To determine how well each state is run, 24/7 Wall St. constructed an index of numerous measures from a variety of sources. From the U.S. Census Bureau, we looked at net migration to a state from April 2010 to July 2014 as a percentage of the population in 2014. We reviewed each state’s finances for the 2013 fiscal year, including revenue, per capita tax collection, expenditure and debt levels, all from the Census. In addition, we considered pension funding ratios for each state from Washington D.C.-based think tank The Pew Research Center, as well as each state’s rainy day fund balance as a percentage of total general fund expenditures estimated for fiscal 2015 from The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). For Georgia and Oklahoma, for which fiscal 2015 estimates were not available, we used the balance for fiscal 2014. NASBO defines rainy day funds as “budget stabilization funds set aside to respond to unforeseen circumstances.” Government general obligation ratings were provided by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investors Service.
From the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2014 American Community Survey (ACS), we also considered a range of socioeconomic factors to assess social outcomes and residents’ well-being. We looked at poverty, educational attainment, the percentage of adults without health insurance, and median household income. Violent crime rates came from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) 2014 Uniform Crime Report. Annual foreclosure rates, measured as the number of housing units at some stage in the foreclosure process, were provided by housing market data tracker RealtyTrac and are for 2014.
To evaluate each state’s job market, we reviewed annual 2014 unemployment rates as well as jobless rates as of October from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Characteristics of each state’s unemployment insurance (UI) benefits system, including average weekly benefit amounts in dollars and as a percentage of the average weekly wage (the replacement rate), the percentage of UI claimants exhausting their benefits before finding a job (the exhaustion rate), the average duration in weeks of insurance benefits, and the percentage of unemployed individuals receiving UI benefits (the recipiency rate) are from the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration (DOLETA) and are as of 2014.
Lastly, to assess the strength of each state’s economy, we reviewed real GDP growth rates in 2014 from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Also from the BEA, we considered industry contributions to a state’s economic growth in 2014, as well as 2013 regional price parity, a proxy for an area’s cost of living.