The best places to do business are also the best places to live. At least that’s how many states market themselves to the public. CNBC’s Top States for Business study found quality of life is among the most frequently mentioned selling points in state economic development campaigns. That’s why quality of life is one of the most important categories in our study of America’s Top States for Business, worth 350 out of 2,500 possible points.
Sure, quality of life is in the eye of the beholder. Some people would rather live in the city; others prefer the country. Some love sunshine year round, others like four seasons. But there are plenty of objective measures most of us can agree on when it comes to a quality place to live.
We scored the states on several factors, including local attractions, the crime rate, as well as air and water quality and pollution. We looked at access to recreational areas. And we looked at health care including facilities, insurance coverage and outcomes.
Because the quality of life category carries such heavy weight in our study — tied with cost of doing business and workforce as the top-weighted category — states that do well here have a big jump on the competition.
Here are our 10 top states for quality of life.
By Scott Cohn
Posted 10 July 2012
2012 Quality of Life Points: 237 out of 350
2011 Quality of Life Rank: 14
The Beehive State gets its nickname from the industriousness of its people, but there is plenty for them to do when they’re not at work. A top destination for international visitors in search of America’s natural beauty, Utah offers tranquility and a very low crime rate. It is also among America’s healthiest states, though the state’s active mining industry hurts in some environmental measures.
2012 Quality of Life Points: 244 out of 350
2011 Quality of Life Rank: 4
In the Cowboy State, it’s great to be home on the range. You can feel safe there, too, with one of the lowest crime rates in the country. The air is fresh and the water is clean. Wyoming also finishes in the top tier when it comes to health.
2012 Quality of Life Points: 246 out of 350
2011 Quality of Life Rank: 7
The Centennial State offers an intoxicating mix of urban flair and natural beauty. Quality of life is a Mile High. Colorado ranks as one of America’s healthiest states, with low incidences of cancer and obesity. Colorado suffers in some environmental measures, and finishes in the middle of the pack for crime, but on balance it is one of the best states in which to live.
2012 Quality of Life Points: 247 out of 350
2011 Quality of Life Rank: 5
Looking for the freshest air in the country? Then, head to the Mount Rushmore State, which offers a practically pristine environment. Crime is low; livability is high. Despite the famous Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Badlands National Park, South Dakota lags many states when it comes to recreational areas, but overall quality of life is not bad at all.
2012 Quality of Life Points: 250 out of 350
2011 Quality of Life Rank: 9
The Peace Garden State rivals its neighbor to the south in measures of environmental quality. And the growing pains resulting from the state’s oil boom do not seem to have hurt its quality of life. Crime is low, too. North Dakota does rank at the low end when it comes to parks and recreation, but it’s still a great place to live.
2012 Quality of Life Points: 250 out of 350
2011 Quality of Life Rank: 8
Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes, and all that natural beauty contributes to the quality of life. But there is more to the state than that. The home of the Mayo Clinic is one of America’s healthiest states. The crime rate is among the lowest in the country. Air quality is among the best, too. From the cosmopolitan Twin Cities to the remote beauty of the North Woods, Minnesota has it all.
2012 Quality of Life Points: 254 out of 350
2011 Quality of Life Rank: 6
Maine’s nickname offers one clue why it does so well in quality of life. The Pine Tree State has plenty of them, of course, and some of the best scenery the Northeast has to offer. But it has more than that, including the lowest crime rate in the country, and one of the healthiest populations.
2012 Quality of Life Points: 255 out of 350
2011 Quality of Life Rank: 3
It’s not just a nickname. The Green Mountain State has the numbers to back its idyllic reputation. Crime is low, and the air and water clean. Vermont is also one of the healthiest states overall.
2012 Quality of Life Points: 284 out of 350
2011 Quality of Life Rank: 1
Need we say more? It almost seems unfair to compare the Aloha State to the rest. Visitors from around the world seek out America’s island paradise. But when it comes to quality of life, Hawaii offers more than stunning beauty. It is one of America’s healthiest states, and the near reverence Hawaiians hold for the environment pays off with almost unparalleled air and water quality.
2012 Quality of Life Points: 298 out of 350
2011 Quality of Life Rank: 2
Quality of life is solid across the board in the Granite State. The population is among the healthiest, in part because of the quality of the environment. Want a little more civilization? Boston is just over the border, offering New Hampshire residents the benefits of the big city without the hassles. Crime in New Hampshire is among the lowest in the country.