WA drops in ranking of best states, but it’s still in Top 10

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There’s something for every Washingtonian in the new U.S. News & World Report ranking of the “best states” in 2024.

If you’re a booster of the Evergreen State, you can boast of a Top 10 showing for the second consecutive year. But if you’re among those disillusioned with Washington, you can point to a fairly big drop in the state’s performance from one year earlier — particularly in one important category.

Washington ranked eighth in the new report, sandwiched between No. 7 Vermont and No. 9 Florida.

The report factors in 71 metrics across eight broad categories: health care, education, economy, crime rates, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability and natural environments.

Among those eight, Washington’s best showing was for infrastructure, in which the state ranked seventh. The infrastructure categories include energy (power grid reliability, electricity price, renewable energy usage), transportation (transit use, commute time, road and bridge quality) and internet access (broadband subscription rate, access to gigabit internet).

Washington also ranked in the Top 10 for health care, coming in at No. 10. The health care category ranks various aspects of access to, and quality of, health care, as well as a number of public health factors.

So far, so good for Washington.

That is, until you see how the state’s performance compares with one year earlier.

In 2023, Washington ranked No. 2 in the nation, landing in the Top 10 in four of the eight categories. In fact, Washington dropped in its rankings in seven of the eight categories this year. The only improvement was in health care, bumping up one spot from 11th to 10th.

Among the seven categories in which Washington fell, the most dramatic drop was in crime and corrections, falling from a respectable 19th in 2023 all the way to 39th this year.

Washington’s poor performance in this category was due to public safety, which takes into account crime rates. Washington was the worst state in the nation for property crime, ranking 50th. For violent crime, Washington was better, but still in the bottom half at 28th.

The opportunity category was another weak spot for Washington, only ranking 37th, but that wasn’t much of a decline from 2023 when the state ranked 31st.

This category takes into account economic opportunity, equality and affordability. Washington would have done well here if it weren’t for — you guessed it — affordability, which is based on the overall cost of living and the cost of housing. Washington ranked 47th for affordability, behind only California, Hawaii and New Jersey.

Washington scored much better for economy, education, fiscal stability and natural environment, ranking just outside the Top 10 for each of these categories.

Even so, there were significant drops in two of these categories from 2023. Washington fell from fourth to 14th for fiscal stability, and from fourth to 11th for natural environment. The fiscal stability category takes into account factors such as government credit rating, pension fund liability, liquidity and budget balancing. The natural environment category includes measures of pollution and air and water quality.

The best state in the U.S. for the second year running was Utah, followed by New Hampshire and Nebraska.

Louisiana ranked 50th in 2024, and was the only state to land in the bottom 10 for all eight categories.

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