WHY NEW HAMPSHIRE WAS NAMED THE MOST LIVABLE STATE
Hard data quantifies the soft concept of our outstanding quality of life
By John D. Crosier
The Granite State was recently named the nation's most livable state in State Rankings 2004, an annual
reference book of statistics published by Morgan Quitno Press of Lawrence, Kansas.
New Hampshire's achievement breaks Minnesota's seven-year-long streak of winning the title. At
the opposite end of the scale, Mississippi ranked as the 50th most livable state for the sixth consecutive year.
The Morgan Quitno award is a report card scoring each state on its quality of life, something BIA identified as
the key to New Hampshire's continued economic opportunity nearly eight years ago.
Rounding out the top five spots with us are, in descending order, Minnesota, Vermont, Iowa and New Jersey.
Bringing up the opposite end of the ranking scale with Mississippi are Louisiana in 49th, South Carolina in
48th, Alabama in 47th and Tennessee in 46th place.
The annual ranking is based on 44 factors which account for a broad range of economic, educational,
health-oriented, public safety and environmental aspects of life in the United States. All 44 factors receive equal weight in the state ranking.
WHAT CONSTITUTES QUALITY OF LIFE?
While quality of life may seem a soft concept, the Morgan Quitno ranking uses hard data to illustrate why life in New
Hampshire has a better look and feel than in many other parts of the country.
As we've said before, the New Hampshire Advantage is a healthy environment, good schools, an opportunity to earn a
decent wage, a feeling of personal safety, and a connection to the community in which one lives.
Interestingly, where New Hampshire tends to really stand out in quality of life is in avoiding "bad"
factors like crime and poverty. We tend to rank at the bottom of the charts on these measures.
In the "good" factors like income and civic participation, we tend to rank in the top 10 or 20 of the
states without breaking into the top spot in any one of these categories.
AVOIDING THE NEGATIVE
Among the 25 "negative factors" measured by Morgan Quitno, we enjoy:
- The lowest crime rate in the nation (2,222 crimes per 100K population)
- The seventh lowest unemployment rate (4.1% in 2003)
- The lowest poverty rate (5.6%)
- The fifth lowest personal bankruptcy rate (326 per 100K population)
- The lowest infant mortality rate (3.8%)
- and the eighth lowest percentage of employees in government (14.7%).
ACCENTUATING THE POSITIVE
A sample of the 21 positive factors, shows that we rank:
- Sixth in per-capita personal income ($34,276)
- Fourth in median household income ($53,549)
- Sixth in expenditures for elementary and secondary education as a percent of state and local govt. expenditures in 2000 (27%)
- Seventh in books in public libraries per capita (4.6 books)
- Sixth in percent of eligible population voting in 2000 (62.5%)
- Sixteenth in marriage rate per 1,000 population (8.6%)
- Ninth in percentage of our population with a B.A. degree or more (30.1%)
- Fourteenth in per capita gross state product ($37,477)
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
There are a few statistics evaluated in the rankings that we found surprising.
For example, New Hampshire ranks 31st in homeownership at 69.5% of residences being owner-occupied.
The national average is 67.9%. Minnesota leads the nation at 77.3%.
Our high housing costs are probably the reason for this. Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Colorado and
California all rank lower than we do on homeownership and have the same problem.
We score in the middle of the pack, 26th, in terms of job growth from 2002 to 2003, actually losing 0.3 % of our job base.
We rank 17th in high school graduation rate, and 29th in average weekly earnings of production workers on manufacturing payrolls in 2003.
Electricity prices are high here, we rank fifth in the nation.
Thirty-three percent of the bridges in New Hampshire are deficient, ranking us 12th in the country. Bridges in Rhode Island and
Massachusetts are in worse condition, over half of them need work.
Interestingly, we ranked 28th in percent of days that are sunny (55%), tied with Massachusetts and Maine, but ahead of Connecticut,
Minnesota (52%) and Vermont (44%).
It's a great honor for New Hampshire to have been named the most livable state in the nation, and it affirms the outstanding quality
of life we are privileged to enjoy here.
I sincerely hope, however, that it has been raining as much in Minnesota this spring as it has here in New Hampshire, or our first
place ranking as the most livable state in the nation may be in jeopardy next year.
John Crosier is president of the Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire. The BIA is the state's leading trade association.
Its members employ 80,000 people in New Hampshire and contribute $4.5 billion per year in payroll to the state's economy.