Mass. and N.H. top US News's "Best States'' rankings, winter and all


Apple orchard in Hollis, N.H. New England winters help keep out the worst bugs and tropical diseases.

Apple orchard in Hollis, N.H. New England winters help keep out the worst bugs and tropical diseases.

Adapted from an item in Robert Whitcomb's 'Digital Diary,'' in

Yet again, after many decades of Sun Belt hype, we have another measure of how the generally northern and mostly Blue States are, by important metrics, the best states to live in. That’s largely because of their tradition of strong education and infrastructure. US News & World Report’s first ranking of the best states list in the top 10: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Washington State, Iowa, Utah, Maryland, Colorado and Vermont. (Connecticut was 12th, Maine 18th and Rhode Island 21st.)

The publication said:

“Some states shine in health care. Some soar in education. Some excel in both – or in much more. The Best States ranking …draws on thousands of data points to measure how well states are performing for their citizens. In addition to health care and education, the metrics take into account a state’s economy, the opportunity it offers people, its roads, bridges, Internet and other infrastructure, its public safety and the integrity and health of state government.

“More weight was accorded to some state measures than others, based on a survey of what matters most to people. Health care and education were weighted most heavily. Then came the opportunity states offer their citizens, their crime & corrections and infrastructure. State economies followed closely in weighting, followed by measures of government administration. This explains why Massachusetts, ranking No. 1 in education and No. 2 in health care, occupies the overall No. 1 spot in the Best States rankings. And it explains why New Hampshire, ranking No. 1 in opportunity for its citizens, ranks No. 2 overall in the Best States rankings.’’

The low-tax (except for their regressive sales taxes) low-public-service Red States in the South generally did very poorly.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican and a very able executive who’s expected to run for re-election next year, said:         

“We have a lot of really smart people, we have a lot of great schools. That has led to a whole series of terrific what I would call ‘ecosystems’ around technology and health care and finance and education. And you put it all together, and in this day and age, in this kind of global economy and global world we live in, it’s a terrific mix.” Of course, Massachusetts has had some great institutions since the 17th Century; it had a running start.

Mr. Baker will probably get some credit for the ranking, but the essentials of the Bay State’s health have been in place for a long time.  Governors and U.S. presidents have remarkably little impact on the economic health of their jurisdictions;  there are far too many variables.

As for New Hampshire, it has the overwash of wealth from the very rich Greater Boston area, the Granite State’s good public education, political integrity, local  and state civic-mindedness, a tradition of  having many well-run small and medium-size companies and industrial craftsmanship. And as  befits a state that is mostly suburban, exurban and rural,  lower taxes than Massachusetts’s.

US News folks did note that Massachusetts, despite of, or because of, its very low unemployment rate, had too little “affordable housing’’ (whatever that means exactly) and very wide income inequality. But the latter is due largely to the vast wealth collected by the senior execs and shareholders of very successful enterprises founded in, based in or with major operations in the Bay State and the large number of well paidvphysicians, engineers, financial-services honchos and other very highly skilled professionals.

Another advantage of New England: It's so far north that tropical diseases rarely make it to the region. There are some advantages to having the cool snap we call "winter.''