(December 2002) The healthiest place to live, judging from death rates that take into account the age distribution of the population, is the state of Hawaii. California comes in second, followed by Minnesota, North Dakota, and Utah. Mississippi has the highest mortality rates, followed by the District of Columbia, Louisiana, and Tennessee. In part, these geographic variations reflect differences in the proportion of people of different races living in each state. Hawaii has by far the largest proportion of Asian Americans, who have the lowest mortality rates among American racial and ethnic groups, and Mississippi has a high proportion of African Americans, who have the highest mortality rates.

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But even within racial and ethnic groups, there are notable variations in mortality rates across the states. The southeastern states have mortality rates above the national averages for both whites and blacks, and whites in the northern Great Plains states and Utah have mortality rates that are well below the national rate for whites. Differences in health-related behaviors, use of preventive care, and access to high-quality medical care are thought to account for much of the variation within groups.


D.L. Lyert et al., “Deaths: Final Data for 2000,” National Vital Statistics Reports 50, no. 15 (2002).