California is the 17th best state to live in.
How do I know? Well, that’s what my trusty spreadsheet tells me after reviewing six recently published “best state” rankings. And I won’t disagree — California is better than most other states.
Yes, these “best/worst” rankings are more art than science. And any bragging rights derived from the wave of such state-vs.-state scorecards created by various analysts and media outlets beg a big question: “Which tally is correct?”
Well, I figure it’s easier to curate a selection of them and find the collective wisdom built into such studies. All it took was some relatively simple math: the average ranking from the six studies.
The best state to live in — that’s highest average rank, by my calculations — is Minnesota followed by Utah and Florida. The worst state is New Mexico, then Louisiana and Mississippi.
That same math shows California ranked between No. 16 Pennsylvania and No. 18 North Dakota. (The map above has each state’s ranking data.)
Now let’s look inside the six rankings that created my scorecard, how California fared, and the best and worst of the bunch …
US News & World Reports: Using a broad array of economic and demographic data, California ranked No. 24. Tops? Washington, Minnesota and Utah. Worst? Louisiana, Mississippi and New Mexico.
24/7 Wall Street: When studying “well-being” tied to the quality of life, California ranked No. 13. Tops? Massachusetts, Colorado and New Jersey. Worst? Mississippi, West Virginia and Louisiana.
Poll/YouGov: This pure popularity poll ranked California at No. 12. Tops? Hawaii, Colorado and Virginia. Worst? Alabama, Mississippi and New Jersey.
Money Rates: These gradings for retirees ranked California No. 47. Tops? Iowa and West Virginia (tied), then Arkansas and Mississippi (tied). Worst? Alaska, Nevada and Washington.
WalletHub: Its “best for families” scorecard ranked California No. 25. Tops? Massachusetts, Minnesota and North Dakota. Worst? New Mexico, Mississippi, and West Virginia.
WalletHub: Its “best for singles” math put California at No. 7. Tops? Florida, Texas and Pennsylvania. Worst? New Mexico, West Virginia and North Dakota.
Obviously, there are some broad disagreements among these rankings — just as people’s opinions vary widely about the quality of each state.
So, I used a little statistical geekiness — “standard deviation” for the math majors — to try to measure these inconsistencies in a state’s six rankings. For example, the variance between California’s rankings was 35th highest — that translates to an above-average spread, or what some might say is plenty of debate.
The rankings that were the most uniform were for Montana, which finished with a No. 32 overall ranking; Louisiana at No. 49; and Wyoming at No. 39. The most unevenness was found in West Virginia’s No. 45 overall rank, followed by Mississippi at No. 48 and Hawaii at No. 19.
PS: If one uses a political lens, defined by the state governor’s party, “blue” states averaged a slightly better No. 23 overall ranking vs. red state’s No. 28. The Democratic-led states had better scores in five of the six individual rankings with “retirement” being the only category where Republican-run states ranked higher.
PPS: Texas ranked 24th overall.
PPPS: To Arizona Gov. Ducey, who recently criticized California as a place to live: Your state ranked 35th.
Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at [email protected]