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America’s Most Popular States: The Reality of Living the Dream

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It has flooding, mudslides, earthquakes, and wildfires. It’s short on cash and drinking water, but for the sixth year in a row, California still tops the list of states where people wish they lived. According to Harris Interactive, Inc., which conducted the poll, Florida, Hawaii, Texas, and Colorado round out the top five, making ample sunshine seem like a major selling point. But what’s the reality behind those sunny dreams of a new zip code? Here’s a closer look at what life is like in America’s most desired states.


One in 8.27 American citizens is already living the California dream, meaning the most popular state is also the most populated. But what about the standard of that living? One in 8.62 Californians over the age of sixteen is unemployed, a number far higher than the national average of 1 in 17.29. Even if you do manage to land a job in the golden state, it doesn’t exactly mean paying the bills is a breeze. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the median household income in California is almost $65,000, which sounds great, except the average house costs about $550,000.


Surprisingly, California does hold an edge in one important standard-of-living factor—it’s safer than both Florida and Texas. One in 198.5 Californians will be the victim of a violent crime each year, while 1 in 145.2 Florida residents have to file an unwanted police report. While this gives Florida the highest rate of violent crime, at least Floridians don’t worry as much about earthquakes or wildfires.


Each state in the top five has its share of lifestyle perks and unflattering distinctions. For example, Texas has the lowest amount of health-care coverage, with only 1 in 1.34 (75 percent) residents boasting a plan. Add that to the 1 in 2.68 odds that a Texan is overweight, and there are definitely some health issues in the Lone Star State. On the plus side, unemployment is less of a worry, with only 1 in 13.31 of Texas adults going jobless.


Hawaii and Colorado both boast the highest number of insured residents and the lowest number of violent crimes among the top five states. Yet Hawaii is second only to California for earthquake risks, and a Coloradan has a 1 in 10 chance of confronting a major wildfire each year (still low compared to California’s 1 in 3.33 odds).


But what do these odds tell us about what life is really like in America’s most wanted states? Not much, according to the “well-being” index produced by Gallup and the disease management company Healthways. As Amy Neftzger, director of surveys and assessment for Healthways, said in an article on Forbes.com, “When you look at well-being, you have to look at [the] whole person and all facets of their life.”


According to that study, crime and health are only part of the story. Optimism about the future, job satisfaction, and whether or not you’ve laughed in the last twenty-four hours are also important indicators of the good life. The winner of this 355,000-person poll? Utah.


Not only are they laughing more and loving their jobs in Utah, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median family income is just over $58,000, while houses only cost on average $188,500.


That might be hard to swallow for all of those Americans who are California dreamin’, but all’s not lost—Hawaii and Colorado made the top five states in both lists. Maybe if you lived there, you’d be happy by now.


Originally published on Book of Odds

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