By Michael Carroll | The Center Square
New Hampshire took the No. 2 spot on the most recent U.S. News ranking of best states in the union, finishing first among the 50 states in sub-categories such as opportunity and crime and corrections.
New Hampshire’s rankings in other measurements analyzed were 16th in health care, fifth in public education, 13th in economic growth, 31st in infrastructure, 10th in fiscal stability and fourth for natural environment.
But not everyone is convinced the analysis – which examined more than 70 metrics in eight broad classifications – captured the full picture of the state’s economic and social landscape.
“The U.S. News & World Report Index is tilted in favor of more economic factors rather than social ones,” J. Scott Moody, CEO of the Granite Institute in Woodsville, told The Center Square in an email. “As such, it is no surprise to see New Hampshire doing well in the index because the Granite State does very well economically.”
The state’s economic edge can be traced to New Hampshire’s lack of state and local income taxes and its lack of either a sales or estate tax, according to Moody. Indeed, the Granite Institute’s website contains what’s called the New Hampshire Advantage Index, which charts the tax differentials between New Hampshire and other New England states.
The U.S. News analysis also seems to favor bigger government in some instances, Moody said, adding that more expansive government leads to higher tax rates.
“There are some structural issues with the index that I take issue with in that they promote larger government over smaller government,” he said. “For instance, their health insurance coverage index rewards states that have large Medicaid systems and states that have expanded public schools through pre-K programs.”
Large Medicaid systems have not been shown to improve health outcomes, just as pre-kindergarten has not been proved to improve long-term success in school, according to Moody.
The Family Prosperity Index, which the Granite Institute CEO oversees, ranked the state much lower overall, at No. 16. That’s because the index takes into account socially oriented problems that the state faces, Moody said.
“New Hampshire has been hard hit by the opioid crisis and has one of the highest overdose rates in the country,” he said. “Economics alone cannot explain this crisis. Instead, the roots of the opioid crisis can be found in the breakdown of the family, through the rise in single-parenthood and the decline in religiosity.”
“This is the only part of the Best States analysis that is subjective,” McPhillips said.
On other key measurements in the survey, the state’s share of adults with no health insurance was 8.5 percent, well below the 13.8 percent nationwide who are uninsured. And average household income stood at $73,381, compared to $60,336 nation.