U.S. News ranks Washington as the “Best State in America.”

Washington takes top marks in this year’s U.S. News “Best States Rankings.” Last year, Washington ranked 6th; the year before, 5th.

The chart below shows this year’s scores:

The magazine’s annual rankings receive a lot of attention around the country, conferring bragging rights and marketing pizazz to state and local officials and economic development groups. We’ll restate what we wrote last year,

All the usual caveats apply to the “best states” rankings – there’s an inevitable subjectivity to weighting and selection of metrics – but the report is well-done and useful.  

It’s clearly better to be Number One and have critics try to explain why we’re really not that great, than to be at the bottom of the rankings struggling to point out how the adjudicators failed to recognize signs of greatness.

U.S. News explains the metrics:

The Best States ranking of U.S. states draws on thousands of data points to measure how well states are performing for their citizens. In addition to health care and education, the metrics take into account a state’s economy, its roads, bridges, internet and other infrastructure, its public safety, the fiscal stability of state government, and the opportunity it affords its residents.

More weight was accorded to some state measures than others, based on a survey of what matters most to people. Health care and education were weighted most heavily. Then came state economies, infrastructure, and the opportunity states offer their citizens. Fiscal stability followed closely in weighting, followed by measures of crime & corrections and a state’s natural environment.

More detail is provided in the methodology section. The weightings and links to more information are:

In his article on Washington for U.S. News, Seattle journalist Levi Pulkkinen writes,

THAT Washington state boasts a booming economy is hardly a shock. The state is home to Amazon.com, after all, and a mature tech sector led by Microsoft. Washington apples, wheat, hops and grapes feed and inebriate the world. Boeing Co. aircraft circle it.

But Washington has a supercharger: power.

Cheap, climate-friendly electricity drives Washington’s economy, the nation’s fastest growing, according to the U.S. News’ Best States ranking of economic growth. The tech-heavy state’s expectedly strong broadband network sits atop one of the nation’s best electrical systems, one well-positioned as the country shifts away from coal- and natural gas-generated electricity. The state expects to be coal-free by 2025, while still charging rates among the nation’s lowest.

(As an aside, see this Wenatcheee World article on data centers, power and the North Central Washington economy.)
In the Seattle Times, Gene Balk reports on the new rankings.

More than 70 metrics and thousands of data points go into the rankings, which are meant to show how well each of the 50 states serve their residents.

…The report is organized around eight major categories, and Washington ranked in the top half for all of them. Even more impressive, we ranked in the Top 5 in four of the categories: Infrastructure (second), economy (third), education (fourth) and health care (fourth).

Balk adds,

The survey’s methodology is a little changed from last year. According to U.S. News, it’s been streamlined to reflect more objective, transparent and comparable data. Whatever they did, Washington clearly benefited from the changes.

The report also included a national survey of more than 23,000 people who were asked to rate their level of satisfaction with government services. The survey found just 38 percent of Americans generally agree that their state government is effective — not a great number. Washington did significantly better than that, at 48 percent.

In all, good marketing for the state, a deserved recognition of the strength of Washington’s private sector economy, and an incentive to do better. Because, to quote Balk,

Even though Washington ranks No. 1 this year, that doesn’t mean we can rest on our laurels. Look what happened to last year’s best state, Iowa: It dropped all the way back to 14th in 2019.

The competition never ends.