Special Report

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


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 2015 as a percentage of the population in 2015. We reviewed each state’s finances for the 2014 fiscal year, including revenue, per capita tax collection, expenditure and debt levels, all from the Census. Also from the Census, we reviewed the per capita value of a state’s exports.

Additionally, 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 2017 from The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO). 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, and are the most recent as of this writing.

From the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey (ACS), we also considered a range of socioeconomic factors to assess social outcomes and residents’ well-being. We looked at poverty, high school educational attainment, the percentage of adults without health insurance, median household income, and 1- and 5-year changes in median home value. Violent crime rates came from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) 2015 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 Attom Data Solutions and are for 2015.

To evaluate each state’s job market, we reviewed annual 2015 unemployment rates as well as jobless rates as of October from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Additionally, we reviewed the change in a state’s labor force from 2011 to 2015. 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) as of the twelve months ending Q1 2016.

Lastly, to assess the strength of each state’s economy, we reviewed real GDP growth rates and per capita real GDP for 2015 from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Also from the BEA, we considered 2014 regional price parity, a proxy for an area’s cost of living.

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