South Florida Is One of America's Easiest Places to Live, New York Times Study Finds

Where's the toughest place to live in America? When the New York Times set out to answer that question by delving into six pieces of national data broken down by county, including household income, disability rates, and education levels.

The result: Wide swaths of the Deep South are mired in misery, including nearly a dozen counties in the Sunshine State. But South Florida is one of the nation's easiest places to live.

To determine its national image of quality of life, the Times gathered data for every county in the States using six factors: obesity rate, median household income, percentage of residents with bachelor's degrees, unemployment rate, life expectancy, and disability rate.

A picture soon crystallized of an economically and physically healthier Upper Midwest and Northeast -- and a deeply challenged Southeast.

The worst counties, the Times found, were in eastern Kentucky, with Clay County coming in dead last among the nation's 3,135 counties; five other counties in Kentucky's Appalachian region also landed in the top ten, which was rounded out by spots in Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, and Arkansas.

Florida also has its share of Deep South misery.

Ten Sunshine State counties rank in the bottom tiers of the Times study, most in the north and central parts of the state. With obesity at 43 percent and unemployment still more than 11 percent, Putnam County -- in the northeast corner of Florida -- ranked last in the state.

But South Florida, at least according to the Times, is a pretty darn easy place to get by -- especially in Miami-Dade's two neighbors to the north.

Palm Beach ranked 344th overall, with Broward just behind at 412th -- both in the upper tiers of the national snapshot. Miami-Dade trended more toward the middle, ranking 1,009th.

But taken as a three-county whole, the Times data paints one of the more economically and physically healthy sections of the nation.

So when you enjoy that mojito on the beach today and flip through Facebook posts about subzero highs and blizzard warnings in NYC, know that the data backs you up: South Florida isn't a bad spot to live at the moment.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink