Select Software Reviews: Known for its focus on job satisfaction and workforce happiness, this source provides valuable insights into the working environment in each state. Explore Select Software Reviews.
  4. Scholaroo State Rankings: Scholaroo provides metrics on safety, economy, and education, including factors like property crime rates and business growth. Check Scholaroo’s State Rankings.
  5. Forbes Best States for Business: Forbes offers insights into states’ economic aspects, including business costs, labor supply, and quality of life. Read Forbes’ Best States for Business.
  6. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data Center: This source provides data on child well-being, considering factors like economic well-being, education, health, and family and community context. Visit the Kids Count Data Center.

These references provide a deeper dive into the data and methodologies behind the quality of life rankings and offer a fuller picture of the factors that contribute to a state’s livability.

By Alan Wood

Musings of an unabashed and unapologetic liberal deep in the heart of a Red State. Crusader against obscurantism. Optimistic curmudgeon, snark jockey, lovably opinionated purveyor of wisdom and truth. Multi-lingual world traveler and part-time irreverent philosopher who dabbles in writing, political analysis, and social commentary. Attempting to provide some sanity and clarity to complex issues with a dash of sardonic wit and humor. Thanks for visiting!

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