The headline may be the ranking of the top 10: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Minnesota, North Dakota, Washington, Iowa, Utah, Maryland, Colorado and Vermont. Yet the story goes much further, including an exhaustive 50 state-by-state roster of metrics supporting rankings across dozens of subcategories. It explains in detail how they're ranked, and offers readers a unique and simple interactive tool that enables anyone to compare any one state with any others.
In a union such as this, each state has something to learn from the others. Some have better health care, some better education, some more economic opportunity for their citizenry. Drawing any comparisons should be more than a matter of bragging rights. It requires clear-eyed measures to make real judgments.
That's what Best States is all about. It's a platform for not only rankings, but also ongoing fresh reporting about news, trends and developments state by state.
Best States also arrives at a time of renewed focus on power devolving to the states from Washington, D.C., enabling policy-makers to understand how some states are best performing with the responsibilities they're assuming.
U.S. News, with deep experience in rankings and analysis, has assembled thousands of data points about the states and produced an online portal that enables anyone to easily see what makes some states stronger and draw comparisons with others. The project is powered by a Leading States Index developed by McKinsey & Company, which has extensive experience in consulting focused on the improvement of state governance.
The benchmarks reach across seven broad categories – health care, education, opportunity, economy, infrastructure, crime & corrections and government – and include 68 metrics within the larger categories. The data come from reliable governmental and private sources, and the weight assigned to each category is based on a survey conducted about what matters most to people about their states.
Health care and education are weighted most heavily.
Some states, while not ranking highly overall, also excel in some areas.
It's an "interesting array of states, some blue, some red, some purple." You look at the top 20, and it's a broad mix. It's not the usual suspects in some ways.
"It's hard to be good at many things," Kelly says. "The value of a ranking like this is we use our judgment to say, it's not just one thing that makes a state great. It's a combination of things. Are you serving your whole population?... You have a healthy economy, but is everybody in the state participating in that economy? Is everybody participating in the health care system? It's a lot of things that matter."
Because so much of the data involved in this evaluation is public – yet often tied up in difficult to navigate government websites – Best States delivers it all.
There's terrific value in evaluating states this way. If you step back from it, what you realize is the U.S. is a grand experiment in government. And a lot of that experimentation happens at the state level.
On this year’s list, Maryland is in the top ten.
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