Where do ‘best state’ rankings tell you to move?

Departing Californians take a lot of pride in their new home state.

I know this because my “Leaving California” columns – designed to help folks choose which state might be best for a relocation – draw spirited comments from readers on how their relocation selection was slighted by my rankings.

Yes, the trusty spreadsheet isn’t free of bias in various forms. But there are 49 other states. Some will grade higher than others. That’s the scorecard business.

But to get past my personal blind spots, this edition of “Leaving California” scores relocation options for Californians on a simple scale – the average ranking derived from nine other “best state” scorecards. These gradings are based on a host of economic and demographic factors, each with its own wisdom – or not – backing the math.

If we assume that such “best state” scorecards are valuable tools for home hunting, the average ranking says New Hampshire is your top spot. Then comes Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Minnesota. By the way, California’s nemesis Florida ranked 14th best.

Now California’s average grade on these scorecards was 37th. Politely said, that’s well below average.

That leaves 13 states with worse scores. Arguably, these are places to avoid for an interstate move because you’d want an upgrade to exit the Golden State, no?

Louisiana was the “worst” state, according to the average ranking. Then came Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, Alabama, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Alaska, West Virginia and South Carolina to round out the bottom 10.

Next came three surprises, just behind the Golden State: Arizona, Nevada and Texas – popular spots for exiting Californians.


Whose rankings were in this math?

My composite score includes six overall “best” state rankings. Here’s who did the math, the best and worst states, and California’s grade …

Wallethub: Best? Massachusetts. Worst? New Mexico. And California? No. 24.

US News and World Report: Best? Utah. Worst? Louisiana. And California? No. 33.

24/7 Wall Street: Best? New Hampshire. Worst? Louisiana. And California? No. 29.

Scholaroo: Best? Wyoming. Worst? Louisiana. And California? No. 48.

Moneyrates: Best? Washington. Worst? Hawaii. And California? No. 48.

Top Agency: Best? Washington. Worst? Louisiana. And California? No. 24.

The composite also tracked three broad livability rankings from niche scorecards …

CNBC: Best? Vermont. Worst? Texas. And California? No. 19. This was the “life, health and inclusiveness” ranking within the best state for business scorecard.

BankrateBest? Hawaii. Worst? Indiana. And California? No. 15 on the “well-being” slice of a retirement-relocation scorecard.

Motley Fool: Best? New York. Worst? Arizona. And California? No. 48 on the “quality of life” part of another retirement-focused ranking.

Bottom line

Look, any “best place” scorecard – even a ranking of rankings – is a nuanced mashup of statistics and analytical art. So take any of these grades with a dash of humility.

Consider the mixed opinions even among these nine rankings. There were eight different “best” states – Washington was named No. 1 twice. And while Louisiana was “worst” four times – it also garnered a sixth-best score.

To gauge scorecard consistency – both good and bad – the geeky “standard deviation” calculation was used to measure the states by their relative uniformity among the nine rankings.

New Hampshire, ranked No. 1 overall, also had the smallest variances in its scores. Its worst grade was 20th. Iowa (ranked No. 9) was second for uniformity.

But a solid consensus on grades was also found lower in the composite rankings. The third-most consistent state was North Carolina (ranked No. 30), followed by Nevada (ranked No. 40), and Ohio (ranked No. 33).

Meanwhile, other states drew wildly mixed opinions.

Hawaii’s grades had the most variance. It had a composite rank of 28th best but had both a “best state” score and “worst state” among the nine scorecards.

Utah, ranked No. 21, was next in unpredictability. It had both a “best state” and a “next-to-worst state” grade. Then, on this low consistency scale, came Oklahoma (ranked No. 45), Washington (ranked No. 7), and Idaho (ranked No. 18).

You could argue there’s plenty of debate about the livability of these states.

And California got jumbled reviews, too. It had the 35th-lowest consistency in its rankings.

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com

https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/08/16/leaving-california-where-do-best-state-rankings-tell-you-to-move/ Where do ‘best state’ rankings tell you to move?

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