The Grades Are In: New Hampshire #2 in ‘Best States’

For those of us who have been out of school for a while, it can be hard to remember just how stressful those report-card days used to be. So when U.S. News & World Report issued its “Best States” list for 2019, a few New England states greeted it with cheers and high-fives, while others […]

By Joe Bills

May 16 2019

New_Hampshire-best-states-2019-public domain

New Hampshire Named #2 in ‘Best State’ Survey

Photo Credit : Public Domain

For those of us who have been out of school for a while, it can be hard to remember just how stressful those report-card days used to be. So when U.S. News & World Report issued its “Best States” list for 2019, a few New England states greeted it with cheers and high-fives, while others might have wanted to crumple it into their back pockets, hoping it would slip right into the wash undiscovered.

New Hampshire Named #2 in ‘Best State’ Survey
New Hampshire Named #2 in ‘Best States’ Survey
Photo Credit : Public Domain

New England Rankings in the U.S. News & World Report “Best States” List

New Hampshire Named Second-Best State, Vermont Ranked Fifth

By and large, the report confirmed what many of us who live in New England already know: This region is a pretty great place to live.

The “Best States” 2019 list put three New England states in the top 10, and every New England state placed in the top 5 in one or more categories.

The report ranked the 50 states in eight categories:

  • Healthcare (access, quality, public health)
  • Education (higher education, pre-K through 12)
  • Economy (business environment, employment, growth)
  • Infrastructure (energy, Internet access, transportation)
  • Opportunity (affordability, economic opportunity, equality)
  • Fiscal stability (long- and short-term)
  • Crime and corrections (corrections, public safety)
  • Natural environment (air and water quality, pollution)

Top honors overall went to Washington state, which didn’t finish 1st in any category but did place in the top 5 of four categories and was ranked no lower than 22nd in any category.

Rock-Solid Numbers for the Granite State

Kudos go to New Hampshire, which ranked 2nd overall. It took top honors for both opportunity and crime, and finished 4th in natural environment and 5th in education. It squeaked into the top 10 for fiscal stability, and finished 13th in economy and 16th in healthcare. Its lowest ranking was for infrastructure, where it finished 31st.

This year represents a bounce-back for the Granite State, which had fallen from 2nd to 5th last year. Its biggest improvements came in fiscal stability (26th in 2018, 10th in 2019) and crime (12th in 2018, 1st in 2019). Less happy news came in the categories of healthcare (4th in 2018, 16th in 2019) and infrastructure (13th in 2018, 31st in 2019).

New Hampshire has ranked 1st for opportunity in each of the past three years. And while being the home state of Yankee wasn’t specifically mentioned in the report, it certainly would have merited a bit of extra credit, had any been needed.

Vermont Jumps into the Top Five

The Green Mountain State popped up to 5th overall this year after finishing 10th in 2018. It ranked 2nd in crime, falling from the top spot last year. The biggest gain was in education (15th in 2018, 8th in 2019), while the biggest loss was in healthcare (6th in 2018, 11th in 2019). Vermont’s other rankings were all within three spots of where they finished last year, except for “natural environment,” a new category for 2019 — Vermont notched the 7th spot there.

Healthcare, Education Lead the Way for Massachusetts

The other New England state in the top 10 was Massachusetts, which ranked 2nd overall in 2018, and checks in at number 8 this year. For the third straight year the Bay State — home of MIT and Harvard, among other top schools — took 1st for education, and for the second year in a row it placed 2nd in healthcare. It was 4th for crime (up from 7th in 2018) and 7th for economy (down from 5th in 2018). Massachusetts was 30th for fiscal stability, a solid improvement over its 2017 ranking of 40th, and 26th for natural environment. Moving in the other direction were infrastructure (19th in 2018, 44th in 2019) and opportunity (16th in 2018, 29th in 2019).

Faulty Infrastructure Sinks Connecticut…

The Nutmeg State fell to 21st overall, a steep drop from last year (12th). Fittingly, the health insurance mecca made its biggest improvement in healthcare, climbing to 3rd from 12th. It was 6th for natural environment and 7th for crime. The economy rose to 30th from 38th; however, moving in the wrong direction were education (4th in 2018, 12th in 2019), infrastructure (26th in 2018, 46th in 2019), and opportunity (15th in 2018, 33rd in 2019).

…and Rhode Island

In placing 26th overall, Rhode Island dropped five places from last year. The country’s smallest state was 1st for natural environment and 5th for healthcare (up two spots from 2018). But the results went the other way for crime (3rd in 2018, 13th in 2019), economy (18th in 201820th in 2019), education (31st in 2018, 41st in 2019), and infrastructure (35th in 2018, 49th in 2019). Rhode Island was 31st for both opportunity and fiscal stability in 2019.

Maine Gets High Marks for Crime, But Not Much Else

The lowest-ranked New England state was Maine, which fell to 32nd overall from 18th last year. (Surprisingly, U.S. News & World Report recently selected Portland, Maine, as the 23rd best U.S. city to live in.) The Pine Tree State’s best ranking was in crime, where it was 3rd. Its biggest gain was in opportunity (32nd in 2018, 27th in 2019), while its biggest decline was in economy (18th in 2018, 37th in 2019). Maine was 19th in healthcare, 28th in education, 42nd in infrastructure, 28th in fiscal stability, and 39th in natural environment.

Unlike most report cards from school, these rankings are subjective and open to interpretation. For instance, in a category in which every state is doing well, one still has to rank last. And in a category where every state is insufficient, one still has to come in first.

How would you grade the rankings of our New England states?