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

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31. Indiana
> Debt per capita:
$3,420 (24th highest)
> Credit rating (S&P/Moody’s): AAA/Aaa
> Unemployment rate: 4.4% (19th lowest)
> Median household income: $49,446 (18th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 15.2% (tied-23rd highest)

Despite top marks from credit rating agencies Moody’s and S&P, Indiana could improve by several other economic measures. The state has struggled to attract new residents. It added a net of roughly 8,400 people due to people moving to the state between 2010 and 2014, which accounts for just a fraction of a percent of the current population. In addition to being unable to attract people to the state, Indiana’s economy is relatively stagnant. The state’s economy expanded by less than 0.5% in 2014, significantly less than the national growth rate of 2.2%. The state also has relatively high levels of debt, equivalent to nearly 60% of its annual revenue.

Indiana allocates a much smaller share of resources to state government than is typical. Only 3.4% of the state’s workforce is employed in public administration, a smaller share than in all but three other states. Furthermore, Indiana spends only 1.7% of its annual budget on governmental administration, a smaller share than any other state.

32. West Virginia
> Debt per capita:
$3,975 (18th highest)
> Credit rating (S&P/Moody’s): AA/Aa1
> Unemployment rate: 6.9% (the highest)
> Median household income: $41,059 (2nd lowest)
> Poverty rate: 18.3% (tied-7th highest)

Like several other states in the Appalachian region, West Virginia has been one of the nation’s largest coal producers for many years. However, due in part to stricter environmental regulations and falling natural gas prices, U.S. coal production — and employment in the industry — has fallen precipitously in the region in recent years. The state’s natural gas production, on the other hand, is on the rise. With the development of the Marcellus Shale, West Virginia’s natural gas production has tripled since 2007. This could partially explain the state’s 2014 GDP growth of 5.1%, the third largest economic expansion in the nation.

Despite the economic growth, West Virginians struggle with some of the nation’s worst economic and social outcomes, including the second lowest median income, the highest unemployment rate, and the lowest college educational attainment. The typical household earns just $41,059 annually, 6.9% of the workforce is out of work, and just 19.2% of adults have a bachelor’s degree.

33. Nevada
> Debt per capita:
$1,271 (3rd lowest)
> Credit rating (S&P/Moody’s): AA/Aa2
> Unemployment rate: 6.6% (3rd highest)
> Median household income: $51,450 (24th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 15.2% (tied-23rd highest)

Nevada was one of the states hardest hit by the Great Recession. Although the unemployment rate has declined declining from 12.7% four years ago to 6.6% today — the largest improvement nationwide over that time — it still remains the third highest in the country. Similarly, despite the state’s foreclosure rate declining by 8.1 percentage points from 2010 to 2014 — also by far the largest improvement nationwide — 1.32% of Nevada homes today are in foreclosure, still the fourth highest rate in the country. Similarly, home values increased by 9.9% over that period, also the fourth largest growth of any state.

While there were improvements in the housing industry, gambling and mining revenues were lower than expected, and the state ended last fiscal year with a $162 million budget shortfall. To alleviate the deficit, Nevada depleted its rainy day fund. Now the state is one of just seven with no rainy day fund.

34. Michigan
> Debt per capita:
$3,065 (23rd lowest)
> Credit rating (S&P/Moody’s): AA-/Aa1
> Unemployment rate: 5.0% (25th lowest)
> Median household income: $49,847 (20th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 16.2% (18th highest)

Michigan is one of only a few states where from 2010 through 2014 more people left than arrived. Over that period, the state had a net migration loss of 72,674 residents, or 0.7% of its total population. Michigan was one of the hardest hit states by the recession, and it is currently in the process of a recovery. In the past four years, Michigan’s unemployment rate has declined from 9.8% to 5.0%, a 4.8 percentage point improvement — the fourth largest nationwide. Also, the state was able to pass a $54.5 billion budget in fiscal 2015, up considerably from $37.5 billion in the previous year. This will likely permit the state to spend more on highway repairs, among other much-needed public projects.

The government of Michigan is notable for its corruption and lack of transparency. According to a study by the Center for Public Integrity, Michigan is the most corrupt state in the nation, with weak disclosure rules for lobbyists and poor accountability in every branch of government. Michigan was judged well, however, for its state budget process.

35. Georgia
> Debt per capita:
$1,316 (4th lowest)
> Credit rating (S&P/Moody’s): AAA/Aaa
> Unemployment rate: 5.7% (12th highest)
> Median household income: $49,321 (17th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 18.3% (tied-7th highest)

Georgia has climbed from 44th place on this list to 35th this year, an improvement largely due to its declining unemployment rate. Today, 5.7% of Georgia’s workforce is unemployed, a significant recovery from last year’s 7.2% unemployment rate. However, Georgia still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country and one of the least widely used unemployment insurance programs of any state. Just 13.0% of unemployed residents in Georgia receive benefits, one of the lowest recipiency rates, and much lower than the national rate of 27.0%. States with less than optimal unemployment insurance systems also often have relatively small tax bases. Georgia collects just $1,762 per capita from its residents annually, the least of any state.