Washington repeats as Best State
April 7, 2021
Washington finished first in this year's Best States rankings by U.S. News & World Report, retaining its top spot from 2019. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the media company postponed publishing new rankings during 2020 to focus its editorial coverage more directly on that public health issue.
The "Best States" rankings, based on 71 metrics across eight categories, "seeks to inform citizens, business leaders, and policymakers about what's working and what isn't in each state."
Washington earned its first-place ranking in part due to finishing in the top 10 in five of the eight categories, and despite having no #1 rankings:
Best States 2021 - Ranking Performance
#1 rated state
Crime & Corrections
The Evergreen State's lowest ranking, at #25, was in the "opportunity" category. It measures poverty, housing affordability, and equality for women, minorities, and people with disabilities.
Despite being the only state with two #1 rankings in the eight categories, Hawaii was deemed the 25th best state. Low rankings in the economy (#46), fiscal stability (also #46), opportunity (#34), and infrastructure (#33) were factors in their middle-of-the-pack finish.
In calculating the rankings, each of the eight main categories was assigned weightings based on the average of three years of data from an annual national survey that asked nearly 70,000 people to prioritize each subject in their state. Based on the weightings, health care, education and economy were the top three, with crime & corrections, and natural environment mattering less to the citizens who responded to the survey.
U.S. News & World Report used "extensive and reliable governmental and private sources" along with proprietary data to determine the rankings. Among the eight main categories for the rankings were 20 subcategories encompassing more than 70 metrics. For each set, researchers used the most recent data available as of January 2021.
New this year, U.S. news compiled data related to the coronavirus pandemic and explored how badly it has damaged states' economies and budgets. The findings underscored the "significant challenge" and "profound impacts" the COVID-19 pandemic has had. The COVID-19 data compilations are available in dashboards, but they were not included in the rankings.
In prior year surveys, Washington ranked sixth (in 2018) and fifth (in 2017).
Rounding out this year's top five list of "best overall states" were Minnesota (#2), Utah (#3), New Hampshire (#4) and Idaho (#5).
Representatives from U.S. News say its Best States' highly interactive platform enables users "to explore thousands of important benchmarks and easily draw state-to-state comparisons," and to discover what states can learn from one another.
U.S. News launched its Best States project in 2017, contributing to its reputation as the leading provider of civic journalism, expert consumer advice, rankings, and data analysis. The publication claims 42 million unique visitors each month.