Washington Is the Best State. Arizona, Not So Much.

Americans divided on whether their state is handling the COVID-19 pandemic well, a U.S. News survey found.

U.S. News & World Report

Washington is the Best State in the country, according to the 2021 U.S. News Best States rankings. U.S. News & World Report, the global authority in rankings and civic journalism, evaluated all 50 states across a range of categories to capture how states best serve their citizens. Washington is among the top 10 states in the infrastructure, education, economy, fiscal stability and health care categories.

“I am so happy for the people of Washington to take home this honor for the second time in three years, because it takes all 7.6 million of us to make this state the dynamic place it truly is,” says Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. “Washingtonians are motivated to lead and innovate in all aspects of our society, in labor, business, education, health, and so much more. It was that same spirit that helped us bounce back from being the first state in the nation hit by COVID-19, and we are on our way to a robust recovery because of our unique attributes.”

Separate from the rankings, U.S. News offers a new COVID-19 state toolkit, allowing users to compare the vaccine rates of states, COVID-19 cases and deaths, unemployment statistics and more. Updates in near real time – as frequently as daily – allow users to visualize data and gain an up-to-date understanding of the statewide impact of COVID-19.

Key Findings in the 2021 Best States Rankings:

  • For the second edition in a row, Washington is the No. 1 state in the country. Washington’s low-carbon energy system and robust secondary education continue to rank among the nation’s best, as does the state’s economy, the fastest growing in the nation. Following the Evergreen State in the overall rankings is Minnesota at No. 2 and Utah at No. 3.
  • Hawaii leads the way in health care. At No. 1 overall in this category, the Aloha State also ranked No. 1 in health care quality, No. 1 in health care access, and No. 6 in public health. It also takes the top spot in several health care metrics, including child wellness visits, health care affordability and preventable admissions.
  • The best states for public safety and corrections are in the Northeast. New Hampshire is the top state for crime and corrections, followed by Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Jersey to round out the top five.
  • Utah is the best state for the economy, with Colorado coming in at No. 2 and Idaho at No. 3. All three states are experiencing growth in different ways: Utah is seeing growth of its young population (ages 25-29), Colorado’s employment rate has risen, and Idaho’s overall population is expanding.
  • Americans are divided on their state government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a national survey conducted by U.S. News, 44.15% of respondents agreed that their state handled it well, 40.47% disagreed and 15.38% were neutral.
  • Other top performers: New Jersey is No. 1 for education, Nevada is No. 1 for infrastructure, Alaska is No. 1 for fiscal stability, Iowa is No. 1 for opportunity and Hawaii is No. 1 for natural environment.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and evolving social climate of the past year have made a host of critical issues top of mind for Americans – from access to adequate health care and quality education to economic stability and public safety,” says Kim Castro, editor and chief content officer at U.S. News. “The 2021 Best States report combines data-driven journalism and rankings to help citizens, business leaders and policymakers see where states stack up on key benchmarks – so that states can learn from each other and target areas for improvement.”

The rankings are based on more than 70 metrics and tens of thousands of data points. Adding to the annual surveys that determine the weights of the eight categories, U.S. News surveyed more than 26,000 people across the country about their levels of satisfaction with government services and how state governments should focus resources. The data used to compile the 2021 Best States rankings predominantly came from a period predating the COVID-19 pandemic and were not affected by the pandemic’s impact on states.

The Best States rankings are the centerpiece of the U.S. News Best States portal, a platform combining analysis, daily reporting, historical information and photos on state issues. The interactive Data Explorer tool allows citizens and government leaders to draw comparisons between their own states and others through more than 100,000 charts. Best States is part of U.S. News’ expanding civic journalism portfolio, which includes the Best Countries report, Healthiest Communities project and Cities initiative.

2021 Best States Rankings

*See the full rankings here.

Overall – Top 10
1. Washington
2. Minnesota
3. Utah
4. New Hampshire
5. Idaho
6. Nebraska
7. Virginia
8. Wisconsin
9. Massachusetts
10. Florida
39. Arizona

Crime & Corrections
1. New Hampshire
2. Maine
3. Vermont
38. Arizona

Economy
1. Utah
2. Colorado
3. Idaho
7. Arizona

Education
1. New Jersey
2. Massachusetts
3. Florida
46. Arizona

Environment
1. Hawaii
2. New Hampshire
3. South Dakota
41. Arizona

Fiscal Stability
1. Alaska
2. South Dakota
3. Tennessee
40. Arizona

Health Care
1. Hawaii
2. Massachusetts
3. Connecticut
21. Arizona

Infrastructure
1. Nevada
2. Oregon
3. Washington
23. Arizona

Opportunity
1. Iowa
2. Minnesota
3. New Hampshire
40. Arizona

U.S. News & World Report is the global leader in quality rankings that empower people to make better, more informed decisions about important issues affecting their lives. A digital news and information company focused on Education, Health, Money, Travel, Cars and News, USNews.com provides consumer advice, rankings and analysis to serve people making complex decisions throughout all stages of life. More than 40 million people visit USNews.com each month for research and guidance. Founded in 1933, U.S. News is headquartered in Washington, D.C.

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