Every state has something its residents can be proud of. While for some it’s a natural resource, a landmark, or a signature attraction, for others it’s a statistic that proves the state is the healthiest, wealthiest, or best educated.
24/7 Tempo reviewed information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, County Health Rankings & Roadmaps, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute joint program, as well as tourism information sites, and several other sources to determine the best thing about every state. For each state, the entry was either a positive statistic, metric, indicator, or product that the state ranks first in, or a nationally recognized landmark or cultural institution in that state.
Many states are fortunate to be located on massive stores of natural resources like petroleum or crops. Others have ideal climates for growing important crops. And some states have set themselves up to be hubs for business or manufacturing that play a vital role in the state’s economy. This is the top selling product from every state.
The best thing about many states is a cultural institution not found elsewhere, whether geographical features like the Grand Canyon or a unique food that has become synonymous with the state. This is the strangest food from every state.
Best thing: 7,565 jobs created by foreign investment
In the latest Global Location Trends report by IBM-Plant Location International, Alabama ranked first in the country in job creation from direct foreign investment in 2018.
Best thing: $1,606 per resident
The oil-rich state distributes a dividend to the bulk of its 737,000 residents. The dividend typically ranges from $1,000 to $2,000 per year. In 2019, each resident received $1,606.
Best thing: Grand Canyon
What is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide, and a mile deep? America’s greatest natural wonder, the Grand Canyon.
Best thing: 49% of US rice production
Arkansas is by far the largest rice producer in the country, with state farmers producing over 9 billion pounds per year. The state accounts for nearly half of the country’s total rice production.
Best thing: $3.1 trillion economy
California has by far the largest economy of any U.S. state, accounting for more than one-seventh of the U.S. economy overall. The state had a GDP of more than $3.1 trillion in 2019. No other state had a GDP of even $2 trillion.
Best thing: 21.8% adult obesity rate
Obesity is a health risk for a number of serious and potentially fatal diseases, and Colorado has the lowest adult obesity rate of any state — well below the 29% national rate.
Best thing: Healthiest state
Connecticut is the healthiest state in the U.S. with 58.1% adults who report that their health is very good or excellent, the highest share than any other state, according to the CDC.
Best thing: Favorable tax laws
Due to a favorable tax and legal climate for businesses, the vast majority — 67.8% — of Fortune 500 and publicly traded U.S. companies are incorporated in Delaware.
Best thing: NASA
Florida’s Kennedy Space Center has been the launch site for most of NASA’s biggest missions in its history. NASA’s operations and the visitor center contributed an estimated $3.9 billion to Florida’s economy in fiscal year 2019.
Best thing: Poultry production leader
Georgia produces a nation-leading 26 million pounds of chicken per day, contributing $18.4 billion to the state’s economy annually.
Best thing: Highest average life expectancy
The average life expectancy at birth in Hawaii is 82.3 year, higher than any other state and over three years longer than the 79.1 year national average.
Best thing: Potatoes
Idaho is famous for its potatoes. The state produces 13 billion pounds of potatoes each year, about a third of the nation’s potato production.
Best thing: Quality education
Illinois is home to many of the country’s top-ranking public schools.
Best thing: Fewest driving deaths with alcohol involvement
Indiana has the lowest share of driving deaths that involve alcohol at 19.7%. The national average is 27.8%.
Best thing: Feeding the nation
Iowa leads all states in production of corn, soybeans, pork, and eggs.
Best thing: Wheat production
Kansas produces more wheat than any other state — 338 million bushels of wheat, which is about 27 million more bushels than North Dakota, the second largest producer of wheat.
Best thing: Highest water fluoridation
Nearly all of the tap water in Kentucky — 99.9% — has fluoride in it. Nationwide, just 74% of water is fluoridated. Fluoride in water has been shown to help prevent tooth decay.
Best thing: Cheapest electricity
Louisiana has the least expensive electricity in the country, costing an average of just 7.71 cents per kilowatt-hour. For comparison, electricity costs 10.53 cents per kWh nationwide.
Best thing: Lowest crime rate
Maine has the lowest violent crime rate in the country, at just 125.8 incidents per 100,000 residents. The state with the next lowest rate is Vermont, at 128.8 violent crimes per 100,000. The national average is 386 per 100,000.
Best thing: Richest households
Maryland has the wealthiest households in the country. The state’s median household income of $83,076 in 2018 was over $21,000 higher than the national median.
Best thing: Highest bachelor’s attainment rate
Home to some of the nation’s top colleges and universities, Massachusetts has the most highly educated adult population in the country. Of residents 25 or older, 44.5% have at least a bachelor’s degree, and 20.1% have a graduate or professional degree.
Best thing: Borders 4 Great Lakes
The Great Lakes State borders four of the five Great Lakes — Erie, Huron, Michigan, and Superior — more than any other state.
Best thing: Lowest age-adjusted mortality rate
Minnesota is one of the healthiest states in the country. The state’s premature age-adjusted annual mortality rate — the rate at which residents under 75 die every year — is 265.6 deaths per 100,000 residents — the lowest in the country. The national average is 340.4 deaths per 100,000 residents.
Best thing: Telehealth leader
Mississippi is one of just seven states to earn an ‘A’ rating from the American Telehealth Association. Not having to physically go to a doctor’s office saves patients time and money and reduces hospitalizations.
Best thing: No drinking water violations
Missouri is the only state in which no counties violated the EPA’s safe drinking water regulations, according to the 2020 County Health Rankings. In most states, over 40% of counties reported at least one EPA violation citation.
Best thing: Highest high school attainment
Montana has the highest high school graduation rate in the country among adults, at 93.9% compared to a national average of 88.3%.
Best thing: Fewest drug overdose deaths per capita
Nebraska had the fewest annual drug overdose deaths per capita, on average, between 2015 and 2017, at 7 per 100,000 residents, compared to a national rate of 21 drug overdose deaths per 100,000.
Best thing: Las Vegas
While some might take issue with what happens in Las Vegas, it’s hard to argue with the constant influx of talent in the form of musical acts, comedians, and special attractions such as Cirque du Soleil.
Best thing: Lowest poverty rate
At 7.6%, New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate of any state. For reference, the national poverty rate stands at 13.1%, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Best thing: Highest rate of of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in preschool
Preschool has been shown to be an important part of early childhood development, and New Jersey has the highest rate of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in nursery or preschool, at 62.1%, compared to a national share of 45.7%.
Best thing: Fewest hate groups
New Mexico is one of just three states — along with Wyoming and Rhode Island — to have just one active hate group, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. With the largest population of the three, this means it has the fewest hate groups per capita of any state.
Best thing: Workers use public transportation to commute
Public transportation is a more environmentally friendly option than cars while also benefiting lower-income residents who cannot afford cars. In New York state, 28.0% of workers reported using public transportation to commute to work in 2018, the most of any state and well above the national average of 4.9%.
Best thing: Outer Banks
The Outer Banks is home to America’s first colony, founded about 30 years before the Pilgrims founded Plymouth Colony. The region is also where the first manned flight took place. The Outer Banks are a tourist mecca because of their beaches, state parks, and shipwreck diving sites.
Best thing: Lowest underemployment
North Dakota’s underemployment rate of 4.7% is the lowest in the U.S. The national average is 7.7%.
Best thing: Home to most astronauts
Ohio has produced more astronauts, like Neil Armstrong and John Glenn, than any other state. More than two dozen astronauts are originally from the state, logging over 22,000 hours in space.
Best thing: Low excessive drinking rate
About 14.1% of adults in Oklahoma report excessive drinking, the fifth lowest rate in the country and compared to a national average of 19.0%.
Best thing: Commuters bicycle to work
Workers in Oregon are more likely to bike to work than those in any other state. About 2.0% do, the highest share in the country. For reference, just 0.5% of workers nationwide commute by bicycle.
Best thing: Cheesesteak
Debate rages on about who makes the best Philly cheesesteak, but the sandwich is popular enough to be made all across the country.
Best thing: 94.9% of residents have access to places for physical activity
Rhode Island residents are more likely than Americans in all but one other state to live in close proximity to places like parks or recreation centers.
Best thing: Charleston has the best weather
Tourists are beguiled by the antebellum charms of Charleston, which ranks as the U.S. city with the best weather.
Best thing: Most sleep
Just 26.1% of South Dakota adults report getting insufficient sleep every night, the lowest share of any state, and well below the 33.9% of Americans who do.
Best thing: Music history
Country, bluegrass, blues, southern gospel, and rock ‘n’ roll, all trace their roots to Tennessee. The country music recording industry is often associated with Nashville, also known as the Music City. The Country Music Hall of Fame is located
Best thing: Energy production
Texas accounts for about 37.3% of the nation’s oil-refining capacity, more than any other state.
Best thing: Lowest share of children living in poverty
Children are one of the most vulnerable groups to poverty, and 18% of children live below the poverty line nationwide. Utah’s child poverty rate is nearly half the national rate and the lowest in the country.
Best thing: Lowest COVID-19 positivity rate
As of Sept. 7, Vermont had the lowest coronavirus positive test rate at 1.1%. The national average is 7.5%.
Best thing: Lowest recidivism rate
At a 23.1% recidivism rate, people who are released from jail or prison in Virginia are less likely to be re-incarcerated than ex-convicts in every other state.
Best thing: Highest one-year GDP growth
Washington’s GDP grew by 6% in 2018, more than any other state.
Best thing: Highest homeownership rate
West Virginia has the highest share of residents who own their homes, at 72.5%, higher than the national average of 63.9%, according to the CHR.
Best thing: State-run pension system
While the average funding level for U.S. public pension plans was 72.1% in 2017, Wisconsin Retirement System reported a market fair value-based funded ratio of 102.9%.
Best thing: Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone, located primarily in Wyoming, draws in millions of visitors every year and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the United States. The national park has been getting more than 4 million visitors a year five years in a row.
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