Special Report

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

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11. Texas
> 2019 unemployment: 3.5% (24th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 70.6% (24th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +2.9% (8th highest)
> Poverty rate: 13.6% (11th highest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aaa/Stable

Texas ranks as the 11th the best run state because of its solid financial footing. It is one of just a dozen states with a triple-A rating and a stable outlook from Moody’s. The state’s rainy day fund could cover over 21% of its general fund expenditures. The average rainy day coverage across states is less than 9% of expenditures.

As a large exporter of petroleum, the state’s exports per capita of $11,398 in 2019 were second highest of any state and more than double the national exports per capita of $5,000.

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12. Delaware
> 2019 unemployment: 3.8% (17th highest)
> Pension funded ratio: 85.1% (10th highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +1.8% (22nd highest)
> Poverty rate: 11.3% (22nd lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aaa/Stable

Delaware residents tend to be financially well off, with a median annual household income of over $70,000. Nationwide, the median household income is $65,712. The state’s poverty rate is 11.3%, a full percentage point lower than the U.S. rate.

Also, Delaware’s real GDP per capita of just over $66,000 is the ninth highest of any state. The U.S. real GDP per capita is nearly $8,000 lower. The state is also one of 12 with a Aaa credit rating from Moody’s.

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13. Massachusetts
> 2019 unemployment: 2.9% (11th lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 60.6% (10th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +2.4% (17th highest)
> Poverty rate: 9.4% (8th lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa1/Stable

Massachusetts ranks as the best run state in the Northeast. Before the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession, Massachusetts had one of the strongest job markets in the country with an annual unemployment rate of only 2.9%. Over the same period, the national jobless rate was 3.7%. Economic growth in Massachusetts was also relatively strong, with 2.4% GDP growth in 2019 compared to the 2.2% national economic expansion.

The Massachusetts state government, as well as local governments across the state, benefit from a relatively strong tax base. The typical household in the state earns $85,843 a year, about $20,000 more than the typical American household.

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14. Wisconsin
> 2019 unemployment: 3.3% (22nd lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 96.5% (4th highest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +1.4% (20th lowest)
> Poverty rate: 10.4% (16th lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa1/Stable

Wisconsin has one of the best-funded pension systems in the United States. The state has assets on hand to back 96.5% of its pension liabilities, a larger share than all but three other states. Wisconsin residents are also less likely than most Americans to be unemployed or live below the poverty line.

In addition to performing well in several economic measures and fiscal management indicators, Wisconsin also performs better than most other states in some social measures. For example, the violent crime rate in the state is just 293 incidents for every 100,000 people annually. Meanwhile, the national rate is 367 incidents per 100,000 people.

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15. New Hampshire
> 2019 unemployment: 2.5% (3rd lowest)
> Pension funded ratio: 64.7% (15th lowest)
> 1 yr. GDP growth: +1.4% (21st lowest)
> Poverty rate: 7.3% (the lowest)
> Moody’s credit rating and outlook: Aa1/Stable

New Hampshire is the second best run state in the Northeast and 15th best run state nationwide. By several economic measures, New Hampshire towers over other states. The New England state boasts the nation’s lowest poverty rate, at 7.3%, and a 2019 unemployment rate of 2.5%, which is over a full percentage point below the 3.7% national jobless rate.

New Hampshire has also done a better job than most states at keeping crime rates low. There were only 153 violent crimes for every 100,000 people in the state in 2019, well below the national violent crime rate of 367 incidents per 100,000 people.