Washington Ranks First in a Study of U.S. States Measuring Performance

The state shines as an economic powerhouse but has room to improve in providing opportunity for all citizens
Updated: Tue, 05/14/2019 - 09:07
 
 
  • The state shines as an economic powerhouse but has room to improve in providing opportunity for all citizens

Washington state commands the leading position in a ranking of states just released by U.S. News & World Report.

The rankings are based on eight variables designed to measure a state’s performance and its success in meeting citizen needs. Ranking behind No. 1 Washington in the U.S. News report were New Hampshire, Minnesota, Utah and Vermont, second through fifth, respectively.

Washington ranked among the top five states in health care, 4th, (based on access, quality and public health systems); education, 4th, (pre-kindergarten through college), infrastructure, 2nd, (based on its renewable energy efforts as well as road and bridge quality, despite a “middling” transportation system and long average commute times); and the economy, powered by the state’s booming tech sector.

The U.S. News report describes Washington as a “tech-sector powerhouse” that led the nation in economic expansion last year, with a 5.7% gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate, “largely thanks to that tech expansion, which has driven up real estate values.”

Despite Washington’s stellar showing in the overall rankings, it did not fare as well in some specific categories. The state ranked 22nd in fiscal stability (a measure of how well a state is meeting short- and long-term financial obligations); 15th in crime and corrections (a measure of both violent and property crime rates drawn form 2017 FBI statistics); and 14th in natural environment (which considers air and water quality and pollution).

Washington also ranked near the middle of the pack, at 19th, in a measure of opportunity for its citizens, as high real estate and other living costs have put “necessities, particularly housing … beyond the means of many workers in booming areas of the state,” such as Seattle.

The report notes that the state’s military and defense sector “employs the second-largest number of people in Washington,” with more than 127,000 military and civilian personnel. Beyond the state’s thriving tech, retail and aerospace sectors ― which gave birth to global companies like Starbucks, The Boeing Co., Microsoft Corp. and Amazon ― Washington also is a key agricultural player, “generating 70 percent of the country’s apples, and also leading in milk, potato and cattle production,” the U.S. News report states.

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