How U.S. States Rank When it Comes to Financial Health

As Illinois and New Jersey flounder, one large state defies the fiscal odds, according to the newest edition of Ranking the States by Fiscal Condition, an influential academic study published today by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

First-ranked Florida proves that large states—which typically struggle financially—can compete with their smaller neighbors.

Residents of struggling states like Illinois and New Jersey, meanwhile, can use this study to better trace the problems which have hamstrung their elected officials.

Top five:

1.  Florida
2.  North Dakota
3.  South Dakota
4.  Utah
5.  Wyoming

Bottom five:

46.  Maryland
47.  Kentucky
48.  Massachusetts
49.  Illinois
50.  New Jersey

Making moves:
Hawaii (+18)
Connecticut (+13)
Delaware (+13)
Maine (+8)
Oregon (+8)
Arkansas (+8)
North Carolina  (+6)

Falling fast:
Alaska (-16)
Louisiana (-11)
Colorado (-8)
New Mexico (-7)
Texas (-7)
Pennsylvania (-6)

This peer-reviewed research is based entirely on states’ most recent audited financial reports. The authors combine these reports into one transparent database and compare them, allowing the public to see where each state stands.

High-ranking states have adequate cash at their disposal, revenues exceeding expenses, assets left over after debts are paid, and low unfunded pensions. Low-ranking states “remain stuck in place due to persistently large and growing liabilities.”

No state is without its financial problems, and there are limits to what rankings can tell us. They can, at the very least, make important-yet-complex information more accessible and provide a useful public service outlining potential economic and fiscal risks.

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