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

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21st. New Jersey

Debt per Capita: $10,103 (45th)
Unemployment Rate: 9.6% (34th)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): -5% (43rd)
Median Household Income: $68,342 (2nd)

New Jersey is home to many wealthy people. They have the second highest median income per household and the fourth lowest percentage of people below the poverty line (tied with Connecticut). At the same time, however, they rank 45th in debt per capita, at $10,103.

22nd. Pennsylvania

Debt per Capita: $9,410 (40th)
Unemployment Rate: 9.2% (31st)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 13.4% (7th)
Median Household Income: $49,520 (22nd)

The Keystone State enjoys a positive reputation among many, as shown by housing prices which rose 13.4% between 2006 and 2009 – the seventh highest increase in the country.  Unfortunately, the state has one of the nation’s most severe debts, at $9,410 per capita.

23rd. North Carolina

Debt per Capita: $5,458 (9th)
Unemployment Rate:  9.7% (36th)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 13.3% (9th)
Median Household Income: $43,674 (39th)

North Carolina rates slightly below average in most statistics. However, the Tar Heel State ranks ninth in both debt per capita and property value change since 2006.

24th. Missouri

Debt per Capita: $6,868 (21st)
Unemployment Rate: 9.3% (33rd)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 13.4% (8th)
Median Household Income: $45,229 (35th)

Missouri’s rankings are all fairly average, rarely managing to fall in either the top ten or the bottom ten. The state does, however, boast a AAA S&P rating, the highest rating that the credit agency can confer.

25th. Colorado
Debt per Capita: $9,944 (44th)*
Unemployment Rate: 8.2% (21st)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 2.1% (33rd)
Median Household Income: $55,430 (13th)

While the rocky mountain state ranks dead center in most categories, its lively tourism industry pushes it into the top fifteen in median income and the top ten in GDP per capita.

*Ed Note. Value of debt per capita was incorrectly provided as $9,228. This was a transcription error and did not reflect the underlying data for the state. The current number of $9,944 is the correct number and reflects the data as it was originally used to rank the state. (October 13, 2010)


26th. New York

Debt per Capita: $13,804 (48th)
Unemployment Rate: 8.3% (22nd)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 0.9% (36th)
Median Household Income: $56,659 (15th)

New York is another middle-of-the-road state characterized by extremes. The Empire State ranks second in GDP per capita ($49,370 per person) but has the second worst debt per capita ($13,804 per person). New York’s legislative body has been plagued by budget deadlocks, political scandal and resignations.

27th. Oregon
Debt per Capita: $7,689 (30th)
Unemployment Rate: 10.6% (44th)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 8.8% (21st)
Median Household Income: $48,457 (24th)

Oregon, on average, is a fairly well-run state.  It has, however, been hit extremely hard by unemployment, with reported rates of 10.6% for August, 2010.

28th. Idaho

Debt per Capita: $3,706 (1st)
Unemployment Rate: 8.9% (28th)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 4.8% (27th)
Median Household Income: $44,926 (37th)

With the exception of having a low crime rate and the lowest debt per capita in the country, The state known for its potatoes and vast wilderness has an otherwise unremarkable resume. The state falls in the 30s and 40s in most other metrics.

29th. Indiana
Debt per Capita: $7,247 (25th)
Unemployment Rate: 10.2% (43rd)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 2% (34th)
Median Household Income: $45,424 (32nd)

Despite earning a AAA rating from S&P, Indiana ranks 25th in debt per capita and 34th in home value. At 10.2%, the Hoosier State also has one of the worst unemployment rates in the country, ranking seventh from the bottom in this category.

30th. Montana

Debt per Capita: $6,638 (19th)
Unemployment Rate: 7.4% (14th)
Home Price Change (’06 – ’09): 13.4% (8th)
Median Household Income:$42,322 (43rd)

Montana has the 46th lowest GDP per capita in the country, reportedly $27,952. To its credit, 90.8% of residents 25 and old have a high school degree, the sixth highest rate in the country.

(September, 2010): From the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2009, The percentage of the population that is 25 and over which have completed high school or its equivalent.