You’ll be hard-pressed to find an American who believes in 100% of the decisions any given politician makes. But according to the U.S. News & World Report, residents in some states are benefiting from better state performance than others.
U.S. News & World Report analyzed the three most recent years of national survey data to determine its state rankings. The 71 metrics studied were organized and weighted according to the following categories:
- Health Care (15.97%)
- Education (15.94%)
- Economy (13.36%)
- Infrastructure (12.93%)
- Opportunity (12.29%)
- Fiscal Stability (11.36%)
- Crime & Corrections (9.16%)
- Natural Environment (8.99%)
Best to Worst Performing States
These are how the states measured up in the U.S. News & World Report’s rankings, starting with the best performers.
Utah ranks first in the U.S. News & World Report’s best state performance rankings. It comes in at number one for the economy and fiscal stability categories, with infrastructure and education not far behind it in #4 and #5 places.
That said, Utah ranks #46 in the country for the natural environment category, having 152 days of unhealthy air quality and 2,420 pounds of industrial toxins per square mile. The national averages are 114 days and 926 pounds per square mile.
Washington scores high in fiscal stability and natural environment, coming in at #4 in the nation for both categories. Infrastructure and education follow in the #6 and #10 spots.
The Evergreen State struggles the most in opportunity, ranking #31 in America. Affordability is the main factor, for it ranks #46 in the US. In contrast, it ranks #5 for both economic opportunity and equality.
Idaho ranks #2 for economy and fiscal stability. It can boast about its #1 ranking for growth under the economy category. Residents in Idaho also enjoy above-average crime & corrections (#9) and infrastructure (#10) rankings.
The Gem State struggles most with education (#22) and natural environment (#23). High school students have a lower-than-average high school graduation rate of 82.2% compared to the national average of 86.5%.
Nebraska clocked in with three categories in the top ten: infrastructure (#5), education (#7), and economy (#10). Within the infrastructure category, it ranks #6 for energy, #9 for internet access, and #9 for transportation.
The Cornhusker State ranks below average for crime & corrections, at position #26. The primary subcategory weighing down this number is corrections outcomes in 39th place.
Minnesota’s #1 ranking for the infrastructure category helps it make U.S. News & World Report’s top five best states in America. It also ranks high for natural environment (#7) and opportunity (#9).
Education and fiscal stability are Minnesota’s biggest pain points. It ranks #21 in the nation for both categories, with the Pre-K-12 and liquidity being its weakest subcategories.
6: New Hampshire
New Hampshire ranks #1 in the categories of opportunity and crime & corrections. It also ranks high for economy (#4) and natural environment (#8).
Unfortunately for its residents, New Hampshire struggles in the financial stability category, where it ranks #41. It has below-average long-term (#34) and short-term (#41) fiscal stability.
Iowa comes in #3 place for opportunity and #8 for fiscal stability. It’s one of the most affordable states in the US, ranking in sixth place.
Despite ranking high for fiscal stability, Iowa struggles with spot #31 in the economy category. Business owners face many hurdles, as the Hawkeye State ranks #46 for its business environment.
Wisconsin ranks sixth, seventh, and eighth place for education, fiscal stability, and opportunity, respectively. It’s the tenth-best state in America for higher education and Pre-K-12.
Natural environment is Wisconsin’s lowest category ranking, at #29. It has above-average drinking water violation points and is the 32nd most polluted state in the US.
Vermont is a mixed bag, ranking #2 for opportunity and #3 for crime & corrections. It has a few mid-range category rankings, including economy and infrastructure.
The Green Mountain State’s #42 position for fiscal stability drags down its ranking. It comes in #36 place for long-term fiscal stability and #48 place for short-term fiscal stability.
Florida’s #1 ranking for education and #7 for economy is what helped it squeeze into the top ten best-performing states. It takes the top place in the nation for higher education and ranks in spot #14 for Pre-K-12. It also has a 90.2% high school graduation rate, significantly higher than America’s 86.5% national average.
Despite this, the Sunshine State ranks poorly for opportunity (#46). It has higher poverty rates, a higher cost of living index, and a lower median household income than the national average.
The U.S. News & World Report places Massachusetts in the top ten for five categories: health care (#3), natural environment (#3), education (#3), crime & corrections (#4), and economy (#9). However, the remaining three categories plummet into the 40s.
Opportunity, infrastructure, and fiscal stability in Massachusetts rank #40, #42, and #43, respectively. The Bay State has cringe-worthy short-term fiscal stability, ranking in 49th place in the US.
12: South Dakota
South Dakota enjoys one of the best fiscal stability rankings in the US, in spot #3. It also has above-average infrastructure (#9) and natural environment (#6).
Crime & corrections is the category that South Dakota struggles with the most. It ranks #32 for public safety and #46 for corrections outcomes.
The Old Dominion squeezes into two top ten categories: crime & corrections (#7) and fiscal stability (#10). It ranks eighth in place for public safety and is above the national average for budget balancing.
Infrastructure is the biggest issue residents face in Virginia, ranking #38 in the US. It ranks especially poorly for the subcategories energy and internet access, in #38 and #37 places, respectively.
14: North Dakota
North Dakota has excellent rankings for infrastructure (#2), opportunity (#4), and fiscal stability (#6). It’s the fourth-best state in the country for internet access and has a poverty rate of 11.1% compared to the nation’s 12.8%.
The Flickertail State has poor rankings for healthcare and crime & corrections, both of which are in spot #30. It ranks even worse for the economy category, being in forty-first place. North Dakota offers the worst business environment in America and ranks #48 for growth.
Colorado has two categories in the top ten: economy (#3) and education (#4). It ranks number four and five for business environment and employment, respectively. It also is the fourth-best state in the US for higher education.
The Centennial State fails to meet its residents’ satisfaction in the opportunity and crime & corrections categories, where it ranks #42 and #45. It’s America’s forty-third least affordable state and the forty-fourth worst state for public safety.
Connecticut ranks high for health care (#5), education (#8), and crime & corrections (#8). It offers the second-best healthcare access in the US and comes in sixth place for the public health subcategory.
The Nutmeg State ranks low for opportunity (#44) and fiscal stability (#48). Only eight US states are more affordable than Connecticut, and it ranks in #47th and #48th place for short-term and long-term fiscal stability, respectively.
17: North Carolina
The U.S. News & World Report ranks North Carolina at #9 for fiscal stability. Long-term fiscal stability helps it keep this high ranking, for it ranks in seventh place compared to 23rd place for short-term fiscal stability.
The Tar Heel State falls in the middle of the road for most other categories. Crime and corrections is the exception, ranking in spot #32. Public safety drives down this number, with a violent crime rate of 419 incidents per 100,000 residents compared to the national average of 399.
Opportunity is the only category that Delaware ranks for in the top ten spots, being the fifth-best in America. It enjoys the number one ranking for the subcategory equality, which helps offset its mediocre economic opportunity (#21) and affordability (#30) rankings.
Delaware’s worst ranking is natural environment, in forty-fifth place. It’s the 47th most polluted state in the U.S., with 3,602 pounds per square mile of industrial toxins compared to the national average of 926.
19: New Jersey
New Jersey ranks high in three categories: education (#2), crime & corrections (#5), and health care (#8). It has a graduation rate of 91% compared to the national 86.5% and NAEP math scores of 281 compared to 274.
The Garden State severely lacks in opportunity (#43) and fiscal stability (#49). It’s the 48th least affordable state in the US and has 2.0 liquidity compared to the national average of 3.6.
20: New York
New York ranks in three top ten places in the U.S. News & World Report’s data: natural environment (#2), health care (#9), and education (#9). The Empire State has only 321 pounds of industrial toxins per square mile compared to the national average of 926, and it experiences 55 days with unhealthy air quality compared to the national average of 114.
Economy and opportunity are where New York is failing, in positions 45 and 49, respectively. It has a -1.0% job growth rate compared to the national 0.2% average, and it’s the forty-seventh least affordable state in the US.
Georgia is the first state that doesn’t have a category in the top ten rankings. Its best ranking is economy (#11). An above-average job growth rate is a contributing factor, as it sits at 0.7% compared to the nation’s 0.2%.
Health care is the Peach State’s biggest pain point. It ranks #41 in the country, with 18.1% of its population lacking health insurance compared to the national average of 12.2%.
Maryland ranks #4 for health care and #5 for natural environment. It has fewer preventable hospital admissions, with 2,261 patients per 100,000 residents compared to the national average of 2,781 patients.
The Free State ranks poorly for infrastructure (#39) and economy (#42). Its renewable energy usage is only 5.5% compared to America’s 12.3% average. Maryland also fosters a poor business environment, coming in at #42 in the nation.
Oregon ranks #3 for infrastructure. Its average commute time is only 22.6 minutes compared to the national average of 25.6 minutes. It also has less than half the amount of roads in poor condition; Oregon has 8.2% of poorly maintained roads compared to the nation’s 19.0%.
Education and crime & corrections are the Beaver State’s biggest issues, both ranking in 39th place. High school graduation rates are almost 4% lower in Oregon than the national average. It also has an extraordinarily high juvenile incarceration rate of 147 per 100,000 juveniles compared to the nation’s 66 average.
Fiscal stability is Tennessee’s greatest strength, according to the U.S. News & World Report. It ranks #5 in the US, in great part because of its second-best status in the country for long-term fiscal stability. It’s also an AAA-Stable state.
Tennessee ranks poorly for crime & corrections, in spot #41. It has a significantly lower juvenile incarceration rate of 12 per 100,000 juveniles compared to the national average of 66. This may or may not contribute to its violent crime rate of 673 per 100,000 residents compared to the national average of 399.
Montana excels with its economy, enjoying spot number six in the US. It has a job growth rate of 1.8% compared to the nation’s 0.2% and ranks #7 for both employment and growth.
The Treasure State has three below-average categories for the US: natural environment (#33), health care (#35), and crime & corrections (#37). It has a massive 10.0 drinking water violation points per 100,000 residents compared to the national average of 1.91 and a violent crime rate of 470 per 100,000 residents compared to 399.
Wyoming’s highest-ranking category is infrastructure, in 12th place. It enjoys an excellent transportation rating of #4 in the country, with its residents only having to commute 18.3 minutes on average compared to the nation’s 25.6 average.
The Equality State’s economy (#40) and health care (#42) numbers don’t look so promising. It ranks 47th in the state for growth, and 16.2% of its population doesn’t have health insurance compared to a rate of 12.2% across the country.
Kansas has above-average infrastructure, ranking at #7 in the US. Its renewable energy usage is 24.4% compared to the national 12.3% average. It also has only 11.4% of its roads in poor condition compared to the national 19.0%.
Natural environment and health care are Kansas’ lowest-ranking categories, at #39 and #40, respectively. The state suffers from 2.79 drinking water violation points per 100,000 residents compared to the nation’s 1.91. It also ranks in 47th place for health care quality.
The U.S. News & World Report’s data reveals extreme category rankings for Maine. Crime & corrections and opportunity are in the state’s favor, ranking #2 and #6 in the country. Notably, Maine takes the number one spot for public safety in America.
The Pine Tree State ranks poorly for fiscal stability and infrastructure. Its short-term fiscal stability comes in 38th place, and 1.7% of its roads are in worse conditions than the rest of the US.
Indiana ranks in 7th place for opportunity. It’s the 15th most affordable state in the US, with a cost of living index of 92.7 compared to the national average of 100.
However, the Hoosier State ranks as the worst state in America for the natural environment category. Its industrial toxins are 2,753 pounds per square mile compared to the nation’s 926 average.
Missouri’s best category rankings are fiscal stability (#12) and opportunity (#14). It has an above-average budget balancing and liquidity of 3.6, on par with the national average. It’s also the 13th-most affordable state in the country.
The Show Me State ranks poorly for health care (#39) and crime & corrections (#44). Its residents have an obesity rate of 37.4% compared to the national average of 33.7%. It also has a violent crime rate of 543 per 100,000 residents compared to the national average of 399.
Hawaii’s data has many variants in U.S. News & World Report’s findings. It ranks #1 in America for both health care and natural environment. Only 5.5% of its population doesn’t have health insurance, and it only has two days each year with unhealthy air quality, unlike the national 114 average.
The Aloha State ranks towards the bottom for opportunity (#45), fiscal stability (#46), and economy (#48). Its cost of living index is 13.2 points above the national average, and it has a job growth rate of -0.8%.
32: Rhode Island
Health care and natural environment are Rhode Island’s highest-ranking categories, at #2 and #9, respectively. It has a population without health insurance rate of less than half the national average, and its industrial toxins are only 500 pounds per square mile compared to the nation’s 926 average.
The Ocean State falls low in the rankings for education (#40) and infrastructure (#48). It has an average debt at graduation of $36,791 compared to the national average of $29,300. A massive 48.1% of its roads are in poor condition.
California ranks sixth in the country for healthcare. It takes fourth place for the subcategories health care quality and public health, and its obesity rate is more than 6% below the national average.
The Golden State claims the unwanted title of being the worst state in America for opportunity. It ranks #50 for affordability and has a cost of living index 11.8 points higher than the country’s average.
Ohio’s best rankings are opportunity (#11) and fiscal stability (#14). Even so, its poverty rate is 0.6% above the national average. The subcategories for both long-term and short-term fiscal stability rank in 17th place.
Natural environment is Ohio’s lowest-ranking category at spot #42. It has the 45th worst pollution in the US, with an industrial toxin level of 2,341 pounds per square mile.
The economy is Texas’ greatest strength in the U.S. News & World Report’s data. It ranks in eighth place, with a job growth rate of 1.6% compared to the nation’s 0.2% average.
Natural environment and opportunity are Texas’ weakest categories, at #40 and #47, respectively. Texans experience 128 days of unhealthy air quality and a median household income almost $3,000 below the national average of $69,717.
Education and crime & corrections are Illinois’ best-ranking categories, both clocking in at position #12. Illinois residents have $28,552 debt at graduation, below the national average of $29,300. They also have an incarceration rate of 225 compared to 307 across America.
Illinois ranks the worst in the country for fiscal stability and the subcategories of long-term and short-term fiscal stability. It has an A3-Stable government credit rating and budget balancing below the national average.
The economy is Arizona’s strongest ranking according to the U.S. News & World Report, landing in fifth place. It has a 1.9% higher job growth rate than the national average and a net migration rate of 1.0% compared to the country’s 0.1% average.
Natural environment (#43) and education (#45) are the Grand Canyon State’s lower category rankings. Residents suffer from 280 days per year of unhealthy air quality, and the state has a high school graduation rate of only 77.3%.
Nevada ranks #8 for infrastructure. It has an average commute time of one minute below the national average, and only 14.3% of its roads are in poor condition compared to the nation’s 19.0%.
The Silver State ranks in 38th place for education and 48th place for natural environment. Students average NAEP math scores of 269, five points lower than the national average. Nevada also has 4,089 pounds per square mile of industrial toxins compared to the country’s 926 average.
Kentucky comes in 13th place for crime & corrections and opportunity, its highest rankings. The state has a violent crime rate of only 259 per 100,000 residents compared to the national 399, and its cost of living is only 89.1 out of a national average of 100.
Economy (#43), fiscal stability (#45), and health care (#46) are the Bluegrass State’s worst-ranking categories. It has a -0.3% job growth rate and an obesity rate of 40.3% compared to the national average of 33.7%.
Despite its low overall ranking on U.S. News & World Report’s list, Pennsylvania comes in at #10 for health care. It offers the sixth-best healthcare access in the US, and its population without insurance is 7.5% compared to the national average of 12.2%.
Infrastructure (#46) and fiscal stability (#47) are Pennsylvania’s lowest rankings. The Keystone State is below the national average for budget balancing and has a roads in poor condition rate of almost 10% higher than the country’s average.
Michigan’s numbers are grim, with its 20th place in the healthcare category being its highest ranking. It ranks #11 for the healthcare quality subcategory, but it has higher preventable hospital admission and obesity rates than the national average.
The Wolverine State ranks in the 30s for most other categories. Its worst category is infrastructure (#43), with below-average energy, internet access, and transportation numbers.
42: South Carolina
South Carolina’s highest rankings are fiscal stability and natural environment, at spots #18 and #19, respectively. It ranks in fifth place for the short-term fiscal stability subcategory and has a tiny 0.29 drinking water violation points per 100,000 residents.
Education (#42) and crime & corrections (#46) are South Carolina’s worst rankings. It has a high school graduation rate of more than 4% below than the national average and a violent crime rate of 531 per 100,000 residents.
Oklahoma’s best ranking is infrastructure, according to the U.S. News & World Report. Its 22nd ranking is helped by a low percentage of roads in poor conditions and a commute time 3.6 minutes below the national average.
The Sooner State ranks #48 for both health care and education. It has a population without health insurance of 20.2% and NAEP math scores ten points below the country’s average.
Fiscal stability is Alabama’s biggest strength of the eight categories analyzed. Its short-term fiscal stability of #9 helps its overall ranking of 20th place in this category.
Health care and education tie for 44th place in Alabama’s rankings, and natural environment clocks in at #47. Although the state’s air and water quality subcategory ranks at #11, its pollution subcategory falls in 48th place.
Arkansas comes in 19th place for fiscal stability. It’s an AA1-Stable state and is the 15th-best state in the country for short-term fiscal stability. There aren’t many silver linings beyond this category, though.
The Natural State ranks poorly for infrastructure (#40), education (#43), health care (#47), and crime & corrections (#49). Arkansas has a violent crime rate of 672 per 100,000 residents.
46: West Virginia
West Virginia comes in 18th place for crime & corrections and opportunity. Its violent crime rate is slightly below the national average, and it has a lower average cost of living.
However, the Mountain State clocks in at #50 for health care and infrastructure. Its preventable hospital admissions are 3,645 per 100,000 patients, nearly 1,000 over the national average. It also comes in last place for internet access and transportation.
47: New Mexico
New Mexico squeezes into spot #15 for fiscal stability. Much of this is thanks to its position #2 under the short-term fiscal stability subcategory. Its long-term subcategory isn’t as promising, with a #45 ranking.
The Land of Enchantment ranks the poorest in the country for education. It has NAEP math scores of 259 compared to the nation’s 274 average, and only 76.9% of high school students graduate.
The only above-average category ranking that Mississippi has is natural environment, at 16th place. Its excellent air and water quality is to thank, with only 64 days of unhealthy air quality per year and a low 0.88 drinking water violation points per 100,000 residents.
Mississippi ranks in spot #49 for health care and economy. Its residents have an obesity rate of almost 6% higher than the national average, and it’s the second-worst state for the employment subcategory.
Alaska’s U.S. News & World Report rankings are grave, with fiscal stability and opportunity being the state’s highest ranking categories, both at 33rd place.
Its worst category rankings are economy (#46), crime & corrections (#48), and education (#49). The violent crime rate in Alaska is 838 per 100,000 residents, and it has a low high school graduation rate of 79.1%.
Louisiana takes the unwanted cake for the worst state in the US for serving its residents. Its best-ranking category is fiscal stability, with a meager #38 place.
The Pelican State ranks #49 in infrastructure and natural environment and 50th place for economy and crime & corrections. Louisiana has an incarceration rate of 564 per 100,000 residents compared to the national rate of 307 and 2.91 drinking water violation points compared to the nation’s 1.91 average.
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