2023’s best and worst states to live in, ranked
One of the most appealing aspects of the U.S. is its size. Because this country is so big, you can live in a variety of places — all of them different and amazing in their own ways. And many Americans would be happy to tell you why their particular state is the best. (Certainly, lots of Texans would!) But WalletHub decided to rank each state based on factors that people consider when judging their living conditions.
The personal finance company assigned point values for all 50 states within five major categories: affordability, economy, education and health, quality of life and safety. Key metrics within the categories included number of attractions, school system quality, access to public transportation and cost of living. Within the affordability category, WalletHub experts awarded points for things like median home price and median annual average income.
When the experts tallied up the numbers in each category, they added it all together and ranked each state out of 100 points total.
Here are their top five states, counting down from the fifth-best to the first in line. Then, we count down the bottom five states.
Best States to Live In
Wyoming has a lot more going for it than just pristine landscapes. It ranks fourth in the country for safety and 10th for affordability. And this state has well-educated citizens: It ranks third for the percentage of the population aged 25 and older with a high school diploma or higher. It has a healthy economy that’s driven by the tourism, energy and agriculture industries.
Not only does it boast stunning scenery, but there’s another benefit to those wide open spaces: Its capital city, Cheyenne, ranks among the top five American cities with the lowest year-round air pollution, according to the American Lung Association.
4. New York
Of all 50 states in the union, New York ranks first for quality of life. It ties for first place in restaurants per capita, and it’s also well-known for its arts and culture as well as its natural beauty. The state also comes in third for safety.
New Yorkers would be the first to tell you that this state isn’t a cheap place to live, and WalletHub’s list confirms it: the Empire State comes in at 47th in the affordability category. That may be why it also ranks 50th in terms of homeownership rate.
3. New Hampshire
There are myriad reasons why New Hampshire is a fantastic place to live. Out of all 50 states, it comes in second in two categories: economy, and education and health (which are one category in the analysis). New Hampshire levies no income or sales tax, and its citizens can enjoy a host of outdoor activities — hiking and skiing its mountains, and swimming, boating and fishing in its lakes. The Granite State ranks fifth overall for safety, with the second-lowest crime rate in the country. And out of all 50 states, it has the lowest percentage of its population living in poverty.
2. New Jersey
New Jersey, the second-best state to live in America, may not be the most affordable (ranking 48th out of 50!), but it makes up for it with superb safety (coming in at No. 1) and an excellent education and health system (No. 7). In a 2023 report by Scholaroo, which ranked states by the quality of their K-12 public education, New Jersey is No. 1. And the Garden State comes in at eleventh in quality of life, thanks to several major entertainment venues, casinos and sports franchises.
The best state to live in America? Drum roll, please …. it’s Massachusetts. This state, which boasts some of the richest history in the country, also ranks first in the present-day U.S. when it comes to education and health. Plus, it scores high numbers for quality of life and safety (ranking sixth in both).
And while it ranks first in the percentage of its population with insurance coverage, it also ranks fifth in the lowest average number of hours its citizens work per week. Fans of the outdoors can find plenty to do: Massachusetts has a diverse natural landscape from the Berkshire mountains to the beaches of Cape Cod. And of course, it’s home to Boston, the tenth-largest metropolitan area in the country.
Worst States to Live In
Oklahoma may be one of the most affordable places in the country to live (ranking 15th), but it comes in at 49th place in health and education. Its high school graduation rates are dismal, and its students consistently fall behind the national average on standardized tests. The economy isn’t exactly booming, either (ranking 37th overall, with the 46th lowest income growth). It also gets low marks for its percentage of insured citizens (ranking 49th).
How does Mississippi rank for education, health and economy? Dead last. And it ranks 49th for quality of life. Its poverty rate hovers at around 20%, and Mississippi’s workforce is also among the nation’s least educated, with the lowest concentration of STEM workers. That doesn’t bode well for the economy going forward.
Louisiana may be best known for throwing the country’s biggest party, Mardi Gras. However, the Crescent State does not fare well in WalletHub’s rankings. Like Mississippi, Louisiana also suffers from low scores in education and health as well as the economy (ranking 48th in the former and 47th in the latter).
In terms of the percentage of the population living in poverty, Louisiana ranks 49th. And its citizens are among the least educated in the country: It ranks 47th for the percentage of the population aged 25 and older with a high school diploma or higher.
You might assume that Alaska, the second-worst state to live in, earns its low ranking because of brutal winter weather. (Not to mention the fact that some parts of it get less than four hours of daylight in winter.) But actually, Alaska has problems beyond cold, snow and darkness. The state is ranked at 50th for quality of life and 44th for safety. Its citizens are stuck in last place when it comes to income growth but top the list for the highest number of hours worked per week. Alaska also has one of the lowest percentages of insured people and ranks 46th on that list.
50. New Mexico
There’s no doubt about it: Despite the lovely dry climate and delicious southwestern cuisine, New Mexico can be a tough place to live. How did the so-called Land of Enchantment earn the dubious distinction of WalletHub’s worst state to live in?
To start with, it lands at the very bottom of the list for safety and 47th place for education and health. New Mexico has one of the highest rates for people living in poverty and is ranked 48th on that list (some estimates say it’s one-fifth of its citizens). And when it comes to people aged 25 and older with a high school diploma or higher, it ranks only 46th in the country.