Ted | O’Neil | The Center Square contributor
U.S. News & World Report’s 2021 ranking of the best states to live in has Louisiana last for the second year in a row in an analysis that looks at things like health care, education and opportunity.
The fourth annual report ranks all 50 states based on six dozen metrics across eight categories. According to the report’s methodology, some 70,000 people were surveyed and asked to prioritize each subject in their home state.
The eight categories were then weighted based on responses, with health care and education at the top, followed by the economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime and natural environment.
Equal weight was then assigned to elements within each category. For example, under health care, public health, access and quality were each weighted at 33 percent.
Data for developing the metrics was drawn from numerous sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the FBI and the National Center for Education Statistics.
Within each metric, the state that performed the best was given a score of 100 and the state that performed the worst scored 0. States in between were indexed proportionally.
The highest ranking Louisiana received was No. 42 for fiscal stability. It ranked last in crime and was No. 49 for natural environment. The other ratings were health care (46), education (48), economy (47), infrastructure (47) and opportunity (48).
Looking at health care, Louisiana last year had 6,019 preventable hospital admissions for every 100,000 patients, compared to the national average of 4,378. The state’s obesity rate is 36 percent, four points higher than the national average.
Under education, Louisiana’s high school graduation rate is 81.4 percent, four points behind the national average. The National Assessment for Educational Progress – often referred to as the nation’s report card – lists Louisiana’s average math score at 272, 10 points below the national average.
For crime, Louisiana’s incarceration rate is 680 people per 100,000 residents, 260 higher than the national average. The state also has a violent crime rate of 549 incidents per 100,000 people, while the national average is 379.
Louisiana did score well in the cost of living index, coming in at 91 percent with a national index of 100, but the state’s median household income of $51,073 is more than $14,000 below the national average. Louisiana’s poverty rate of 19 percent is seven points above the national average.
While the entire country struggles with a business climate heavily impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, Louisiana saw 0 percent net job growth over the past year compared to a national average of 1.4 percent, and the state lost 0.5 percent of its population in 2020 due to migration while the national average was an increase of 0.2 percent.