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Quality of Life by State 2021

Quality of life is a measure of comfort, health, and happiness by a person or a group of people. Quality of life observes everything such as physical health, family, education, employment, wealth, freedom, environment, and safety.

Quality of life, however, is subjective. People give certain factors more or less weight, depending on their definition of quality of life.

To better understand which U.S. states have the best quality of life, U.S. News & World Report considered a wide range of factors and ranked every state for each one. These factors are:

  • Health Care
  • Education
  • Economy
  • Infrastructure
  • Opportunity
  • Fiscal Stability
  • Crime & Corrections
  • Natural Environment

Each of these categories included more specific aspects. Health Care looks at access to health care, affordability, and quality. Education looks at the quality of preschools and K-12 schools and levels of higher education. Economy looks at GDP growth, migration into the state, new businesses, and more. Infrastructure gauges the quality of bridges, public transportation, and more.

Opportunity measures poverty, housing, and equality for underrepresented groups. Fiscal Stability looks at a state government's credit rating, pension fund liability, budget balancing, and liquidity. Crime & Corrections ranks the state's public safety and the quality and fairness of the states' prison systems. Finally, Natural Environment looks at the quality of air and water and exposure to pollution.

Based on this study, the ten states with the highest quality of life are Washington, New Hampshire, and Minnesota.

Ten States with the Best Quality of Life

1. Washington

Washington state has the highest quality of life in all 50 states. When it comes to Economy, Washington state residents enjoy no state income tax, a thriving job market, and great international business opportunities. Additionally, the state has the ninth-lowest poverty rate in the U.S. of 10.3%. Washington ranked second for Infrastructure, third for Economy, and fourth for Health Care and Education. Washington is one of the healthiest states in the country, with a life expectancy of 80.3 years.

2. New Hampshire

New Hampshire has the second-highest quality of life in the U.S. New Hampshire ranks first for Opportunity as the state has the lowest poverty rate in the country of 6.4%. Additionally, New Hampshire has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at 2.6% and a strong job market. New Hampshire also ranks first for Crime & Corrections, fourth for Natural Environment, and fifth for Education.

3. Minnesota

Minnesota has the third-best quality of life in the United States, ranking third for Opportunity and Natural Environment and sixth for Infrastructure. Minnesota has the fourth-longest life expectancy in the United States of 80.9 years. Minnesota has a strong economy and job market, with an unemployment rate of 3.2%, below the national rate of 3.6%. Minnesota residents are also considered to be some of the nicest and most inclusive people in the country. Crime rates are low, the air is clean, and the population is healthy.

4. Utah

Utah has the fourth-best quality of life in the U.S. Utah ranks second for Economy, third for Infrastructure, and fifth for fiscal Stability. Utah has a strong economy and a low unemployment rate of 2.5%. Utah residents are among some of the healthiest in the country and have very low obesity rates. Utah, however, ranks 49th for Natural Environment due to poor air quality.

5. Vermont

Vermont has the fifth-best quality of life in the United States. Vermont ranks second for Crime & Corrections, seventh for Natural Environment, and eighth for Education. Vermont has the second-lowest crime rate in the country and inclusive state laws. Vermont residents are very active, healthy individuals who are highly educated, with a 38.7% Bachelor's degree attainment rate. Additionally, Vermont's unemployment rate stands at just 2.3%.

6. Maryland

Maryland has the sixth-best quality of life. Maryland has the highest median household income of any state of $83,242. The Maryland economy is consistently one of the strongest in the country, with proximity to a strong job market in Washington D.C. Maryland residents also have access to some of the best hospitals in the U.S., including John Hopkins Hospital. The poverty rate in Maryland is 9.7%, one of the lowest in the country.

7. Virginia

Virginia has the seventh-best quality of life in the United States. Like Maryland, Northern Virginia is also right near Washington D.C., giving residents access to the jobs and attractions. Virginia residents are highly educated, with a Bachelor's degree attainment rate of 39.3%, have a low unemployment rate of 2.6%, and have one of the highest median household incomes of $71,564. Virginia has small towns, sizable cities, and beautiful natural scenery to fit a wide range of tastes.

8. Massachusetts

Massachusetts has the eighth-best quality of living. Massachusetts ranks first for Education as home to some of the world's most prestigious universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Harvard, and Boston College. Massachusetts ranked second for Health Care, with some of the best hospitals in the country, such as Boston Children's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. Additionally, Massachusetts has the fifth-highest median household income of $77,378, thanks to its highly-educated population.

9. Nebraska

Nebraska ranks ninth for the best quality of life. Nebraska ranks sixth for Education and seventh for Fiscal Stability. Nebraska has one of the most affordable costs of living in the United States, coupled with an unemployment rate of 3.1%, below the national rate. Additionally, Nebraska is home to five Fortune 500 companies. Nebraska residents are generally healthy and active, taking in the beautiful farmland and scenery that the state has to offer. Life expectancy is also higher in Nebraska than it is nationally, with an average life expectancy of 79.5 years (vs. 79.1 years nationally).

10. Colorado

Colorado finishes the top ten states with the best quality of life. Colorado ranks first for the Economy. Cities such as Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs offer diverse economies with plenty of job opportunities. Colorado's poverty rate is 9.6%, one of the lowest among all states. Colorado residents have the lowest obesity rate in the United States of 22.6%, with plenty of sunny days to be active outdoors. Additionally, Coloradans have the seventh-longest life expectancy in the U.S. of 80.5 years.

Quality of Life by State 2021

State Quality of Life Rank Healthcare Rank Education Rank Economy Rank
New Hampshire216513
New Jersey126231
North Dakota15382035
North Carolina18302514
South Dakota20321827
New York25132233
Rhode Island2654120
South Carolina42364316
New Mexico46344947
West Virginia47484450

Quality of Life by State 2021