What are the best states to live in?

Although you will find a lot of data about every state and place in the U.S., it  alone won’t tell you what the best state would be for you to live in. Eventually you will have to decide whether economic conditions, crime rates, or weather are the most important factors for your decision.

How to find the “best” state in the U.S.?

Maybe you knew already which state or place you would like to live in long before you decided to move to the US. Sometimes it is easy to make this kind of decision. You either marry the love of your life (as I did), and therefore don't have much of a choice because you have to move where your future spouse lives. Or you move because you want to advance your career. That also makes it easy for you to decide where to live: you go where the job is.

But maybe you are one of the many people who have this dream about living in America and you want to be sure that you pick the perfect place. And that is where it gets tricky. How would anyone from abroad be able to decide which state would be the best to live in, let alone cities and towns? Even Americans have a hard time agreeing on that. And they usually know their country - at least better than we foreigners do.

Picture of a pole at the beach with painted signs showing various US states.

Find your perfect state in America to live in.

 

Well, you can rely on other people's opinions and millions of websites to find the best state. If I were you, I would be rather careful about many of these websites and I would pay attention to who the website's publisher is.

In order to get valuable information about America, I focus on the main news channels, the U.S. Census Bureau, and the McKinsey report. News channels like USA Today, CNBC, and CBS sometimes  do their own surveys in order to provide their readers with well researched reports. They come up with a rating system, but, of course, they and all the other websites can develop different ranking results. But there are ways for you to find the information that you need in order create your own ranking.

You can find pretty much all the data you need to determine "your" best state on the U.S. Census Bureau’s website. Although the raw data, provided in downloadable tables, is hard to decipher for “normal” people like us, they  also offer a pretty good search engine that answers most questions.

Which states are the best to live in?

What you should do first is to determine what you really want from your life in the US.

Do you want to start or improve your career? Would you like to live in a place where you have direct and close access to a lot of outdoor activities year-round? Are you more interested in a safe environment and a good educational system because you will move with your family and raise children? Are you someone who wants to live in a place that offers a lot of different things to do? Maybe you are already a little older and want to make sure, considering America's health care system, that the place that you will live in offers you the best possible care? Or maybe all you care about is the weather?

There are many things to consider and categories to think about in order to make a decision. And in the end, your best place to live in the United States is not the same as  other peoples’ , nor is it consistent with the data that you find about the states.

Finding the perfect state for your new life is always a personal decision, but maybe I can help you a little with that.

So, think about it: What is your American way of life supposed to be like?
Would your main focus be on:

  • Fun and sports?
  • A great job?
  • Family life and safety?
  • Weather?
  • Health and Health care?
  • Nature?
  • Anti-discrimination laws?

You can either focus on your most preferred category or take all categories into account.

Very roughly, one could say that the southern states like Louisiana and Mississippi seem to be on the cheaper side if you consider all living expenses, but also the least attractive states if you value safety, health, and economy

America is big and every state has its own charm.

 

On the other hand, Midwestern states like Minnesota, Utah, and Iowa seem to offer, overall,  a high quality of life. New England states like Maine and Massachusetsare are more in the middle range.

According to CNBC, some states are famous for their outdoor activities but not so good if you want to do other things (like Maine and Minnesota). Other states thrive economically, which means it is easy to find a job and advance a career, but they have a pretty high criminal rate (Washington State  and Florida, for example).

So, it’s up to you to decide which state you would like best.  

What is the cheapest state to live in?

In order to determine which state is the least expensive to live in, we have to take a look not only at the prices for basic things like food, utilities, and taxes , but also at the median income and house prices.

Low taxes and house prices might not help much if the median income is very low, too. And a high income does not have to be such a big benefit if you pay two or three times more than the median housing value for a house or a rental apartment in that area.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median household income is $55,322 and the median household value is $184,700 in the US.

  • Looking at this number, it makes sense to pay attention to what each state really offers.
  • Mississippi seems to be one of the winners here.
  • According to CNBC , the cost of living is the lowest in this state.
  • The U.S. Census Bureau states that the median house value is just a bit over $100,000, and the median household income is $41,099.
  • Taxes are rather on the lower end according to USA Today.

Low costs, low taxes, and a median house value that only costs 2.5 times of an annual median household income seem to make this state attractive if you are looking for a life that does not involve spending much.

But Mississippi also offers some of the worst mortality rates, infant mortality rates, and obesity rates in the U.S. Low income always seems to be paired with low health.

The five states with the lowest median housing value

STATES

MEDIAN HOUSING VALUE

Mississippi

$105,700

West Virginia

$107,400

Arkansas

$114,700

Puerto Rico

$118,600

Oklahoma

$121,300

U.S. Census Bureau

What is the most expensive state to live in? 

Hawaii looks like one of the states that are really expensive! Their median household income is $72,133 which is one of the highest, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, but the median house value is a bit over $500,000 – more than seven times  the annual median income of a household. Wallethub ranks Hawaii as the most expensive state for taxes.

But Hawaii shines in all other categories. Its population is the healthiest in the nation (low mortality rate, low obesity rate, great mental health) and ranks first in health care. People seem to be very happy there – no wonder, on this beautiful island with  great weather, year-round.

If you are looking for low expenses, Hawaii would probably not be your choice. But if you want to become a happy Hawaiian – you would know where to go.

The five states with the highest median housing value

STATES

MEDIAN HOUSING VALUE

Hawaii

$538,400

District of Columbia

$506,100

California

$409,300

Massachusetts

$341,000

New Jersey

$316,400

U.S. Census Bureau

Why did I move to Maine?

Well, I married a Mainer. And Mainers don’t seem to like living anywhere else than in Maine – although they never stop complaining about the weather. In winter they complain about the cold and that winter never seems to end. And in summer they complain about winter, too, telling each other stories about all the terrible winters they have lived through. They truly believe that complaining about winter prepares them for the coming cold months and might soften their suffering. I have never noticed that this strategy ever worked.

But Mainers love their Maine. They just do. But they would never admit it.

What I like and dislike about Maine

I love the people. They are open, helpful, but also kind of distant. They leave you in peace and are not overwhelmingly friendly- only if you need them. I like that! They are very low key, not superficial at all. You might  even meet millionaires at Walmart, wearing ripped up jeans with a simple t-shirt. If you are looking for a place where you can be just the way you are, without being judged, Maine would be a good choice.

And I love the weather here. No matter how cold and long the winter might be in Maine, there are always many sunny days.

Maine is famous for the indian summers, when trees are changing their colors.

 

I don't like that it is kind of hard to develop friendships here. As I said, Mainers are friendly, but they like to keep to themselves. They will be always nice to me but, after six years, I am still struggling to find new friends. No matter what I do, my relationships with Americans don't make it to the next level. But it could also be that they just have a different definition of what a friendship looks like.

Facts about Maine: 

  • It has one of the lowest crime rates.
  • The median houshold income is with $50,826, almost $5,000 below the US median.
  • The median housing value is $176,000 (compared to the US median housing value of $184,700).
  • The cost of living is slightly above average.
  • It has an unemployment rate of 4 percent.

Where I would like to live in America

Honestly, that changes every year. Right now, Andrew and I are thinking about Arizona because he likes it dry and hot (me too), and because I love the Grand Canyon.

If I would have to decide where to live in the U.S. now, I would surely look at the data, but eventually my heart (or gut feeling) would make the decision. I adopted the American positive attitude that I will create a good life in any state, as long as I feel good there - no matter what the data says. 

So, what state would you like to live in and why?

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