America’s worst states to live in 2017

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Top States for Business

America’s worst states to live in 2017

Ieshia Evans is detained by law enforcement as she protests the shooting death of Alton Sterling near the headquarters of the Baton Rouge Police Department in Louisiana, U.S. July 9, 2016.
Jonathan Bachman | Reuters

Far be it from us to throw shade on your home sweet home, but the data does not lie. The Quality of Life category in our annual America's Top States for Business study ranks all 50 states on overall livability based on metrics, including crime rate, attractions, air quality, health and health care and legal protections against discrimination. Quality of Life is worth a possible 300 out of 2,500 total points in the study, based on the Top States methodology and sources. Journey with us now through this year's Top States hall of shame — the 10 bottom states for quality of life.

Above: A demonstrator protesting the shooting death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is detained by law enforcement.

  • 10. KENTUCKY

    The Bluegrass State is in the heart of tobacco country, and residents here would do well to lay off the local product a bit. More than a quarter of adults are regular smokers in Kentucky, the highest rate in the country. The state also has the nation's highest rate of cancer deaths and one of the highest rates of cardiovascular deaths. But Kentucky does have one of the lowest violent-crime rates.

    2017 Quality of Life score: 119 out of 300 points
    Weaknesses: Health, inclusiveness
    Strength: Low crime rate
    2016 Quality of Life rank: No. 42

    Below: A worker smokes a cigarette while hanging Burley tobacco in a barn during harvest at Tucker Farms in Shelbyville, Kentucky.

    A worker smokes a cigarette while hanging Burley tobacco in a barn during harvest at Tucker Farms in Shelbyville, Kentucky.
    Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images
  • 9. (tie) NEW MEXICO

    For a place that calls itself the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico can be a dicey place. Per capita, it has one of the highest violent-crime rates in the country. And if you're thinking of sprawling southwest vistas with clean, dry air, don't forget about Doña Ana County — home of Las Cruces, on the Mexican border — which has had the poorest measured air quality in the state over the past three years. There, the ozone and particulate pollution is so elevated, the air can be dangerous to breathe for more than two weeks out of the year.

    2017 Quality of Life score: 107 out of 300 points
    Weaknesses: Crime rate, air quality, health
    Strength: Attractions
    2016 Quality of Life rank: No. 36

    Below: Fluids and gases are escaping from old, abandoned boreholes drilled in the ground, causing environmental damage near Hobbs, New Mexico.

    Fluids and gases are escaping from old, abandoned boreholes drilled in the ground causing environmental damage near Hobbs, New Mexico.
    Danita Delimont | Getty Images
  • 9. (tie) TENNESSEE

    The Volunteer State could use some people to sign up for its Neighborhood Watch programs. The nation's 16th most populous state nonetheless logged 84,000 simple assault cases and 490 murder cases last year, making it among the most violent in the country. It is also one of the least healthy, with high rates of cancer and diabetes. But Tennessee does offer plenty to do.

    2017 Quality of Life score: 107 out of 300 points
    Weaknesses: Crime rate, health
    Strengths: Air quality, attractions
    2016 Quality of Life rank: No. 46

    Below: Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team work the scene of a shooting in Chattanooga.

    Members of the FBI Evidence Response Team work the scene of a shooting in the parking lot of the Armed Forces Career Center/National Guard recruitment office on July 16, 2015 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
    Getty Images
  • 7. MISSISSIPPI

    One of Mississippi's nicknames is the Hospitality State, which, based on our study, is akin to the fat guy who goes by the nickname Slim. Mississippi is one of only 5 states with no law protecting non-disabled people against discrimination. And speaking of the aforementioned Slim, Mississippi has one of the highest obesity rates in the nation, and its population is among the most sedentary.

    2017 Quality of Life score: 105 out of 300 points
    Weaknesses: Inclusiveness, health
    Strengths: Low crime rate, air quality
    2016 Quality of Life rank: No. 44

    Below: A heavyset man rests on a bench in Jackson, Mississippi.

    A heavy set man rests on a bench in Jackson, Miss.
    Rogelio V. Solis | AP
  • 6. INDIANA

    Under pressure from businesses, the Hoosier State backed down somewhat on then-Governor Mike Pence's so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act. But the state still lacks some basic protections against discrimination based on marital status, sexual orientation and gender identity. On the positive side, despite its steelmaking heritage, the air quality in Indiana is improving.

    2017 Quality of Life score: 102 out of 300 points
    Weaknesses: Inclusiveness, health
    Strengths: Air quality
    2016 Quality of Life rank: No. 45

    Below: Demonstrators gather outside the city county building on March 30, 2015, in Indianapolis, requesting the state house roll back the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics say can be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

    Demonstrators gather outside the City County Building on March 30, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The group called on the state house to roll back the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics say can be used to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
    Getty Images
  • 5. MISSOURI

    Show Me how to stay safe in Missouri, where violent crime in all categories has been rising, in some cases by double digits. Missouri also lacks statewide protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, marital status, and gender identity. And the state is near the bottom for public health funding.

    2017 Quality of Life score: 99 out of 300 points
    Weaknesses: Crime rate, health, inclusiveness
    Strength: Attractions
    2016 Quality of Life rank: No. 49

    Below: A protester yells at a police line shortly before shots were fired in a police officer–involved shooting in Ferguson.

    A protester yells at a police line shortly before shots were fired in a police-officer involved shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
    Rick Wilking | Reuters
  • 4. ARKANSAS

    Arkansas calls itself the Natural State, and you might think residents would like to get out there and enjoy it. In fact, Arkansans have one of the lowest rates of physical activity in the country. Health care is spotty; Arkansas has the lowest number of dentists per person of any state. And the crime rate is among the highest in the nation. The natural state here: inactive, unhealthy, and crime-ridden.

    2017 Quality of Life score: 94 out of 300 points
    Weaknesses: Health, crime rate
    Strength: Air quality
    2016 Quality of Life rank: No. 50

    Below: A volunteer dental hygienist performs a screening on a patient in Bentonville, Arkansas.

    A volunteer dental hygienist, performs a screening on a patient in Bentonville, Ark.
    Beth Hall | AP
  • 3. OKLAHOMA

    Heavy tobacco use — yes, Okies are smoky — contributes to one of the highest rates of premature death in the nation. The state has one of the worst infant mortality rates, and reported mental health issues are widespread. Despite that, Oklahoma ranks in the bottom five states for health insurance coverage. Attractions in this state are relatively few, leaving this state with a host of problems to address sooner rather than later.

    2017 Quality of Life score: 91 out of 300 points
    Weaknesses: Health, attractions
    Strength: Air quality
    2016 Quality of Life rank: No. 48

    A smoker holds his cigarette outside Oklahoma County Courthouse in Oklahoma City.
    Sue Ogrocki | AP
  • 2. LOUISIANA

    Heavenly beignets, deep-fried with a generous topping of powdered sugar. An oyster po' boy dressed with lots of mayo. Crawfish étouffée with buttery sauce, and rich bananas Foster for dessert. Okay, those are some of the good things about Louisiana's quality of life. But they also explain why this is America's fattest state. It is also among the most dangerous, with the nation's highest murder rate. New Orleans alone logged 175 murders last year, the most deadly since 2012.

    2017 Quality of Life score: 87 out of 300 points
    Weaknesses: Health, crime
    Strength: Attractions
    2016 Quality of Life rank: No. 47

    A heavy set woman walking in Baton Rouge, LA.
    Press Association | AP Images
  • 1. ALABAMA

    Sweet home? Not if you are over 50, a minority, gay or transgender and you are concerned about discrimination. Alabama is one of only five states with no statewide legal protections for those groups, making it one of America's least inclusive states. It is also one of America's least healthy states, with the nation's third-highest rate of premature deaths. On a positive note, the skies are blue and the governor's true.

    2017 Quality of Life score: 83 out of 300 points
    Weaknesses: Inclusiveness, health, crime
    Strength: Air quality
    2016 Quality of Life rank: No. 43

    Below: Anti-gay protestors listen to Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore speak at a rally of conservative Texas legislators opposing gay marriage.

    Anti-gay marriage protesters hold signs as Controversial Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore speaks at a rally of conservative Texas legislators opposing gay marriage at a Texas Capitol rally .
    Robert Daemmrich Photography Inc | Corbis | Getty Images