Where Virginia is on list of best states to live in: New report

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VIRGINIA — Many people have spent time and money putting their homes in order while huddled during the pandemic and are happy to remain where they are.

Despite the widespread perception of a “great COVID migration,” only about 8.4 percent of Americans have changed addresses in the past year. That’s an all-time low, according to a new report from personal finance website WalletHub.

The site’s editors did the math to determine the best states to put down roots in. Virginia ranks fifth in the top 10.

WalletHub editors considered 52 factors, including housing costs, income growth, literacy rate, and quality of hospitals.

More detailed metrics included number of law enforcement employees per capita, number of bike lanes, job opportunities, food insecurity and overall tax-friendliness, among others.

Massachusetts placed at the top overall, followed by New York, New Jersey, Idaho, and Virginia in the top 5. Surprisingly, Florida ranks 7th given its reputation for weird crimes, alligators and sharks eating people, and hurricanes.

Virginia’s lowest score was for economy (23), while affordability (16), education and health (15), safety (11), and quality of life (20) scored higher.

After two consecutive years as the top state for business, Virginia slipped to third place in CNBC’s 2022 America’s Top States for Business ranking, released in July.

Virginia saw a significant drop in its rankings in the labor force and economy categories from 2021 to 2022, according to CNBC. The cost of living in many parts of the state has made it more difficult to attract and retain a workforce.

Valerie Stahl, assistant professor of urban planning at San Diego State University’s School of Public Affairs, said that one of the most important — and uncontrollable — factors determining where we live isn’t found among the WalletHub criteria. She points out that “…the majority of Americans live within 20 miles of where their parents live. In addition, housing affordability is a growing concern for many Americans, and access to mobility is often divided by race, class, and education.”

In Stahl’s analysis, “Education and income are the biggest predictors of whether or not you’re moving. Even if you want to move, if you can’t afford the moving costs or the deposit for a new apartment or the cost of a day care center without the help of grandma and grandpa, even if there are job opportunities elsewhere, you can get stuck.”

Read more about the state rankings on WalletHub.

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