Business

These 10 States Are America's Best Places to Live in 2022

John Greim | Lightrocket | Getty Images
  • With workers in short supply, companies are doing all they can to attract them.
  • That includes locating in states that are welcoming, inclusive, and offer a great quality of life.
  • CNBC’s annual America’s Top States for Business study considers multiple measures of life, health and inclusion.

American workers are in the driver's seat in ways they haven't been in years. That's because there are not nearly enough of them to fill more than 11 million job openings. So, workers increasingly can name their own terms. The calculation comes down to much more than money.

That is why CNBC's annual America's Top States for Business study has always measured quality of life, and why it is especially important in this year's methodology.

Our Life, Health and Inclusion category considers factors such as crime rates, environmental quality, and health care. For the first time in 2022, we also consider the availability of childcare, which the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found remains a major obstacle to parents seeking to reenter the workforce as the pandemic wanes.

For the past several years, we have also considered inclusiveness of state laws in areas like protections against discrimination and voting rights. That's not politics, it's business.

The latest annual survey of Gen Z and millennials by Deloitte found nearly two in five willing to turn down an assignment if it doesn't align with their values. If you want to attract workers, it helps to be in a place they want to go to. Plus, half the respondents in the latest survey of the CNBC Global CFO Council agreed that it is important to do business in a state where the laws are as open and inclusive as possible.

We found that some states don't make the grade. But these 10 states lead the way in Life, Health and Inclusion.

10. Iowa

Fans wave to children at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital during the Iowa football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.
Matthew Holst | Getty Images
Fans wave to children at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children's Hospital during the Iowa football game at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa.

Is this heaven? No, but Iowa is a good place for health care. Only 5% of Iowans are uninsured, according to United Health Foundation data. And the state ranks a respectable No. 12 for public health funding, spending $161 per person, slightly above the national average. Iowa Child Care Resource & Referral, founded 30 years ago, links Iowans to relatively abundant facilities in the state.

2022 Life, Health & Inclusion Score: 231 out of 325 points (Top States Grade: B)

Strengths: Health Resources, Childcare

Weakness:  Inclusiveness

8. (tie) Oregon

Aerial view of the scenic coastline and highway 101, by the western shoulder of Neah-Kah-Nie mountain, in Oregon, United States.
Feng Wei Photography | Moment | Getty Images
Aerial view of the scenic coastline and highway 101, by the western shoulder of Neah-Kah-Nie mountain, in Oregon, United States.

Inclusiveness is a way of life in the Beaver State, with robust anti-discrimination laws. In 2000, Oregon became the first state to conduct all its elections by mail, making voting easy and secure. Today, Oregon's election system is considered the gold standard, with the best score in a "cost of voting index" developed by researchers at Northern Illinois University. Oregon is also a family-friendly state, ranking No. 3 in licensed childcare facilities per capita.

2022 Life, Health & Inclusion Score: 232 out of 325 points (Top States Grade: B)

Strengths: Inclusiveness, Voting Rights, Childcare

Weaknesses: Health Resources, Air Quality

8. (tie) New Jersey

People walk and ride along the boardwalk the day before the Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, in the shore community of Wildwood on May 28, 2021 in Wildwood, New Jersey.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images
People walk and ride along the boardwalk the day before the Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, in the shore community of Wildwood on May 28, 2021 in Wildwood, New Jersey.

How comprehensive are New Jersey's public accommodation laws? According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, this is one of only five states to bar discrimination based on pregnancy and childbirth. The Garden State is also one of America's safest in terms of violent crimes per capita.

2022 Life, Health & Inclusion Score: 232 out of 325 points (Top States Grade: B)

Strengths: Inclusiveness, Voting Rights, Crime Rate

Weaknesses: Childcare, Air Quality

7. Nebraska

Horses running in field near Valentine, Nebraska.
Diana Robinson Photography | Moment | Getty Images
Horses running in field near Valentine, Nebraska.

The air is clear in The Cornhusker State — among the cleanest in the nation. And if you get sick here, health care resources are abundant. Nebraska is in the top ten states for hospital beds per capita, according to Becker's Hospital Review.

2022 Life, Health & Inclusion Score: 234 out of 325 points (Top States Grade: B)

Strengths: Air Quality, Health Resources

Weaknesses: Inclusiveness, Crime

6. Washington

Jenny Goff, right, reaches out to a child at Central Park Child Care Center in Vancouver, Washington.
Ariane Kunze | The Columbian via AP
Jenny Goff, right, reaches out to a child at Central Park Child Care Center in Vancouver, Washington.

The Evergreen State is a leader in childcare, and it just became even more affordable and accessible with the passage of the Fair Start for Kids Act. The state already has more than 5,400 licensed childcare facilities serving a population of 7.7 million. That is one of the best ratios in the country.

2022 Life, Health & Inclusion Score: 239 out of 325 points (Top States Grade: B+)

Strengths: Childcare, Anti-discrimination laws.

Weaknesses: Health Resources, Air Quality

5. Minnesota

Surgeons perform a liver transplant procedure at The Mayo Clinic.
Source: The Mayo Clinic
Surgeons perform a liver transplant procedure at The Mayo Clinic.

The legendary Mayo Clinic is based in Rochester, but that is just one component of one of the best health care environments in the country. Minnesota ranks in the top ten in health care providers per capita, and it has one of the lowest rates of premature death.

2022 Life, Health & Inclusion Score: 245 out of 325 points (Top States Grade: B+)

Strengths: Health, Inclusiveness

Weakness: Childcare

4. North Dakota

Peter Beck | Getty Images

The Peace Garden State has tackled drug abuse by removing the stigma surrounding drug treatment. The education effort appears to be working. Rates of addiction and drug-related deaths are low. A survey commissioned by the state of more than 2,000 North Dakotans last year found that 74% agree that addiction is a disease rather than a choice, up from 63% in 2018. And 87% said they are willing to have someone in recovery as a neighbor.

2022 Life, Health & Inclusion Score: 256 out of 325 points (Top States Grade: B+)

Strengths: Air Quality, Health

Weakness: Crime

3. Hawaii

Rainbow Falls, Iao Needle State Park, Hawaii
Shutterjack | Room | Getty Images
Rainbow Falls, Iao Needle State Park, Hawaii

The Aloha spirit is alive and well here, with a pristine environment, good health care, and low crime. But Hawaii slips to its lowest ranking in this category since 2009 largely because of the addition of childcare as a metric (before 2021, we referred to the category as "Quality of Life"). A study by LendingTree names Hawaii the most expensive state for childcare. It still falls in the top half of the states for access to childcare, but just barely.

2022 Life, Health & Inclusion Score: 262 out of 325 points (Top States Grade: A-)

Strengths: Air Quality, Health, Crime

Weakness: Childcare

2. Maine

Cape Elizabeth, Maine
Enzo Figueres | Moment | Getty Images
Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Maine isn't just a safe state — it's getting safer. The Maine Department of Public Safety reports that overall crime decreased for the 9th consecutive year in 2020, the most recent statistics available. Violent crime dropped nearly 5% and property crime fell more than 6%.

2022 Life, Health & Inclusion Score: 265 out of 325 points (Top States Grade: A-)

Strengths: Crime, Childcare, Voting Rights

Weakness: Air Quality

1. Vermont

Few states make it easier to exercise your right to vote than Vermont does. Elections are conducted by mail, but in-person polling stations are available. And voting begins 45 days before election day, one of the longest early voting periods in the nation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. No state offers better access to childcare, and the health care system is top notch. Add clean air, low crime and low stress, and you get America's Top State to live in for 2022.

2022 Life, Health & Inclusion Score: 308 out of 325 points (Top States Grade: A+)

Strengths: Voting Rights, Childcare, Health Care, Air Quality

Weakness: Inclusiveness (strong, but not as strong as the other metrics)

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