To determine the best and worst states in which to grow old, 24/7 Wall St. compiled data from a variety of sources and grouped them into four broad categories: income, health, labor, and environment and access.
To construct our index we used the min-max normalization method. A similar methodology was used in constructing HelpAge International’s Global AgeWatch Index and the United Nation’s Human Development Index. First, all indicators were modified so that higher values indicated better outcomes. For example, rather than use the percentage of the population with a disability, our index used the percentage of people 65 and over without a disability. Second, each indicator was normalized to fall between 0 and 1 using the indicator’s minimum and maximum values. Third, we calculated the geometric mean of the indicators in each category to obtain an index of each category. Geometric means were used to account for relationships between indicators that may be causal. Our final index was calculated as a geometric mean of the category-specific indices.
Included in the income category are data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey (ACS) regarding the 65 and older population with retirement income, poverty rates, and median household income. The health category includes data from the Census Bureau on the percent of people 65 and over with a disability. Also included are data on the percentage of seniors insecure about food from Feeding America’s 2013 report, Spotlight on Senior Hunger. We also included 2011 life expectancy at birth from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the OECD’s health index, and a survey question from Gallup on whether people have a personal doctor. The labor category incorporates data from the Census on the share of people 65 and over with a bachelor’s degree or higher, as well as employment rates for people aged 55-64 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The environment and access category includes data from the OECD on how accessible a variety of services are in each state. From Gallup, we considered how safe people feel walking alone at night and how satisfied people are with the places they live. Finally, we included data on violent crime rates from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.