What Life Is Like In North Dakota, America's New Happiest State

In a recent Gallup ranking of the happiest states in the U.S., North Dakota shot up the list from number 19 to number 1, ousting longtime frontrunner Hawaii.

It ranked as the top state in both work environment and physical health, and was ranked 2nd in emotional health and 4th in life evaluation.

A big reason for North Dakota’s success on this year’s list has been a boom in job growth. For the fifth year in a row, the Midwestern state was number 1 in employee perceptions of job creation at their workplaces in 2013,
as measured by the Gallup Job Creation Index.

North Dakota has also benefitted from a surge in its oil industry (look no further than its boomtown of Williston), and has the sixth-highest per-capita personal income in America, according to a new payroll-to-population state ranking.

For the fifth year in a row, North Dakota has topped all other states with an unemployment rate below 3%, mainly due to a boom in the oil industry.

The economy there grew at five times the national average in 2012, and is grew nearly three times faster than the #2 state, Texas. A lot of workers are migrating to North Dakota looking for jobs.

Source: CNN Money

Which means home prices are insane right now due to the influx of people. According to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, North Dakota saw a 200% jump in homelessness last year, the biggest increase of any state.

Available housing signs are shown in Williston, North Dakota February 9, 2014. North Dakota saw a 200 per cent jump in homelessness last year, the biggest increase of any state. There are now 2,069 homeless people in the state of 699,628, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Picture taken February 9, 2014.

The state registered an average income of $US51,893 for its 699,629 residents, which is the sixth highest per-capita personal income in America.

Taxes in North Dakota are relatively low since the state has a tax specifically targeting oil and gas production. That allows the government to cover 80% of the cost of public schools, greatly reducing the property taxes at a local level.

The Lewis & Clark Elementary School in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Source: CNN Money

That same tax on oil also allows the state to reduce income taxes, and to cover the cost of building roads and other infrastructure, which in turn helps to accommodate the influx of workers.

Source: CNN Money

North Dakota ranks #9 among healthiest states, with an impressive 89.7% of the population covered by health insurance. It also has good air quality, a high rate of high school graduation, and a low rate of violent crime.

And speaking of education, North Dakota has been hanging onto its college graduates like never before, offering an amazing job market and entrepreneurial opportunities (it's considered one of the friendliest states for small businesses).

North Dakota holds the United Tribes International Powwow each September in Bismarck. It's one of the largest powwows in the United States.

Along with having the most churches per capita of any state, North Dakota also has one of the largest church-going populations in America.

There is only one abortion clinic in North Dakota, which is consistently threatened. The state is often rated as one of the worst for women's reproductive rights.

Source: Washington Post

North Dakota is thought to be one of the least visited states in America, but it's not short on natural beauty. Look no further that Theodore Roosevelt National Park with 70,000 acres of land in the North Dakota Badlands.

Source: CNN

In the park, visitors can see some of North Dakota's bison. It's one of the few states left that is still home to the once-ubiquitous animal, with approximately 90,000 bison living in the state.

Source: Random History

Hunting is a big part of North Dakota's culture, especially migratory birds such as pheasants and ducks due to the state's wetlands.

Around 90% of the state is farmland. North Dakota is America's #1 producer of spring wheat, durum wheat, sunflower, barley, oats, lentils, honey, canola, and flaxseed.

A canola oil farm in North Dakota.

Source: USDA's NASS North Dakota Field Office

And all those farmlands make for some seriously scenic drives along North Dakota's long stretches of highway.

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