USNews and World Report released their list of the best states in America yesterday. Generally speaking, such lists are meaningless clickbait. That said, lists released by USNews have historically been more relevant than most.
The good news for the Midwest is that it snagged four of the top ten spots on the list. Iowa and Minnesota were ranked #1 and #2 respectively. North Dakota was #4. Nebraska was #7. No other region of the country did as well and that says a lot about what the future might look like here.
The bad news is that the Rust Belt continues to lag. Ohio (#40), Michigan (#37), Illinois (#35) and Indiana (#33) have yet to emerge from the malaise that first gripped the region in the early 1970s. The reasons varied to some degree. Ohio, Illinois and Indiana were all bottom ten states in terms of quality of life. Michigan was marginally better. Healthcare and education also appear to be problems in these states.
The remaining states fall in between, although there is clear delineation between Wisconsin (#11) and South Dakota (#14) versus Kansas (#29) and Missouri (#30) that suggests the former should be included with the top states while the latter should be grouped with the Rust Belt states.
Taken together, the rankings paint a picture of two different Midwests. It makes for a nice, clean, easy to understand map. In reality, the issues that give rise to the differences are complex. Some can be easily fixed, others, not so much. I don’t want to spend time on the “whys” mostly because in the end they really don’t matter. What matters is where you are and what you’re doing about it. The red states have some work to do. If they’re game, they don’t have to look far to see what works.