Special Report

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

Samuel Stebbins

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26. Montana
> 2018 unemployment: 3.7% (23rd lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 72.8% (25th highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: 2.6% (15th highest)
> Poverty rate: 13.0% (22nd highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa1/Stable

The typical household in Montana has an income of $55,328 a year, less than the $61,937 national median household income. Still, Montana residents are not more likely to face serious financial hardship than the typical American. Just 13.0% of the state population lives below the poverty line, closely in line with the 13.1% national poverty rate.

Montana is not as well equipped as most states to fund government operations in the event of a revenue shortfall or emergency. Montana is one of only four states with no money set aside in a rainy day fund.

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27. Indiana
> 2018 unemployment: 3.4% (16th lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 65.0% (18th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: 2.0% (14th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.1% (21st highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aaa/Stable

Indiana is one of only 15 states with a perfect triple A credit rating and a stable outlook from Moody’s. Still, it is not without some budgetary problems. The state has funding for only about 65% of its pension obligations, one of the lowest funding ratios of any state.

In several socioeconomic measures, Indiana fares as well or better than the nation as a whole. For example, the state’s annual unemployment rate of 3.4% is below the national rate of 3.9%. Additionally, though the median household income of $55,746 in the state is about $6,000 below the national median, Indiana’s poverty rate of 13.1% is in line with the national rate.

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28. Maryland
> 2018 unemployment: 3.9% (25th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 68.6% (23rd lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: 2.5% (24th highest)
> Poverty rate: 9.0% (3rd lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aaa/Stable

The typical Maryland household earns $83,242 a year, about $21,300 more than the typical American household and the highest median household income of any state. Additionally, Maryland’s poverty rate of just 9.0% is among the lowest of any state and well below the 13.1% national poverty rate.

Though Maryland is one of 15 states with a perfect triple A credit rating and a stable outlook from Moody’s, the state is not in as sound fiscal shape as many others. For one, Maryland has funding for only 68.6% of its pension obligations, below the average across states. Additionally, with only 5.0% of its annual budget saved in a rainy day fund, Maryland is not as well equipped as most states to fund government operations in the event of a revenue shortfall or emergency.

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29. South Dakota
> 2018 unemployment: 3.0% (9th lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 100.1% (2nd highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: 1.9% (13th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 13.1% (21st highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aaa/Stable

South Dakota is better managed fiscally than most states. The state has a perfect triple A credit rating from Moody’s and enough saved in a rainy day fund to allow the government to operate for an entire year without any revenue. South Dakota residents also benefit from a strong job market. Just 3.0% of the state’s labor force was out of work in 2018, well below the comparable 3.9% national unemployment rate.

Economic growth has been relatively stagnant in South Dakota recently. The state’s economy expanded by just 1.9% in 2018, slower than most states and well below the 2.9% national GDP growth last year.

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30. Maine
> 2018 unemployment: 3.4% (16th lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 81.9% (13th highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: 2.2% (18th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 11.6% (19th lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa2/Stable

The typical household in Maine earns $55,602 a year, about $6,300 less than the typical American household. Despite the lower incomes, Maine residents are less likely to face serious financial hardship than most Americans. Just 11.6% of the Maine population lives below the poverty line, below the 13.1% national poverty rate. Maine is also a relatively safe place. There were only 112 violent crimes reported in the state for every 100,000 people in 2018, the lowest violent crime rate among states and well below the 369 per 100,000 national violent crime rate.

Economic growth has been relatively sluggish in Maine recently. The state’s economy expanded by just 2.2% in 2018, slower than most states and below the 2.9% national GDP growth last year.

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