CNBC ranks the top 10 states to live in 2018. They get the top marks for low crime, inclusiveness, a strong health system and a healthy environment.
They use hard data to measure quality of life. That includes crime rates, tourist visits, health care and inclusiveness, as measured by legal protections written into state laws to choose these 10 states that are the best places to live in America.
Never mind that historians say Plymouth was not the Pilgrims’ first choice when they set out for the New World. The point is that they settled in Massachusetts in hopes of a better life. Nearly 400 years later the Bay State still offers great promise. Massachusetts is America’s healthiest state. More than 98 percent of Massachusetts residents have health insurance — the highest percentage in the country, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Boston offers a wealth of historic attractions; Cape Cod is a vacation paradise. And in keeping with the state’s heritage of liberty, Massachusetts is an inclusive state, with robust protections against discrimination.
The Centennial State is among America’s most inclusive, with strong antidiscrimination protections written into state law. Enjoy the hipness of Denver and Boulder; then take in the majestic beauty of the Colorado Rockies. No wonder more than 70 percent of Coloradans tell Gallup they feel “active and productive.” Perhaps surprisingly, air quality in the state leaves something to be desired, and no, it has nothing to do with the legal marijuana smoke.
7. (tie) Montana
Here in Big Sky Country the air you breathe is pure. High-ozone days are practically nonexistent, according to the American Lung Association. All the better to experience the breathtaking scenery around you. If you are not an outdoors person, you might have some trouble finding things to do, but is that really Montana’s fault? The state is also a welcoming place, with strong antidiscrimination provisions written into the law.
7. (tie) Iowa
What is the state bird in the Hawkeye State? Trick question — it is the Eastern Goldfinch. Whatever is flying around, it is enjoying some of the cleanest air in the country, and so can you. Iowa is a welcoming state. It was among the earliest states to embrace inclusiveness; its public-accommodation law banning discrimination dates back to the civil rights movement in the 1960s. It is true you might be lacking in things to do here in the middle of the heartland, but when it comes to your actual heart, you will find great health care here.
5. (tie) Washington
Even its nickname, the Evergreen State, conjures up images of strength and sturdiness. Sure enough, Washington is among America’s 10 healthiest states, according to the United Health Foundation. Plus, Washington did not become the home of companies like Microsoft, Costco and Amazon by turning away skilled workers. Indeed, this is one of America’s most inclusive states, with strong antidiscrimination provisions written into state law.
5. (tie) New Hampshire
This state’s famous motto is “Live Free or Die,” and the numbers show New Hampshiretakes that to heart. Residents here are largely free of the fear of crime, with the third-lowest violent-crime rate in the nation. The future is bright, with America’s lowest child-poverty rate. And strong antidiscrimination laws help ensure that everyone shares those freedoms. In this quiet corner of New England, you might sometimes lack things to do, and air quality in the counties closest to the Massachusetts border can be iffy. But all in all, quality of life in the Granite State is solid.
4. North Dakota
The Peace Garden State derives its official nickname from a real place — the International Peace Garden that straddles the border between North Dakota and the Canadian province of Manitoba. But this whole state is peaceful. Only about 30 percent of the residents surveyed told Gallup they worry about money. That is one of the lowest rates in the country. The state’s economy has slowed considerably following the rapid, often uncomfortable growth during the shale oil boom. But North Dakota appears to have used its oil wealth wisely, now settling into a period of relative stability and, yes, peace.
The term often used to describe residents of the North Star State is “Minnesota nice,” and the numbers suggest there is something to that. The violent-crime rate is among the lowest of any state. Minnesotans are healthy, with the lowest cardiovascular death rate in the nation. Strong antidiscrimination laws attest to this state’s welcoming nature. Yes, Minnesota winters can be brutal, but we don’t consider weather in our Top States study, because it is just too subjective. Besides, Minnesotans are amazingly good at adapting to the cold.
Mahalo (thanks), Hawaii, for being America’s paradise and the home of a lifestyle we all can aspire to. While Hawaii is normally at the top of our Top States rankings for Quality of Life, the state slips to a rare second-place finish in 2018, and it has nothing to do with the recent volcanic eruptions on the Big Island — they affect only a relatively tiny part of the state. The small stumble is due to a slight uptick in crime, as well as a slightly less-healthy population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including a pronounced rise in the percentage of adults with diabetes. But make no mistake; the Aloha spirit is alive and well here, with clean air, a million things to do and a population that is loving every minute of it.
The Green Mountain State has America’s second-lowest violent-crime rate, a healthy population, a pristine environment and strong anti-discrimination laws to make sure all can enjoy the place. No wonder nearly 77 percent of those surveyed tell Gallup they feel “active and productive” — the highest rate in the nation. Vermont is not exactly a magnet for tourists, suggesting there may sometimes be a shortage of things to do. But Vermonters will tell you that is just part of the idyllic charm of America’s Top State to live in for 2018.
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