As noted in Thursday’s post (“Census: Americans Fleeing New York State, Packing Up for Texas”), looking at the differences among American states has become quite popular as the federal government gets more exasperating for everyone (another debt-ceiling crisis on the way?) and the “voting with your feet” theory gains credibility. On Friday, Politico added to the fun by ranking all 50 states and the District of Columbia “from fabulous to failed,” with New Hampshire taking the top spot based “on important factors such as high school graduation rates, per capita income, life expectancy and crime rate.”
New Hampshire has no income or sales tax and is relatively stingy with government spending, which makes it popular with libertarians (including the Free State Project, which is trying to get like-minded citizens to move there and take it over). But a look at the Politico criteria reveals that New Hampshire essentially earned the spot by having no large cities to cope with. It has small numbers of low-income and immigrant residents to bring up the poverty rate, mostly because it doesn’t have much affordable housing for them. How it would fare if it weren’t next to much-larger Massachusetts, which provides jobs for New Hampshire citizens and sends customers up to New Hampshire businesses, is anyone’s guess. And Free State Project aside, it is a low-population-growth state (ranking 42nd last year) that just can’t accommodate very many more people without giving up its Our Town image (or is it Peyton Place)?
So don’t take the Politico list as a sign to ship up to Nashua, but read the fun rankings anyway. As inspiration, Politico’s Margaret Slattery cites a 1931 list created by H.L. Mencken for the American Mercury magazine, but of course there have been countless other attempts to determine the best and worst since then. Mencken’s No. 1 state, Massachusetts, is fifth on the Politico list, but California took a steep tumble from fifth to 31st. Three of the bottom five are the same on both lists (Mississippi, Arkansas, and Alabama), while Virginia shot up from 38th to 15th.
All of the Political criteria are detailed here. Among the highlights:
• Per-capita income is highest in the District of Columbia, Connecticut, and Maryland; it’s lowest in Mississippi, Arkansas, and West Virginia.
• Unemployment is lowest in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska, something that should change quickly if a lot of people actually move to those states. It’s highest in Rhode Island, Nevada, and Michigan.
• Homeownership counts as a positive in the Politico rankings, displaying an anti-urban bias. The top states by this measure are West Virginia, Minnesota, and Michigan (but there are no jobs in Michigan!), and the worst are Massachusetts, the District of Columbia (No. 1 in per-capita income!), and New York.
• The lowest crime rates are in Vermont, Maine, and New Hampshire. The highest are in the District of Columbia, Tennessee, and Nevada.
• What about the “highest percentage employed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs”? That would be in the high-government-employment areas of the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia. (Libertarians are going to hate that criterion.) Mississippi, Nevada, and Arkansas are at the bottom.
Image of New Hampshire transportation infrastructure from VisitNH.gov.