If quality of life is very important to you and you're looking for a state to either start or relocate your company, you might want to pay close attention to CNBC's Top States for Businessrankings. Our findings have been reliably consistent and stable during the past few years.
It's rare for a state to crack the top 10 in the Quality of Lifecategory, as Utah did this year, and those that fall out of the top 10 rarely fall far. Massachusetts slipped to 11 from 10.
Two states thousands of miles apart have alternated the No. 1 and 2spots for four of the past five years. 2012, the sixth-annual rankings, brings yet another flip-flop between them.
New Hampshire knocked Hawaiifrom the top spot, trading places from 2011's rankings. The Granite State also placed first in 2009.
Rounding out the top five: Vermontfinished third for the third year in a row; Maine took fourth place, vs. sixth in 2011; and Minnesotaranked fifth — vs. eighth a year ago — tying North Dakota.
South Dakota, Colorado, WyomingandUtah ranked seventh through 10th, respectively.
The Quality of Life category, worth 350 points, is relatively straight forward. Criteria include air and water quality, health care, crime rate and local attractions.
Based on that, it's easy to see how sparsely populated states like the Dakotas, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming would fare well in terms of air and water quality.
Yet, Hawaii is the 13th most-densely populated state in the nation and New Hampshire not far behind at 21. Alaska, with fewer people per square mile than any other state (according to Census Department data), didn't even make the top 25 in the category.
Attractions clearly play a role, which explains Hawaii's perennial strong showing. Natural beauty, national parks, skiing, hiking, boating also no doubt helped Colorado, Wyoming and Utah.
Though New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine have some of those features, the big qualifier (and their high rankings) is that the states have three of the lowest violent-crime rates in the nation.
Undesirable crime rates arguably contributed to the rankings of four of the five worst states in our Quality of Life category: Louisiana, (50), Delaware (49), Tennessee (48) and Nevada(46).
Louisiana, by the way, has finished last for five years in a row. Even with the Crescent City? Of course, some consider New Orleans a city-state. Laissez les bons temps rouler.