The Best and Worst Run States In America: A Survey of All Fifty

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31st. Ohio
Debt per Capita: $5,948 (14th)
Unemployment Rate: 10.1% (41st)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): -0.4% (37th)
Median Household Income: $45,395 (33rd)

While Ohio manages to reach 14th lowest debt per capita, it has an otherwise below average score in every other category. Notably, the Buckeye State ranks 41st in unemployment at 10.1%, and 35th in poverty, with 15.2% below the poverty line.

32nd. Oklahoma
Debt per Capita: $4,594 (5th)
Unemployment Rate: 7% (10th)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 14% (5th)
Median Household Income: $41,664  (45th)

Oklahoma ranks very well in many categories.  It has the fifth-lowest debt per capita, with only $4,595, and fifth for occupied home value, which increased 14% from 2006 to 2009.  At the same time, however, the “Sooner State” has the 45th lowest median income per household. 18.7% of the state’s population also does not have health insurance; the 44th worst rate in the nation.

33rd. Georgia
Debt per Capita: $5,144 (7th)
Unemployment Rate: 10% (38th)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 3.8% (30th)
Median Household Income: $47,590 (29th)

Georgia ranks in the lower 30s or worse in nearly every category, and is 45th in health insurance coverage, with 19.1% of the state’s citizens without protection. The Peach State’s only saving grace is a surprising seventh lowest debt per capita.

34th. Rhode Island

Debt per Capita: $10,820 (47th)
Unemployment Rate: 11.8% (47th)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): -9.7% (45th)
Median Household Income: $54,119 (16th)

Rhode Island ranks 34th on our list, but it has the fourth-worst debt per capita in the country. The state also has an unemployment rate of 11.8%, the third-worst in this category. All the same, the state manages to maintain a fairly high median household income (16th highest) and a relatively small percentage of the population below the poverty line (13th lowest).

35th. Tennessee

Debt per Capita: $5,681 (11th)
Unemployment Rate: 9.6% (35th)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 11.5% (14th)
Median Household Income: $41,725 (44th)

Tennessee is another state of extremes. It ranks 41st in high school graduation, 44th in median household income, and 48th in violent crime rates. However, property values increased 14% from 2006 to 2009, ranking it 14th, and the volunteer state also has the 11th lowest debt per capita.

36th. Texas
Debt per Capita: $8,711 (36th)
Unemployment Rate: 8.3% (24th)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 10.4% (16th)
Median Household Income: $48,259 (25th)

The second most populous state in the nation, Texas scores fairly average in most categories.  There are, however, two areas where Texas places dead last. The Lone Star State has the lowest percentage of its twenty-five and older population with a high school diploma – one in every five fails to obtain a high school education. Also, 23.8% of its population does not have health insurance, the worst rate in the country.


37th. New Mexico

Debt per Capita: $6,594 (17th)
Unemployment Rate: 8.3% (22nd)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 14% (6th)
Median Household Income: $43,028 (40th)

Occupied home values increased 14% from 2006 to 2009, putting the state in sixth place for this category. This anomaly, however, has little to do with the health of the state’s economy or living conditions. Ranked 47th in the category, 18% of New Mexico’s population is below the poverty line. It also has the sixth-worst violent crime rate, with 656 violent crimes per 100,000 people.

From the U.S. Department of Justice


38th. West Virginia
Debt per Capita: $5,405 (8th)
Unemployment Rate: 8.8% (26th)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 5.4% (26th)
Median Household Income: $37,435 (49th)

West Virginia is known for its lumber and coal industries and has been the site of massive labor unrest.  The state has the second to lowest GDP per capita in the country at $49,993. It also has the second-lowest median household income. The state does, however, possess the eighth-lowest debt per capita, at only $5,406 per citizen.

39th. Alabama
Debt per Capita: $5,948 (13th)
Unemployment Rate: 9.2% (31st)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 11.8% (13th)
Median Household Income: $40,489 (46th)

For a state so far down in our ranking, Alabama does surprisingly well in many categories, making the top fifteen in debt per capita and increase in home value. The reason it falls so far down the list is the intense poverty that plagues the state. It ranks 46th in median household income, and there are several counties in the state which have more than 30% of the population below the poverty line. Only one county in Alabama has a poverty rate in the single-digits.

40th. Arkansas
Debt per Capita: $4,478 (3rd)
Unemployment Rate: 7.5% (16th)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 9.6% (19th)
Median Household Income: $37,823 (48th)

Like Alabama, Arkansas is not a completely broken state. It ranks 16th in unemployment and third in debt per capita. However, it has the third-worst median household income ($37,823) and GDP per capita ($27,426) and is second only to Mississippi, with 18.8% below the poverty rate.