Cato Institute Ranks the 50 States

August 16, 2016

The Cato Institute this week released Freedom in the 50 States, a report that ranks the states on three areas:

  • Fiscal policy: taxes, government employment, spending, debt, and fiscal decentralization
  • Regulatory policy: liability system, property rights, health insurance, and labor market
  • Personal freedom: a variety of categories including incarceration rates, marriage laws, education, guns, and alcohol

Overall, Cato puts New Hampshire, Alaska, Oklahoma, Indiana, and South Dakota as the most free; at the other end of the list are New York, California, Hawaii, New Jersey, and Maryland.

The fiscal policy metric is more than just taxes, of course, but taxes are evidently a strong factor for that area. The top three states for fiscal policy are New Hampshire, Tennessee, and South Dakota, all of which rank highly in our State Business Tax Climate Index. The bottom three states are New York, Hawaii, and Illinois.

Overall
Fiscal
Policy
Regulatory
Policy
Personal
Freedom
New Hampshire 1 1 29 9
Alaska 2 11 18 7
Oklahoma 3 5 10 30
Indiana 4 26 2 6
South Dakota 5 3 7 46
Tennessee 6 2 13 42
Idaho 7 8 1 45
Florida 8 4 19 36
Iowa 9 30 5 12
Arizona 10 16 20 14
Colorado 11 22 25 2
Nevada 12 25 22 3
North Dakota 13 15 6 35
Wyoming 14 21 3 32
South Carolina 15 23 12 19
Kansas 16 33 4 24
Montana 17 7 30 21
Missouri 18 9 24 28
North Carolina 19 17 26 13
Utah 20 20 9 33
Virginia 21 12 23 34
Georgia 22 14 14 43
Alabama 23 6 16 48
Michigan 24 18 15 38
Nebraska 25 32 8 40
Pennsylvania 26 13 37 23
Wisconsin 27 37 17 25
Texas 28 10 27 49
Arkansas 29 27 21 41
New Mexico 30 42 38 1
Delaware 31 29 33 31
Washington 32 35 43 5
Massachusetts 33 36 39 11
Louisiana 34 19 35 39
Ohio 35 24 31 44
Mississippi 36 41 11 47
Oregon 37 39 36 18
Minnesota 38 45 34 8
West Virginia 39 31 42 22
Vermont 40 47 32 10
Kentucky 41 28 28 50
Maine 42 43 44 4
Rhode Island 43 38 45 17
Illinois 44 48 40 20
Connecticut 45 44 46 15
Maryland 46 34 49 26
New Jersey 47 40 47 27
Hawaii 48 49 41 37
California 49 46 48 16
New York 50 50 50 29

The report is by William Ruger and Jason Sorens, and is an updated version of a similar study they used to do for the Mercatus Center.

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