The best and worst states to make a living in 2014

Forbes
TSLAC Represents Texas at the National Book Festival (Washington DC) 9.21.13
.

View photo

(Texas State Library and Archives Commission)

Virginia declares itself to be "For Lovers" and Texas admonishes visitors not to "Mess With" it, while North Dakota simply describes itself as "Legendary."

But does the quality of life and work in these states live up to the slogans?

To determine the Best And Worst States to Make a Living, personal finance site MoneyRates.com used data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, C2ER, and the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index to examine average salary, cost of living, employment rate, and workplace conditions for each state and generat the ranking.

More on Forbes: The Best- And Worst-Paying Jobs In America

"Often economic news is reported in terms of national figures," says Richard Barrington, senior financial analyst for MoneyRates.com and author of the study. "A lot of times it creates the perception that we're all dealing with the same set of conditions across the country. When you drill down, the differences state to state are huge."

Topping the list for the second year in a row is Washington state. Though the "Evergreen State" received slightly below-average marks for cost of living and unemployment, strong performance with regard to wages, state taxes, and work environment kept Washington on top once again (the state took second place for the two consecutive years preceding its current reign at number one.)

Texas scored second place with a winning combination of state tax, cost of living, and unemployment metrics, while Minnesota came in third due to low unemployment and a high work environment score.

More on Forbes: The Most- And Least- Competitive Job Markets For College Grads

At the other end of the spectrum--and a different corner of the map--Hawaii ranks as the worst place to make a living in 2014, due to a cost of living that stands at 157% the national average and a poor work environment score.

New York follows close behind Hawaii. The Empire State's sky-high cost of living and high income taxes indicate that "if you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere"--but it might not be worth it. Mississippi, with low wages, low work-environment scores, and a high unemployment rate rounds out the bottom three.

Barrington says in developing the ranking, he observed two "clusters of negative environments," near equal and opposite in their scope. Northeastern states like Rhode Island and Connecticut have very high costs of living, which makes the elevated wages in those states look deceptively higher than they actually are, attracting "newly minted" college graduates who might not understand how far those wages won't carry them.

More on Forbes: Full List: The Best And Worst States To Make A Living In 2014

Meanwhile, in Southeastern states like Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas, cost of living is more reasonable but wages are unusually low and unemployment rates are unusually high.

While a rise in telecommuting could one day ease this dynamic--those who live in states with low costs of living could hold jobs in states with better wages--Barrington warns that a host of other issues accompany this solution, and that it would only be open to those in particular professions.

"What that’ll do is not only allow you to get the best of both worlds, but it will help even out some of the unemployment differences," says Barrington. "However that only applies to certain occupations. There are some lines of work you’ll always have to do in person."

Like Washington, most states tend to hover around the same ranking for several years. Eight of the 10 best states to make a living were in last year's top 10, while seven of the bottom 10 were at the bottom last year.

"You have areas that go through booms and busts, says Barrington. "Texas went through a huge crash in the early 80s and that’s the kind of thing that could make a radical reversal. If the bottom fell out of energy prices, North Dakota, whose economy has been doing well--that could reverse. Until that happens, this data has some staying power."

Ultimately, Barrington says he hopes the ranking will help those struggling to find employment or make ends meet in their current geography be more open to the possibilities another region could offer.

"A lot of times if you happen to be living in a state with a high unemployment rate or high cost of living it’s very easy to assume things are tough all over," says Barrington. "But there may be substantially better opportunities somewhere else."

Best states to make a living:
1. Washington
2. Texas
3. Minnesota
4. Colorado
5. Utah

Click here for the full list.

Worst states to make a living:
1. Hawaii
2. New York
3. Mississippi
4. Rhode Island
5. Connecticut

Click here for the full list.

 

Follow me on Twitter  @KathrynDill.

More on Forbes:

Global 2000: The Biggest Companies Of 2014

The Most Common Practices Of Super-Achievers

Best Cities to Start a Business

 RELATED VIDEO:


Rates

View Comments (1045)

Recommended for You

  • Obama to GOP: 'Stop just hating all the time'

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Pointing the finger at Republicans for congressional inaction, President Barack Obama chided lawmakers Wednesday for spending the waning days before their month-long summer break trying to sue him rather than addressing economic issues that could boost the middle class.

    Associated Press
  • ARGENTINE STOCKS CRASH

    Argentina's stock market is tanking after the...

    Business Insider
  • Record up to 6 shows at once with FiOS Quantum TV

    Get superior entertainment with FiOS TV, Internet & Phone at a great price & a Free Upgrade to FiOS Quantum TV-Enhanced Service with 2/yr. agreement.

    AdChoicesVerizon FiOSSponsored
  • Airbus adamant no room for more talks in cancelled Japan jet deal

    Airbus on Thursday said its decision to cancel a $2.2 billion jet order from Skymark Airlines was final, rejecting the Japanese carrier's suggestion that talks were still ongoing. The European aircraft maker said this week it had informed Skymark that its purchase of six A380 superjumbos "has been…

    AFP
  • In San Francisco real estate, $1M won't buy much

    SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco Association of Realtors President Betty Taisch has two words of advice for those who want to live here and think $1 million will buy them their dream house: Think again.

    Associated Press
  • Play

    Why Do Millennials Prefer Cash to Investing Money?

    In the last year, the S&P 500 delivered 17% and cash investments delivered 1%. Which would you rather have? In a Bankrate study, millennials said they'd rather have the cash. The Mutual Fund Store's Senior Vice President of Investments Andy Smith joins Simon Constable on the News Hub to discuss.…

    WSJ Live
  • Tesla posts 2Q loss, prepares Nevada factory site

    PALO ALTO, Calif. (AP) — Electric car maker Tesla Motors widened its loss in the second quarter as it prepared for the launch of a new SUV and started work on a massive new battery plant.

    Associated Press
  • US warns against traveling to Ebola-hit countries

    NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. health officials on Thursday warned Americans not to travel to the three West African countries hit by an outbreak of Ebola.

    Associated Press58 mins ago
  • 4 Unusual Savings Strategies That Really Work

    It's just one of those facts of life: Saving money can be really hard. If you're trying to save and not getting ahead, it might be time to try one of these easy, everyday savings habits that will help you tighten your finances.

    U.S.News & World Report LP
  • Get to Know Your Great-Great-Great Grandmother

    And get to know your great-great-great grandpa. Track down new cousins, too. Find them all with the world's largest online family history resource.

    AdChoicesancestry.comSponsored
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court upholds 2011 union law

    MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The fight over Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's signature policy achievement, a law effectively ending collective bargaining for most public employees, ended Thursday with the state Supreme Court declaring it to be constitutional.

    Associated Press
  • Sanctions will damage Russia if not lifted quickly

    MOSCOW (AP) — U.S. and European sanctions against Russia's energy and finance sectors are strong enough to cause deep, long-lasting damage within months unless Moscow persuades the West to repeal them by withdrawing support for Ukrainian insurgents.

    Associated Press
  • 3D Systems Shares Are Cratering

    Shares in 3D Systems were down more than 12% in...

    Business Insider
  • Play

    Tesla's Earnings: What to Watch For

    Electric-car maker Tesla is scheduled to be released after the bell Thursday, and Mike Ramsey joins MoneyBeat with Paul Vigna to preview the results.

    WSJ Live
  • What SunPower Earnings Mean for First Solar and SolarCity

    After markets close Thursday, solar panel maker SunPower will report second-quarter results. Competitors First Solar and SolarCity are scheduled to report results next week.

    24/7 Wall St.
  • Adidas shares plunge 13% after Russia warning

    Adidas shares tanked more than 13 percent after it cut its profit targets for 2014, warning "tensions" in Russia would hit its bottom line.

    CNBC
  • The New Sedan that Stands out from the Crowd

    Incredible driving with incredible fuel efficiency is now a reality. New 2015 Models have just arrived! Search online for dealer inventory.

    AdChoicesMazda USASponsored
  • Dow plunges as multiple worries vex investors

    NEW YORK (AP) — For stock investors, the red flags were everywhere on Thursday.

    Associated Press
  • Bank of America ordered to pay $1.27 billion for 'Hustle' fraud

    By Jonathan Stempel NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge on Wednesday ordered Bank of America Corp to pay a $1.27 billion penalty for fraud over shoddy mortgages sold by the former Countrywide Financial Corp. U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan ruled after a jury last October found the…

    Reuters
  • Panasonic, Tesla to build giant battery plant in US

    Japanese electronics giant Panasonic and US electric vehicle maker Tesla Motors said Thursday they will jointly build and operate a huge lithium ion battery plant known as the Gigafactory. Under the deal, Tesla will run the operations at the proposed US-based plant, while its Japanese partner will…

    AFP
  • 5 Little-Known Ways to Boost Your Retirement Savings

    Saving for retirement is no easy task. Fortunately, we have several tools and strategies that can help us reach our retirement goals. Maintain your asset allocation. When you begin investing you typically select an asset allocation that suits your risk tolerance and investment goals.

    U.S.News & World Report LP
  • Why You Should Prepare for the Next Bear Market Now

    The stock market is going gangbusters these days, with the S&P 500 close to surpassing 2,000 points. While the index may never fall back to that level, bear markets will one day hit us hard again. It's a good idea to develop a plan for the next bear market now, while your asset values aren't free…

    U.S.News & World Report LP
  • Can a Repair Shop I Didn't Use Send Me to Collections?

    Are you obligated to pay for car parts that a repair shop ordered after they gave you an estimate? And can they send you to a debt collector if you don't pay?

    Credit.com
  • Online Master's in Conflict Resolution-No GRE

    This 2 year online program provides the knowledge and skills to help you mediate conflict effectively and professionally. Learn more now!

    AdChoicesAbilene Christian Univ.Sponsored