Washington’s overall ranking can be attributed to its high marks in health care (#2), economy (#3), infrastructure (#4), and education (#6). The state received lower marks on quality of life (#21), opportunity (#27), fiscal stability (#27), and crime and corrections (#39). U.S. News writes,
In addition to its scenic treasures, Washington is known as the birthplace of Starbucks coffee, The Boeing Co., and Microsoft Corp. Because of its coastal location, Washington is a key exporter for the U.S., particularly for transportation equipment. Additionally, Washington is crucial to the nation’s food and agriculture industry, generating 70 percent of the country’s apples, and also leading in milk, potato and cattle production.
As the world headquarters for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, the aerospace industry is a major economic driver for the state. The military and defense sector employs the second largest number of people in Washington, with more than 127,000 active duty, reserve, guard and civilian personnel. Others successful industries include maritime, technology and clean energy.
The state’s median household income, $67,106 in 2016, was above the national average of $57,617. The unemployment rate was slightly above the national average.
Business Insider focuses a short article on the U.S. News measure of opportunity.
Opportunity is one of the eight factors that went into figuring out US News rankings for best states. In fact, survey participants considered opportunity the fourth most important measurement in the methodology of the rankings.
To determine the ranking, each state was measured on numerous metrics that matched three criteria: economic opportunity, equality, and affordability. The latter two were both given a 40% weight, while affordability was weighed at 20%.
Income inequality, median household income, poverty rates, and food insecurity rates all went in to finding the level of economic opportunity for each state. Equality was measured through education, employment, and income gaps based on gender, race, and disability. Cost of living and housing affordability were considered in the affordability ranking.
On the opportunity dimension, Washington ranked No. 16 in economic opportunity, No. 32 in Equality, and No. 44 in affordability.
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. If you have the time and inclination, the data explorer allows you to get behind the ranking and understand the measurements.
Pacific Northwest neighbor Idaho (overall ranking No. 12) gets a special callout in the report that will interest Washingtonians.
Idaho leads the nation in entrepreneurship, with a rate of business startup that outpaces anywhere else. George Seybold, founder of Talloo, a company created to help entrepreneurs in the region connect, brainstorm and share ideas, says people fed up with the cost of places like Silicon Valley and Seattle are finding Idaho more hospitable and are bringing ideas and startup capital with them.