National group ranks Washington 24th in the nation on economy, education, community health and civic life

As the year was ending, a new report came out ranking the states on various indicators of well-being and opportunity. Seattle Times business columnist Jon Talton reports:

Since 2011, Opportunity Nation, an alliance of business and nonprofit organizations, and the Social Science Research Council’sMeasure of America have produced indexes on 16 measures of social, educational and economic well-being for the nation and the states. In the latest report, Washington rated an opportunity score of 55.5, above the national 54.0. The scale runs from zero to 100.

Washington ranked 24th among the states. 

The measures differ quite a bit from those we use in constructing our Opportunity Scorecard, although the results are strikingly similar. On our scorecard, Washington ranks 27th.

The top states on our Scorecard include Utah, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Virginia, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, Missouri and Maryland. 

The Opportunity Nation top 10: Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, North Dakota, Nebraska, Maine, and Minnesota.

So, five states appear in the top 10 on both lists: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maryland, Nebraska, and Minnesota.

How do the criteria differ? 

Our measures, as explained in the FAQ, focus on objective performance in education (Achieve), transportation (Connect) and economic vitality (Employ). 

The Opportunity Washington Scorecard scores each state on 16 variables across three categories: Achieve (eight measures of education quality and outcomes), Connect (three measures of transportation efficiency and reliability) and Employ (five measures of economic vitality).

Opportunity Nation uses different criteria, including some overlapping our priorities. Here’s how Washington ranks on each of their measures. As Talton reports,

In Washington the economy (57.4) and community (59.1) scores were above the national average. The same didn’t hold for education, where Washington posted 49.9 vs. a national 52.9. On the economy, the state overall still suffered higher than average unemployment, but turned in lower poverty and inequality, as well as much stronger median household income. Larger numbers of people with a college education couldn’t offset the drag of the percentage of children in preschool and on-time graduation of high-school freshmen.

On our Scorecard, Washington ranks 21st in Achieve, 38th in Connect, and 26th in Employ. 

However you slice it (and we’d add that the “large numbers of people with a college education” included a lot of imported talent), Washington has work to do to improve opportunity and shared prosperity. As lawmakers move into the 2017 legislative session, that must continue to be a high public policy priority.