How well run are America’s 50 states? The answer depends a lot on where you live.
Every year, 24/7 Wall St. conducts an extensive survey of all fifty states in America. Based on a review of data on financial health, standard of living and government services by state we determine how well each state is managed.
The successful management of a state is difficult to measure. Factors that affect its finances and population may be the result of decisions made years ago. A state’s difficulties can be caused by poor governance or by external factors, such as extreme weather.
A state with abundant natural resources should have an easier time balancing its budget than one starved for resources. Regional problems or the national decline of certain industries can destroy local economies. The subprime mortgage crisis, for example, disproportionately affected states with strong construction and real estate markets. Such factors can be easily identified and noted as possible causes for a state’s poverty levels, unemployment, or strained coffers.
Despite this, it is the responsibility of each state to deal with the resources at its disposal. Each government must anticipate economic shifts and diversify its industries and attract new business. A state should be able to raise enough revenue to ensure the safety of its citizens and minimize hardship without spending more than it can prudently afford. Some states have historically done this much better than others.
To determine how well the states are run, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed hundreds of data sets from dozens of sources. We looked at each state’s debt, revenue, expenditure and deficit to determine how well it is managed fiscally. We reviewed taxes, exports, and GDP growth, including a breakdown by sector, to identify how each state is managing its resources. We looked at poverty, income, unemployment, high school graduation, violent crime and foreclosure rates to measure if residents are prospering.
The best-run states have certain characteristics in common, as do the worst run. The high-ranking states all have well-managed budgets. Each of the top ten has a perfect, or near-perfect, credit rating from Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, or both. Of the ten worst-ranked, only three received top scores from one agency, and none from both. California is currently the only state rated A- by S&P, the lowest score given to any state. These poor-ranked states have high debt relative to both income and expenditure.
There is a strong correlation between well-educated populations and generally well-managed states. Of the ten best-scoring states on our list, nine have among the highest percentages of adults with high school diplomas.
Employment is also closely correlated to how well a state is managed. The unemployment rates of most of the poorly ranked states are among the highest in the country. Nine of the ten best-ranked states had an unemployment rate of less than 7% in 2011. This includes North Dakota, which had the lowest rate in the country in 2011, at just 3.6%. The average unemployment rate nationwide was 8.9% in 2011.
Florida come in at number forty two (42) and here’s why:
> Debt per capita: $2,155 (10th lowest)
> Budget deficit: 19.5% (19th largest)
> Unemployment: 10.5% (tied-6th highest)
> Median household income: $44,299 (14th lowest)
> Pct. below poverty line: 17.0% (17th highest)
Florida was easily the state most affected on the East Coast by the housing collapse. As of 2011, 15.6% of the state’s GDP came from the real estate, more than all but two states. The still-foundering housing industry is a major source of Florida’s problems. Between 2006 and 2011, median home value in Florida plunged by 34.5%, from $230,600 to $151,000. Last year, more than one in every 50 homes was in foreclosure, one of the highest rates in the country. Florida’s GDP grew by just 0.5% in 2011, at just a third of national GDP growth. The state’s unemployment rate last year, at 10.4%, was the sixth-highest in the country. According to a report by the Orlando Sentinel, the state is expected to have a budget surplus in 2012, but these gains will not be enough to restore funding to some of the areas that have seen major budget cuts during the recession, such as education, roads, and environmental programs.
24/7 Wall St. considered data from a number of sources, including Standard & Poor’s, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Tax Foundation, RealtyTrac, The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Conference of State Legislators.
Unemployment data was taken from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Credit ratings were from ratings agencies S&P and Moody’s. We relied on the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for violent crime rate by state and large metropolitan areas. RealtyTrac provided foreclosure rates.
A significant amount of the data we used came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Data from ACS included percentage of residents below the poverty line, high school completion for those 25 and older, median household income, percentage of the population without health insurance and the change in median home values from 2006 to 2011. These are the values we used in our ranking.
Once we reviewed the sources and compiled the final metrics, we ranked each state based on its performance in all the categories. All data are for the full year 2011, with the exception of debt per capita, obtained from the Tax Foundation, and state budgetary data, which came from the U.S. Census Bureau, and is for fiscal year 2010. New to this year’s study was our more detailed review of state industry for 2011, from the the Bureau of Economic Analysis, exports per capita for 2011, from the Census Bureau, and the 2010 tax burden and the current tax business climate, from the Tax Foundation.
Source: 24/7 Wall St.