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

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11. South Dakota
> Debt per capita:
$4,015 (16th highest)
> Credit rating (S&P/Moody’s): AAA/ N/A
> Unemployment rate: 3.2% (3rd lowest)
> Median household income: $50,979 (22nd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 14.2% (23rd lowest)

South Dakota has a relatively strong job market. Just 3.2% of the workforce is unemployed, the third lowest rate in the country. Benefits for those looking for work are relatively generous and effective, but they are not especially accessible. On average, unemployment insurance benefits cover more than 40% of the average weekly wage, one of the highest replacement rates. Also, just 15.4% of unemployment insurance claimants exhaust their benefits before finding a job, the lowest percentage in the nation. However, only 13% of unemployed individuals receive insurance benefits, the fourth lowest rate nationwide.

South Dakota also has a strong housing market. From 2010 through last year, home prices increased by 9.7%, the fifth fastest growth rate. The foreclosure rate, at one in every 831 housing units, is also the fifth lowest of any state.

12. Delaware
> Debt per capita:
$6,151 (8th highest)
> Credit rating (S&P/Moody’s): AAA/Aaa
> Unemployment rate: 5.1% (24th highest)
> Median household income: $59,716 (14th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.5% (17th lowest)

Delaware moved up one position from last year’s ranking among the best-run states. This improvement was due in part to labor force growth. The state recorded a 4.0% labor growth from 2010 through 2014, the fifth fastest rate in the country over that time.

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the share of Americans covered by health insurance has increased markedly over the past couple of years. In 2013, 14.5% of U.S. residents did not have insurance. That figure fell to 11.7% last year. Delaware already had one of the higher health insurance coverage rates in the country as only 9.1% of adults did not have health insurance in 2013. Still, coverage improved and just 7.8% did not have health insurance last year.

13. Hawaii
> Debt per capita:
$5,860 (9th highest)
> Credit rating (S&P/Moody’s): AA/Aa2
> Unemployment rate: 3.3% (4th lowest)
> Median household income: $69,592 (5th highest)
> Poverty rate: 11.4% (7th lowest)

Hawaii is the most expensive state to live in the country. Due largely to its remote geographical location — the middle of the Pacific Ocean — goods and services cost 16.2% more on average in Hawaii than they do elsewhere in the nation. Residents also have some of the nation’s highest incomes and most expensive homes. The typical Hawaiian home is valued at $528,000, the highest in the country, and the typical household earns $69,592 annually, the fifth highest median household income nationwide. In the absence of abundant natural resources, Hawaii has cultivated other industries. It relies more heavily on its entertainment industry, particularly tourism, than many other states. While 9.8% of American workers are employed in the arts, entertainment, recreation and accommodation sector, 16.6% of workers in Hawaii work in the industry, the second highest such concentration in the country, after only Nevada.

14. Vermont
> Debt per capita:
$5,315 (10th highest)
> Credit rating (S&P/Moody’s): AA+/Aaa
> Unemployment rate: 3.7% (8th lowest)
> Median household income: $54,166 (20th highest)
> Poverty rate: 12.2% (14th lowest)

Fewer than 100 violent crimes are committed for every 100,000 Vermonters each year, the lowest rate in the country. In addition to safe communities, Vermont’s government benefits from a strong tax base, and residents benefit from a relatively strong housing market. The state government collects $4,595 per capita in taxes each year, the third highest tax revenue nationwide. Vermont’s median home value of $214,600 is higher than the national median of $181,200, although it has declined over the past several years, unlike in most states. The foreclosure rate, at just one in every 1,138 housing units, is the lowest in the nation, after only North Dakota.

15. Oregon
> Debt per capita:
$3,425 (23rd highest)
> Credit rating (S&P/Moody’s): AA+/Aa1
> Unemployment rate: 6.0% (7th highest)
> Median household income: $51,075 (23rd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 16.6% (tied-14th highest)

Oregon’s unemployment rate of 6% is the seventh highest in the country. The state’s labor force also contracted by 2.1% from 2010 through 2014, even as the U.S. labor force grew by 6.7% during that time. While the state’s job market has seen better days, the state has many positive elements going for it as well.

People tend to move to a state when things are improving. In Oregon, migration over the five years through 2014 accounts for 2.2% of the current population, one of the larger shares in the country. The state government also managed its pension funds well: State pension funds are 96% funded, one of the highest percentages in the country. Oregon’s economy has also grew by 3.6% last year, the sixth-largest rate of growth of any state in the U.S.