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Durham, NC

(Brett Ziegler for USN&WR)

Social Environment Rankings

Measuring states' social environments

A person's quality of life is largely tied to interactions with those around them, so social environment represents 50 percent of the weight in ranking the Best States for quality of life. Included in social environment are community engagement, social support and voter participation. Community engagement and social support are based on surveys of how often people participate in community events and how often they spend time with friends, family and work colleagues.

Political involvement was determined by evaluating average voter turnout at the 2016 congressional and presidential elections. Alaska, Montana and North Dakota – No. 1 for quality of life – top the rankings for social environment.

Best States for Social Environment

Social Environment Rank State Community Engagement Social Support Voter Participation
#1 Alaska AK 1 9 10
#2 Montana MT 9 4 6
#3 North Dakota ND 3 10 9
#4 Minnesota MN 7 8 5
#5 Wisconsin WI 16 7 2
#6 Utah UT 4 1 36
#7 New Hampshire NH 32 3 4
#8 Maine ME 30 28 1
#9 Oklahoma OK 2 5 44
#10 Iowa IA 19 14 8
#11 New Mexico NM 14 2 39
#12 Idaho ID 12 6 31
#13 Nebraska NE 13 12 15
#14 South Dakota SD 6 18 25
#15 Oregon OR 25 16 7
#16 Kansas KS 8 24 19
#17 Mississippi MS 10 29 11
#18 Missouri MO 17 11 26
#19 Wyoming WY 18 13 21
#20 Colorado CO 23 35 3
#21 Arkansas AR 5 22 38
#22 Kentucky KY 15 19 23
#23 Michigan MI 27 20 13
#24 Washington WA 21 36 14
#25 North Carolina NC 31 30 17
#26 Maryland MD 28 31 18
#27 Alabama AL 11 42 32
#28 Vermont VT 40 17 20
#29 Ohio OH 36 25 28
#30 Delaware DE 24 34 29
#31 Louisiana LA 41 33 12
#32 Tennessee TN 26 21 42
#33 South Carolina SC 34 37 24
#34 Arizona AZ 33 27 41
#35 Illinois IL 43 26 33
#36 Rhode Island RI 47 23 34
#37 Hawaii HI 37 15 47
#38 Georgia GA 22 47 35
#39 Connecticut CT 46 32 27
#40 West Virginia WV 20 41 46
#41 Pennsylvania PA 39 44 30
#42 Massachusetts MA 42 45 16
#43 Indiana IN 29 43 40
#44 Virginia VA 38 50 22
#45 Florida FL 50 40 37
#46 Texas TX 35 46 50
#47 California CA 44 38 49
#48 New York NY 49 39 48
#49 New Jersey NJ 45 49 45
#50 Nevada NV 48 48 43

Community Engagement

Community engagement measures average satisfaction and frequency of participation in community events, such as parent-teacher associations, volunteer organizations, youth organizations, religious gatherings, team sports and parades, on a 6-point scale.

Alaska – No. 1 for social environment – topped all states with a score of 3.48, followed by Oklahoma, North Dakota, Utah and Arkansas to make up the top five. Nevada, which ranked No. 50 for social environment, joined New York and Florida as the lowest-ranked states for this measure, with scores of 2.83, 2.83 and 2.81, respectively. The United States as a whole had an average score of 3.02.; regionally, the Plains scored highest at 3.22, with the Mountain region close behind at 3.20.

Social Support

Social support measures average satisfaction and frequency of participation in social events as well as how supported people feel by their social networks and how often they give or receive unpaid help.

Utah, the sixth-ranked state for social environment, is No. 1 for social support, with a score of 4.18. New Mexico was second at 4.16, and New Hampshire came in third, at 4.12. Virginia, ranked No. 44 for social environment, was No. 50 here with a score of 3.79.

Regionally, the Plains and the Rocky Mountain area performed the best– both scoring well above the national average.

Voter Participation

The third measure, voter participation, looks at the average voter turnout of the U.S. presidential and congressional elections in 2016. Maine came in first with two-thirds of people voting , followed by Wisconsin, Colorado, New Hampshire and Minnesota, which joins Montana as the only states to score in the top 10 for each of the social environment metrics.

Texas ranked No. 50 for voter participation, with about 39 percent of people making their way to the polls.

The national average of 47 percent voter participation was eclipsed by more than half of the country's regions. The Plains had the highest score at 54 percent, followed by New England at 53 percent. The Southwest was the lowest-scoring region, at 41 percent.