PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island ranked No. 26 on the U.S. News & World Report’s Best States 2019 rankings released Monday, an improvement from the Ocean State’s 2018 ranking of No. 28 in the nation.
Rhode Island was the second-lowest ranked state in New England, ahead of Maine at No. 32. Washington ranked No. 1 in the nation, while New Hampshire ranked highest in New England and No. 2 in the country.
The report ranks states on eight categories that consist of more than 70 metrics that measure states’ performances in the fields of health care, education, economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime and corrections, and natural environment.
Rhode Island earned its best ranking in 2019 for natural environment, placing No. 1 overall in the nation. The ranking considered quality of air and water in a state, as well as exposure to pollution and toxins. It was the least weighted rank in the report. The metric was not included in the 2018 rankings, replacing the “quality of life” metric in the 2018 rankings in which Rhode Island ranked No. 23 in the nation.
- Within the environment ranking, Rhode Island was determined to have the No. 1 air and water quality in the nation and ranked No. 8 for pollution
The Ocean State received its second-highest ranking in health care, named No. 5 in the nation, third in New England. Massachusetts ranked No. 2 overall, highest in the region, while Hawaii ranked No. 1 overall. Health care rankings were based on access to health care, health care quality and public health. The metric category was tied with education for the metrics with the most weight in the study. In 2018, Rhode Island ranked No. 8 for health care.
- Within the health care ranking, Rhode Island ranked No. 6 for health care access, No. 9 for health care quality and No. 19 for public health
Rhode Island ranked No. 13 in the nation for crime and corrections, last in New England. New Hampshire ranked No. 1 in the nation. The metrics for the ranking included public safety and quality, and fairness of prison systems, including racial bias. Rhode Island’s ranking remained unchanged from the previous year.
- Rhode Island ranked No. 7 for public safety and No. 43 for corrections in 2019
The Ocean State ranked No. 20 in the United States for economy in the 2019 report, third in New England. Colorado ranked No. 1 in the nation this year, while Massachusetts ranked highest in the region at No. 7 overall. The economy ranking included unemployment rates, GDP growth, migration into the state, patents, new businesses and other metrics. In 2018, Rhode Island ranked seven spots better at No. 13 for economy.
- The Ocean State ranked No. 11 for business environment in 2019, No. 33 for employment and No. 27 for growth
For opportunity, which included measures of poverty, housing affordability and equality for women, minorities and people with disabilities, Rhode Island ranked No. 31 in the nation and fifth in New England. New Hampshire ranked No. 1 in the U.S. this year. Rhode Island ranked No. 34 for opportunity in 2018.
- Rhode Island ranked No. 38 for affordability, No. 21 for economic opportunity and No. 30 for equality within the overall opportunity rankings this year
Rhode Island also ranked No. 31 in the nation for fiscal stability in the 2019 rankings, also the second lowest ranking in New England. Tennessee ranked No. 1 overall for fiscal stability, while New Hampshire ranked highest in New England at No. 10 in the U.S. The ranking tracked states’ government credit ratings, liquidity, pension fund liability and budget balancing. The Ocean State ranked No. 33 for fiscal stability in 2018.
- Rhode Island ranked No. 33 for long-term fiscal stability and No. 31 for short-term fiscal stability in 2019
On education, Rhode Island ranked No. 41 in the country and last in the region. Massachusetts ranked No. 1 overall in the nation in 2019. The ranking considered preschool, K-12 and higher education metrics. The state ranked No. 27 in the nation for education in 2018.
According to U.S. News, the education ranking included the percentage of adults with associate degrees or higher, the rates of students completing public four-year and two-year college programs within 150 percent of the normal time, the average tuition and fees for in-state students at public institutions, and the average debt load of graduates from public and private colleges. States also were ranked on percentages of children enrolled in preschool, national testing performance of eighth-graders in math and reading, in rates of graduation from high school, and readiness for college.
- In 2019, Rhode Island ranked No. 48 for higher education and No. 36 for preschool and K-12 education
Rhode Island received its worst ranking on infrastructure, ranking No. 49 in the nation and worst in New England. Oregon ranked No. 1 overall in the U.S. Vermont ranked highest in New England at No. 28 in the country. The infrastructure metrics measured the quality of states’ bridges, public transportation, power grids and broadband, among other things. Rhode Island ranked No. 48 for infrastructure one year prior.
- Rhode Island ranked No. 46 in the nation for energy infrastructure, No. 35 for internet access and No. 50 for transportation infrastructure
Overall New England rankings:
- New Hampshire: No. 2, an improvement from No. 5 in 2018
- Vermont: No. 5, an improvement from No. 9 in 2018
- Massachusetts: No. 8, the same as 2018
- Connecticut: No. 21, an improvement from No. 24 in 2018
- Rhode Island No. 26, an improvement from No. 28 in 2018
- Maine: No. 32, a decline from No. 22 in 2018
The full 2019 Best States ranking may be viewed online.
Chris Bergenheim is the PBN web editor. You may reach him at Bergenheim@PBN.com.