When it comes to deciding where you want to live, it pays to know about things like cost of living, education, healthcare, and more. The US has a relatively high quality of living in comparison to other countries around the world. However, some states are better than others. Knowing the worst state in America for certain factors will help you to decide whether or not to move there.
We’ve taken the time to rank the 20 worst states to live in across the USA by using a variety of metrics.
The worst states to live in America are debatable because of what is considered “the worst.” As such, we’ve looked at such factors as the cost of living, education, healthcare, infrastructure, crime rates, job opportunities, and the natural environment.
We explored a few sources to help us with ranking, too:
- US News & World Report: This website provides rankings across the US for the worst state in America based on certain factors such as education and healthcare.
- Crime maps: We’ve looked at various crime maps to see where the most crime takes place.
- School reports: We’ve used some of the most recent school reports to see which states have the worst educational systems based on such things as state testing scores and graduation rates.
- Cost of living reports: Various cost-of-living sites have been used to determine which states are too expensive for the average person to thrive in.
- Lifestyle blogs: We’ve read through a number of lifestyle blogs that talk about the states and what they have to offer. This will determine if the state offers enough benefits to outweigh some of the negative aspects.
20. Indiana – Healthcare, Climate
Despite the low percentage of poverty, Indiana is one of the worst states to live in the U.S., as suggested by other factors. The state ranks 43rd in public healthcare, according to US News & World Report. Indiana is also among the top ten states in the U.S. regarding high smoking rates and obesity, with many adults reporting that they get little to no exercise. This has undoubtedly been attributed to lower life expectancy (77.1 years) than the national average of 79.2 years.
The extreme temperatures here also influenced its worst ranking. Indiana experiences hot and humid summers and damp, chilly winters with a significant cloud cover. This also leads to a low ranking (#50) for the natural environment. It simply does not offer enough for many people to want to live in the state.
19. Tennessee – Crime Rate, Healthcare
Tennessee is famous for its iconic smoky mountains, delicious chicken, and country music. However, the state has a wrong side that makes it a bad state to live in.
It has among the worst crime rates in the U.S., ranking second in violent crime rate, according to Safewise.com. This includes such crimes as robbery, rape, severe assault, and murder. It’s also the 11th highest in property crime. Of course, that varies by neighborhood, but as a whole, it’s above the US average. Regarding health metrics, Tennessee has the 6th lowest life expectancy in the country at 76.2 years.
Its general population health is also low, with the state having among the highest smoking, obesity, and low exercise levels. The state has a poverty level of 13.6%, one of the highest in the nation.
18. Texas – Voting Rights, Inclusiveness
Texas is highly popular for its massive strength as a perfect place for business. The state offers a lot of tax incentives for businesses of all sizes. However, the state frequently tries to outdo itself with exclusive regulations and laws.
It’s among the few states with no laws that protect against discrimination in public accommodations. The Democrats in Texas successfully turned down a bill that would restrict voting further while it’s already one of the problematic states to vote.
The governor and legislators are advancing a special session to enact the registration. The Democratic lawmakers went out of the state to hold the process down and attract national attention.
US News & World Report has also ranked it low in a few areas, including #47 for opportunity as well as #40 for natural environment. If you’ve ever tried looking for a job in the state or have driven across the barren parts of West Texas, you’ll understand these rankings.
17. Delaware – Health Resources
Recent statistics reveal that Delaware citizens are more likely to be unhealthy than in other states. The state has an average life expectancy of 78.6 years which is several months less than the national average.
More so, with a poverty level of 12.5%, lower than the national figure, a relative number of Delaware residents are not financially secure. This is only made worse when you look at the cost of living in the state. It is 4% higher than the national average, with most of that coming from housing and the cost of groceries, as reported by RentCafe.com.
16. Pennsylvania – Healthcare, Education
Pennsylvania is another state that ranks poorly in terms of education and health. Only 31.8% of residents in Pennsylvania have a bachelor’s degree, with the national average being 32.6%. Beyond that, it has been reported that graduation rates are low, with an average of 79.6% of the students graduating high school.
The state’s lower education attainment might be linked to the lower-than-average life expectancy. In terms of population growth, Pennsylvania experienced a 1.6% population increase over the last ten years, significantly lower than the 6.6% nationwide population increase.
Also, the average life expectancy at birth in Pennsylvania is 78.2 years which is a year less than the country’s average of 79.1 years. Adults with a degree are highly likely to lead healthier lifestyles and have better health outcomes.
There are also issues with the state’s politics. In the past year, there have been a number of bipartisan issues that have led to riots and high crime in major cities, including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
15. Florida – Unemployment, Education
Compared to average Americans, Floridians have less probability of having a college education. They are also more likely to go through severe financial difficulties. According to the US Census, just 31.5% of residents in Florida have a bachelor’s degree or higher compared to the national average of 32.6%. Additionally, only 89% of residents are high school graduates.
The state has a poverty level of 13.6%, which is higher than the country average of 13.1%. These are some of the factors that make Florida among the worst states.
The state also encounters troubles due to Hurricane Season, which can cause mass winds and flooding, leading to insurance claims, loss of homes, and other problems.
14. Idaho – Education, Health
Idaho gets to the list of the worst states to live in, mainly for its low education levels. The state has the lowest bachelor’s degree completion rates nationwide at only 30.7%, compared to a country average of 32.6%, according to the US census.
Lower education levels are typically associated with an unhealthy lifestyle and low earnings. But despite the low bachelor’s degree attainment rate, Idaho has a poverty percentage of 11.8, which is relatively lower than the average 13.6 % throughout the country.
The state doesn’t rank well in many areas, according to US News & World Report. It does the best in terms of fiscal stability and economy. However, it ranks #14 in healthcare, #22 in education, and #23 in natural environment.
13. South Carolina – Crime, Education Level
Next on the list is South Carolina, which is highly attributed to its shortcomings in education and high crime rates. The state’s school is lower than the Country’s high school graduation rates and K-12 performance measures (81% to 85%).
It is also said to have the worst poverty gap, increasing the difference in education quality between wealthy and poor students.
South Carolina ranks among the highest in violent crimes. According to Safewise.com, it is the seventh highest in the US for both violent crime and property crimes. This means that it’s perhaps the worst state in America if you’re looking at crime, though this also depends on the city and neighborhood.
12. Maine – Health, Education Level
Maine ranks the lowest among the states in the New England region. It’s the only state in New England with a lower bachelor’s degree attainment rate than the country’s average. The US Census identifies that about 93.7% of the population has a high school diploma and only 33.6% have a bachelor’s degree.
The state also encounters extremely cold winters with a significant amount of snowfall, which can make it nearly unbearable for many Americans.
11. Louisiana – Food Insecurity, Crime, Education
Louisiana has been one of the worst states in the U.S. since 2017. It has low performances across all measurement statistics, particularly education and crime. Education and employment opportunities in Louisiana are among the worst in the country. Property Club has identified that some of the most dangerous cities in the state include Opelousas, Gonzales, New Orleans, and Hammond.
According to World Population Review, Louisiana has a 19% poverty level, contributing to the highest food insecurity. Additionally, criminal justice and crime rates are severe concerns in Louisiana.
The state ranks top in the country for homicide, with a rate of 15.8 murders per 100,000 people, with Missouri coming second at 11.8 homicides per 100,000. Louisiana also has the highest incarceration rate, with 680 incarcerated individuals per 100,000.
10. New Mexico – Education, Health, Poverty Level
New Mexico is among the worst states in the U.S., mainly attributed to opportunity and education metrics. The state’s education system ranks last in the country. The state’s public schools rank worst in the nation. Only less than 75% of the New Mexican students graduate from high school, which is relatively lower than the national average of 85.8%.
New Mexico has a high poverty level of 17%, which gives it one of the lowest opportunity metrics. More so, about 26% of kids live below the poverty line, which is the highest level in the country.
US News & World Report shows that the state also ranks poorly in infrastructure, crime, and opportunity, which is why it’s often listed as one of the 10 worst states to live in.
9. Kentucky – Healthcare, Financial Instability
While Kentucky performs well in terms of infrastructure, low crime rate, and opportunity metrics, its healthcare concerns and fiscal instability overshadow some of these strengths.
Kentucky performs poorly in various health metrics, including high levels of preventable hospitalization, low childhood immunization rate, and people’s habits. The state is second in a high rate of sleep deprivation and smoking while ranking last in exercising and consuming vegetables and fruit.
The state ranks poorly in a few areas, according to US News & World Report. It was #43 in the economy, which means that many people don’t have the financial means to support themselves.
8. Arkansas – Crime, Healthcare
Also on our list of the worst states to live in 2023 is Arkansas, mainly due to crime rates and healthcare concerns. The state’s healthcare access, particularly dental care, is ranked among the worst in the U.S. Residents have one of the lowest rates of dental visits, with a significant percentage avoiding healthcare because of high cost.
This state also has the second highest rates of cardiovascular disease and tobacco use. with high rates of economic hardship and low education levels. According to The Sentencing Project, it’s no surprise that Arkansas has the fourth highest violent crime and incarceration rate.
Education is a problem within the state, too. It is low as a result of educational scores as well as child well-being. Kark.com ranks the state as 47th, showing that it’s close to being the worst state in USA when it comes to education.
7. Nevada – Poor Healthcare, Low Education Levels
Lower education is often associated with lower life quality. Only a quarter of the population in Nevada has attained a bachelor’s degree.
However, lower education cannot make Nevada the worst state to live in on its own. Its public health spending and allocation of hospital resources have contributed to its inclusion on the list. Nevada ranks worst in primary care doctors per capita and spends the lowest inhabitant’s health per person per year at $50.
11.2% of the state’s residents don’t have health insurance, resulting in a lower life expectancy. Nevada has had among the highest unemployment rates in the nation for years. However, at 12.9%, the poverty rate is relatively lower than in several states.
The cost of living is high across the state. Bestplaces.net lists the living index as 109.7 (100 is the US basis). Housing, transportation, and food are among some of the most expensive items in comparison to the nation as a whole.
6. Arizona – Air Quality, Crime
Arizona is a beautiful state for outdoor enthusiasts to settle. It features several natural wonders like the Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon, and Monument Valley.
However, appearances can sometimes be deceiving, and Arizona is among the worst locations to live in 2022. While we can’t overlook the natural scenery, overcrowded cities such as Phoenix lead to one of the worst air quality compared to other states.
This, combined with insufficient public health funding, is the worst news for people with respiratory issues. Arizona also has an above-average poverty rate of 14%. Rentcafe.com identified that the cost of living is about 6% higher in Arizona than in the rest of the nation. What’s worse is that housing is considered to be 20% higher than the nation, which means home ownership is an astronomical expense.
During the summer, using an air conditioner becomes a necessity, resulting in a massive energy bill that many people cannot afford. Some residents living in poverty enter into crime to pay the expenses. This puts the state in the 10th ranking on the worst violent crime rate in the nation.
5. West Virginia – Infrastructure, Economy, Healthcare
West Virginia is another low-ranking, worse state to live in, which is significantly contributed by its poor economy, infrastructure, and healthcare statistics.
The state has one of the worst infrastructure systems in the country, with about a third of the roads in poor condition. The Infrastructuredreportcard.org rates West Virginia with a grade of D, showing that the state systems are at risk, with most elements reaching the edge of their service life.
4. Oklahoma – Health Resources, Poverty
Analyzing the general health of a state’s population can help you decide if it’s an excellent place to live or not. Unluckily, these statistics indicate that Oklahoma is one of the worst states in the U.S. to live in.
According to Audacy.com, around 14.2% of Oklahomans have no insurance, making the state to have one of the lowest inurement rates in the country. This, together with the poverty level of 5.6%, makes the state one of the worst. It’s not surprising that life expectancy is one of the lowest.
Education is not that great in Oklahoma, either. In fact, according to The Oklahoman, the state was ranked as #50 in a Wallethub ranking of the Best & Worst School Systems.
3. Alaska – Crime, Economy, Unemployment
Alaska continues to be problematic when it comes to the economy. US News & World Report ranks it $46 in economy, followed by #33 for opportunity, which means that many people will struggle financially within the state.
This is partly attributed to the COVID pandemic, which hurt the state’s heavy dependence on tourism and oil. According to statistics by the Alaskan Department of Labor, the state is behind the national average in unemployment, job creation, and wage growth. Alaska also has one of the highest crime rates in the USA. Violent crimes by population is at 758.9 while the US average is 380.7, as reported by the FBI.
2. Mississippi – Childcare, Health, Unemployment, Food Insecurity
Mississippi has been on the list of one of the worst states in the USA for several years in a row, and that’s due to its poor performance across numerous metrics. Mississippi ranks last on the Economic Hardship Index.
About 19% of Mississippi residents live on or below the poverty line. The state has a per capita income of $26,807, one of the lowest in the country.
The food insecurity and unemployment levels in the state are also some of the worst. Regarding healthcare, Mississippi ranks the worst with the highest rate of obesity, cesarean delivery, infant mortality, preterm birth, and low birth weight.
About a fifth of Mississippi residents have no health insurance, with fifteen percent claiming to avoid going for healthcare because of financial issues.
Beyond that, Mississippi ranks low in education – but it’s no longer within the bottom 10. According to Mississippi Today, the state has been improving. It now sits at #35 for K-12 achievement and #32 for child well-being.
1. Alabama – Healthcare, Education, Inclusiveness
Alabama is the worst in 2023, with poverty rates at around 16.2%. According to the US Census, the median annual household is around $54,943, below the $74,580 national average for median income.
The poverty levels also account for low education standards, with just 27.4% of Alabama having attained a bachelor’s degree or more. Low income and lack of education mean more probability of poor lifestyle choices such as unhealthy food.
The state has a life expectancy of 73.2, about four years less than the national average. More so, Alabama is among the few states without legal protection against discrimination for non-disabled citizens, which makes life much more challenging for minorities..
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Written by Liz Flynn
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