The 5 Best-Run and 5 Worst-Run States in America

Park City Utah
Park City Utah

For John and Jane Citizen, residents of the Great State of Wherever, it can be tough to gauge just how well their state government is performing. We don't get quarterly earnings reports from the governor; there's no stock ticker to follow; and we can only live in one place at a time, so there aren't many opportunities to compare and contrast.

24/7 Wall St. is here to help. Each year, it conducts an extensive survey of all 50 states, reviewing a raft of data on financial health, standards of living, government services and more to determine how well each one is managed.

It's a complex equation -- and one that's far from being entirely under the control of your current elected officials. States with abundant natural resources (lately, think oil and natural gas reserves) should have an easier time balancing their budgets than those that lack them. Regional problems or national shifts can destroy local economies. And some states' current problems are the result of decisions made years ago.

That said, it's the responsibility of each state government to manage its affairs with the resources at its disposal, and some states are doing that much better than others.

These are the best- and worst-run states in America.



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 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 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.

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