Washington is the best state to live in the U.S., and that’s not just my opinion.
The Evergreen State just claimed the top spot in the 2019 “Best States” ranking from U.S. News & World Report. More than 70 metrics and thousands of data points go into the rankings, which are meant to show how well each of the 50 states serve their residents.
Washington has done well in these data-driven rankings in the past, placing sixth last year and fifth in 2017, the inaugural year for the report.
But this year, we killed it.
The report is organized around eight major categories, and Washington ranked in the top half for all of them. Even more impressive, we ranked in the Top 5 in four of the categories: Infrastructure (second), economy (third), education (fourth) and health care (fourth).
If nothing else, this news certainly made Gov. Jay Inslee happy.
“We are thrilled that U.S. News & World Report has named Washington the No. 1 state in the country,” he told U.S. News. “This confirms what we, in Washington have always known, that our state is great for businesses, workers and investments, coupled with natural beauty and innovative, creative people. I am pleased to share Washington’s success with the world.”
The governor is also a presidential hopeful for 2020, and snagging the Best State title could be a nice talking point for him.
But Inslee, whose campaign is centered on combating climate change, probably would have like to see Washington do a little better in the report for the environment — we only ranked 14th in that category.
In the remaining three categories in the report, Washington placed 15th for crime and corrections, 19th for opportunity, and 22nd for fiscal stability.
The survey’s methodology is a little changed from last year. According to U.S. News, it’s been streamlined to reflect more objective, transparent and comparable data. Whatever they did, Washington clearly benefited from the changes.
The report also included a national survey of more than 23,000 people who were asked to rate their level of satisfaction with government services. The survey found just 38 percent of Americans generally agree that their state government is effective — not a great number. Washington did significantly better than that, at 48 percent. The top state was Massachusetts, with 64 percent approving of government effectiveness. Illinois had the lowest score, at just 11 percent.
In the overall rankings, New Hampshire was the runner up to Washington this year, with Minnesota, Utah and Vermont rounding out the Top 5, in that order — all states in the northern half of the country.
And while I wouldn’t want to call any state the worst, this year’s “least best” state is Louisiana. The Bayou State ranked dead last in half of the categories, and was in the bottom 10 for all eight. While no state has managed to stay on the top of the rankings more than once, Louisiana pulled off a hat trick with three consecutive years in 50th place.
Just as northern states dominate the top of the rankings, there’s a cluster of southern states at the bottom, with Alabama in 49th place and Mississippi in 48th.
Even though Washington ranks No. 1 this year, that doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. Look what happened to last year’s best state, Iowa: It dropped all the way back to 14th in 2019.