Well done, Massachusetts!
PROUD TO BE A SUCCESSFUL LIBERAL STATE!
Exceptional is more like it: The Bay State compares well in just about everything
THE POLITICAL expletive in this season’s Republican presidential race is “Massachusetts moderate.’’ The power of the accusation, presumably, is that the Bay State’s brand of politics has left it so much worse off than true-red states that hew the conservative line. Or put conversely, conservative politics yield better outcomes.
Except that they don’t. By almost every important factual measure — economic, educational, and socioeconomic — Massachusetts is vastly better off than the nation’s most right-wing states.
The five most conservative states in the country are Wyoming, Mississippi, Utah, Alabama, and South Dakota, according to a 2010 Gallup Survey. These are the exemplars that candidates such as Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum would have the nation emulate. One has to wonder why.
For one, they’re a lot poorer. The median family income in Massachusetts is just over $61,300 - fourth highest in the nation. The average for the conservative states is $46,400. (Even adjusted for our higher cost of living, the Bay State is still better off than any conservative state.)
Of course, money isn’t everything. Our kids are smarter, too. The National Assessment of Educational Progress, sometimes called the “Nation’s Report Card,’’ compares fourth- and eighth-graders’ performance in math and reading across the country. The difference between Massachusetts and the conservative states is staggering. In 2011, 50 percent of our fourth graders were proficient in reading; the number was just 30 percent for the red states. Indeed, in every single category, Massachusetts ranked first in the nation, with roughly half or more of our kids proficient. In the conservative states, the comparable figures usually average less than one-third. That’s why 38 percent of Massachusetts children complete college - also the best of any state. The average for the conservative states is just 24 percent.
We’re healthier as well. At 80.1 years, Massachusetts ranks sixth in the United States for life expectancy. The red states average 77.5 (Utah - due to its preponderance of clean-living Mormons - is the only conservative state to equal us). Why? Fewer of us are fat (22 percent versus the red states’ 29 percent), we exercise regularly (37 percent versus 27 percent), and, with the exception of Utah (again, the Mormon thing), we smoke less.
And despite our higher level of urbanization, we’re safer. Massachusetts residents suffer 2.7 murders for every 100,000 residents; the average for residents in conservative states is 4.2. Our property crime rate is 2,329 per 100,000; the conservative states average 2,992.
Moreover, it’s not as if conservative values somehow breed better family values. Far from it. Massachusetts’ divorce rate is only 2.2 per 1,000, the lowest in the nation. The conservative states average 4.1. Our teen pregnancy rate is just 49 for every 1,000 versus red states’ 64. Massachusetts families seem to care more for their kids - 68 percent of Bay State parents read to their children every day; in the conservative states it’s 46 percent.
And more disturbingly: The child death rate in Massachusetts is 12 for every 100,000. It’s double that in the conservative states. The teen death rate here is 44; it averages 84 in red states. The suicide rate in Massachusetts is 7.6 per 100,000, less than any other conservative state and essentially half their average of 15.1.
Massachusetts doesn’t necessarily beat the conservative states in every measure, but we’re always in the mix. Despite the taunt of “Taxachusetts,’’ we rank 37th in the nation in tax burden relative to incomes. Some conservative states are better, but others - such as Utah, at 19th - are much worse. On certain measures, one or two conservative states might beat the Bay State - South Dakota’s December unemployment rate of 3.3 percent was half our 6.8 percent. Even so, the conservative state average for that month was 6.7 percent, not meaningfully different from ours.
Taking all of the above together is the reason why a number of “meta-indexes’’ - efforts to rank states on a wide variety of criteria - consistently favor Massachusetts. For instance, the Human Development Index ranks Massachusetts second. The conservative states average 36.
Ideology notwithstanding, at some point results matter. The Bay State’s families are stronger, healthier, safer, richer, and smarter than those of conservative states. Given that, why would anyone want to be other than moderate Massachusetts?
Tom Keane writes regularly for the Globe.