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Wednesday, January 21, 2015
The States of Our Union ... Are Not All Strong - Margaret Slattery - POLITICO Magazine
The good news, at least for 5.4 million Americans, is that Minnesota—with improvements in employment, infant mortality and the obesity rate—has nudged its way into a tie for the top spot, giving the Midwest a share of New Hampshire’s repeat No. 1 showing.
Last year, Politico Magazine heralded President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address with an appraisal of the state of the states of the union, which we found, contra that favorite presidential declaration, were not all “strong.” Despite the disgruntled response from those states that ended up at the bottom of the list (including a letter to the editor from the governor of Mississippi himself), we decided once again to run the latest data through our highly scientific, incontrovertible ranking process—inspired, after all, by a 1931 H.L. Mencken magazine series delicately called “The Worst American State.”
Mencken might not have lived in the era of big data, let alone cultural sensitivity. But taking as granted a few of his basic ideas—that education, health and wealth generally make us better off, while crime, unemployment and death do not—we compiled 14 existing rankings of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, using the most recent data available from sources like the Census Bureau, the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Then, we averaged out each state’s 14 rankings to come up with a master list.
Yes, I’m sorry to say, the state that Mencken deemed “worst”—Mississippi—again falls last on our list this year. (It is, after all, the poorest and, in some ways, sickest state, as Sarah Varney reported for us last year.) The good news, at least for 5.4 million Americans, is that Minnesota—with improvements in employment, infant mortality and the obesity rate—has nudged its way into a tie for the top spot, giving the Midwest a share of New Hampshire’s repeat No. 1 showing.
D.C., Maine and Maryland saw the biggest rises in the ranks, each going up six spots, while Wyoming, one of the few states with a higher unemployment rate this year versus last, saw the biggest drop, from 6 to 16. That’s still much higher than Mencken’s rank of 30. So there’s hope for all.