The Best and Worst Run States in America: A Survey of All 50

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To determine the best- and worst-run states, 24/7 Wall St. collected data in three major categories: financial position, economic outcomes, and social outcomes. We averaged the rank of each data point to create a meta rank ranging from 1-50. All data points received equal weight.

In the financial category, we included data on reserves as a percent of general fund expenditures from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ “Fiscal 50: State Trends and Analysis” report published in November 2014. This data reflect the extent to which states are insulated from deteriorating economic conditions as of fiscal 2014. We also looked at data from Bloomberg on the percent of pensions that were fully funded. Data are for 2013 and reflect each state’s most current fiscal year. Total tax revenue per capita, state debt per capita, and debt as a percent of revenue are all from the U.S. Census Bureau and are for fiscal 2012.

One result of a state’s fiscal prudence is a higher credit rating. We considered the most recent credit rating data from Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service. Also in the economic outcomes category, we included the percent of residents without health insurance, median household income, median home value, and the value of exports per capita from the U.S. Census Bureau for 2013. From the Bureau of Economic Analysis we used data on per capita real GDP from 2013 and GDP growth, including a breakdown by industry, from 2012 to 2013. We also used 2013 unemployment figures and labor force growth between 2009 and 2013 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Foreclosure rates are from RealtyTrac and cover 2013.

In the social outcomes category, we examined the percent of people living below the poverty level as well as the share of each state’s population with at least a high school diploma, both from the U.S. Census Bureau for 2013. Violent crime rates, published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2013 Uniform Crime Report, were also considered.

This is the fifth consecutive year that 24/7 Wall St. has published this report. While many of the key elements of our analysis have remained the same, it is important to recognize how this year’s report differs from previous iterations. Rather than include data on budget shortfalls, we looked at reserves as a percent of total expenditures. New to this year’s report is data on per capita real GDP, labor force growth over the previous five years, total tax revenue per capita, total net migration, and a one-year change in median home values.