The report is based on surveys conducted over 18 months that measured sentiment on 13 metrics that gauge future livability. Some of the questions were meant to shed light on personal-finance matters like job prospects, while others aimed to get a handle on more ephemeral quality-of-life issues. Among the latter, we asked for residents' outlook on life five years from now and ranked the results.
To better understand the polling results, the website 24/7 Wall St. called Dan Witters, research director for the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, and asked how Gallup chose the components of the future livability score. The survey, he said, sought to isolate factors that increase the probability that a locale will have improved economic vitality down the road.
"If you have high economic confidence and strong job creation and high full employment, does that guarantee that you will (have the same) 20 years from now? No, obviously not," Witters said. But they are predictive.
The health factors Gallup considered, for instance (obesity, smoking and frequency of dentist visits), have long-term consequences. Obesity is one of the best predictors of diabetes, according to Witters, who noted that states with high obesity, including West Virginia, Mississippi and Kentucky, "the probability that you're going to have high levels of high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol, high levels of physical pain" is increased.
Similarly, the wealth of a state's population is taken as an indicator of the future livability -- eight of the 10 states with the worst future livability scores are in the bottom third for median income.