I’ll show you mine if you show me yours!

I often ponder why people, including myself, end up believing the things we do. When it comes to issues like politics, religion, economics, and our favorite NBA team, most of us believe what we do largely because of where we were born and who we were born to. Obviously, most of us eschew at least some of the beliefs that were handed down, but the majority of human beliefs are imbedded in us from outside our own brains, and for the most part we just take them and run with most of them.

I often recall the tale of a young girl asking her mother why she cut the ends of the roast off before placing it in the pan and into the oven, even though the pan was plenty big for the whole roast. The mother replied that it’s how her own mother taught her to do it. So the girl asked grandma the same question, she also received the reply that it was how her mother had taught her. As luck would have it, the great-grandmother was still alive and lucid, and so the question was put to her. Her answer was, “I had to cut off the ends because the pan we had back then wasn’t big enough to hold the entire roast.”

And so it is with many of our long-held beliefs. They’ve been handed down from the previous generation and no one bothers to question many of them. Even though my own brain, for some reason, developed a penchant for questioning everything, I am well aware that there’s a ton of stuff I tend to believe without giving any of it much thought. Most things are as innocuous as the pot roast scenario, but when we vote, invest, or decide where and how to live, it’s not a bad idea to think about, and occasionally review & challenge, the reasons we believe what we believe. Frankly, I don’t thoroughly trust my own opinions on anything, because I honestly have no idea exactly where or why some of them formed. We all get brainwashed in ways we don’t even know happen, and each of us are but one grain of sand on an entire beach of humanity, so a little humility is a good idea.

But when it comes to contentious issues like politics and economics, I believe there really is only one truly accurate way to cross check your belief systems: compare.

Everything else is just an opinion.

There are 195 countries in the world, and 50 American states. Each of them does their own thing, with varying results. When it comes to the United States, every state is part of the same nation, so direct comparisons are far more understandable and accurate than, say, comparing the U.S. to Sudan. It’s also been my experience that a lot of Americans don’t even want to hear about comparisons between Europe and the US, perhaps partly because they’re “foreigners” and all that. So let’s just compare within the states.

In this case, my methodology was to simply Google “rankings by US state” and pick the first three articles that had the appearance of being well researched and not obviously political. It has been my experience that any time I’ve cited a news source as a part of an argument, if that source is not something my debate opponent generally agrees with, the entire argument gets dismissed out of hand for that reason alone. So I thought looking up multiple non-political-agenda sources would help with those efforts.

The sources I used were: US News and World Report’s “best state rankings,” the “Opportunity Index” (I figured that would be good for those who base a lot of their politics on economics and opportunity), and “World Population Review,” which did a state by state comparison of Quality of Life, Healthcare, Education, and Economy. And then I even went to Fox News.

Before I show you the data, here is the God’s honest truth: I went into each of these data sources determined not to have any preconceived notions as to how these comparisons would turn out. If the results of this research would have been divergent with my previously held beliefs, I would surely have altered my opinions, for the simple reason that I believe my one lone mind cannot compete against well-researched comparative facts and data. If, for instance, I held the opinion that the Minnesota Timberwolves have been one of the best basketball teams in the NBA, I’d feel a little sheepish about promoting that when presented with the data that they have had the absolute worst cumulative won/lost record in the NBA since their inception, have never won a championship, and only made the Western Conference finals once and that was back in 2004. So statistics and data do matter, they do illustrate truths, and they should influence your opinions.

Anyway, the following is what I learned. I have all the data on a spreadsheet for anyone who wants to see my exact methodology, but in the interest of brevity and clarity, these are simply the summaries, which consist of averaging the rankings and listing the number of red and blue states in the top and bottom tens. By doing this, we can get a pretty clear and simple picture as to how red and blue states compare to each other.

The Opportunity Index

The Opportunity Index is an annual report developed by Opportunity Nation, a campaign of the Forum for Youth Investment, and Child Trends. The Index provides data that show what opportunity looks like in the United States. Updated annually, the Opportunity Index is a composite tool that measures opportunity in communities using 16 interrelated economic, educational and civic indicators. Instead of including factors beyond one’s control – such as race, IQ or family background — the Index focuses on conditions present in different communities that are susceptible to policy change and public and private sector actions intended to improve outcomes for residents.

  • Blue State Average Rank (lower is better): 18 / Red State Average: 32
  • Blue States in Top Ten: 7 (and 14 out of the top 20) / Red States in Top Ten: 3
  • Blue States in Botton Ten: 2 / Red States in Bottom Ten: 8

Right out of the gate, this doesn’t look too good for the red states so far. After all, the desire for opportunity is often the driving force behind red state thinking. But that was just my first list, and a narrow look at that, so let’s look at some of the other data:

World Population Review

World Population Review turns complex demographic information into easy-to-understand articles on population of countries and cities. Here they rank the “Quality of Life by State.”

Quality of Life

  • Blue State Average Rank (lower is better): 20 / Red State Average: 30
  • Blue States in Top Ten: 8 / Red States in Top Ten: 2
  • Blue States in Botton Ten: 2 / Red States in Bottom Ten: 8

Health Care

  • Blue State Average Rank (lower is better): 14 / Red State Average: 36
  • Blue States in Top Ten: 9 / Red States in Top Ten: 1
  • Blue States in Botton Ten: 0 / Red States in Bottom Ten: 10

Education

  • Blue State Average Rank (lower is better): 20 / Red State Average: 30
  • Blue States in Top Ten: 6 / Red States in Top Ten: 4
  • Blue States in Botton Ten: 3 / Red States in Bottom Ten: 7

Economy

  • Blue State Average Rank (lower is better): 22 / Red State Average: 28
  • Blue States in Top Ten: 6 / Red States in Top Ten: 4
  • Blue States in Botton Ten: 3 / Red States in Bottom Ten: 7

Once again, the blue states manhandle the red states pretty thoroughly, winning every category, sometimes by a lot. In fact, when it comes to health care, the bottom 16 states are all red! New Mexico interrupts the string at 34th (and has only recently turned blue on top of that), and only 2 out of the top 20 are red. It’s pretty obvious if you want decent health care, you’re better off not living in a red state (or voting to turn it blue). Something to consider especially during a pandemic.

US News & World Report:

Founded in 1948, U.S. News & World Report is an American media company that publishes news, opinion, consumer advice, rankings, and analysis. Founded as a newsweekly magazine in 1933, U.S. News transitioned to primarily web-based publishing in 2010. U.S. News is best known today for its influential Best Colleges and Best Hospitals rankings. The following is their “best state rankings.”

This one has more categories, so I condensed the numbers into one easier-to-read chart. You can see that the red states can declare minor victories here, at least in fiscal stability and infrastructure, which appear to be the only categories where being red is equal or better according to this analysis. While it’s not by much, if infrastructure and fiscal stability are the most important components of society for you and you don’t care about crime, health care, the environment, and so on, then maybe a red state is for you.

Because conservatism just got a bit of a slap across the face with a liberal glove, I thought I’d give Fox News a chance to weigh in since they are obviously one of the main sources of information for conservatives. This is what I found when I searched on “Fox News state rankings:”

The Best Countries for Raising A Family: The United States is ranked 34th out of 35 in this category, so I’m not completely sure why Fox was promoting that because it doesn’t really fit their worldview (unless they are trying to infer it’s all the liberals fault, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense when almost all of the countries above the U.S. are more liberal). But I’m more interested in state-by-state for this, so I dug a little further and found another article on Fox entitled “The best and worst states to raise a family.” The source they list only wants to give you the full list if you subscribe because “there are so many requests,” which is BS so screw that, but I did find a site that referenced the top ten and bottom ten from the list (Fox only showed the top and bottom 5). And guess what? Only 2 of the top 10 states in that list are red, and only 2 of the bottom 10 states are blue (one of them being New Mexico, which is actually a little purple-y). So even Fox is admitting that when it comes to raising a family, a liberal state is the best place to be. Or North Dakota or Utah, which are the only red states in the top ten.

Next was the headline: “Rhode Island ranked worst state to do business under Biden Commerce Secretary nominee’s leadership,” obviously meant to denigrate a Democrat nominee (to be fair, blue state Rhode Island did come in 50th on this list). They culled the information from a report entitled, “America’s Top States for Business in 2019.” So now we can get to the heart of one of most important issues for Conservatives: the economy and money.

As you can see by the categories, they’re mostly geared toward one issue: doing business. Basically, here is where the red states have an advantage. When it comes to top states for business, red ekes out a 3.7% victory, 23.8 to 27.5. However, the three categories where the blue states win are: Quality of Life, Education, and Technology & Innovation.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of an effective government or social system, Quality of Life pretty much dominates my thinking as to what is most important, followed by health, education, and being a good place for kids. So while conservatives can be assured that a conservative approach does a bit more for business, shouldn’t there be concern that the price of that is in a lower quality of life? What’s the point of doing 3.7% more business if people’s lives are going to be worse off?

Keep in mind that according to this study, it’s only a comparative 53.6% to 46.4% advantage anyway. The price of that small advantage? Much worse Quality of Life (a whopping 62.8% advantage over the red states’ 37.2%), poorer education systems, lagging behind in Technology and Innovation, substandard health care, more crime, a worse environment, and less opportunity.

By now I started feeling a little bad for the red states, and so dug around even further, but almost every Quality of Life type comparative analysis I could find just does not bode well for conservative states. I even ran across a comparison of America’s Health Rankings by United Health Foundation. I mean, if everyone in the state is already healthy, maybe they don’t need to go to the doctor and so their health care systems don’t look so good as a result. Unfortunately, it’s not only health care, it’s just health. Only one red state (Utah) cracks the top ten on this list, and the bottom 14 are all red. As a degree of support for that information, I even looked up “life expectancy by state.” Death is kind of the final arbiter, you can’t run from it. But by now no one should be surprised that every state in the top 10 is blue (red-state Florida actually ties in 10th; obviously affected by the plethora of retirees there), with the red states occupying the bottom 14 slots. Jeepers. Tell me why is it good again to be a red state? I guess dying earlier is… better?

One of my core philosophies is that you will never be truly wise if the only knowledge you view as wisdom is that with which you already agree. So I seek out people I probably don’t agree with, and try and find out as much as I can. Eventually they get irritated at their beliefs being questioned and leave the discussion. But, maybe someone will read this and challenge my assumptions. I’d like that, but I won’t hold my breath. Seriously, are there any sets of accurate facts or statistics that bolster the right’s claim that being conservative leads to a better place to live? Can someone please show them to me? I love poring through data and statistics, especially if they shed new light on long-held beliefs.

In any case, this exercise at least gives me the confidence that I’m not a complete fool, as is sometimes implied during some of my debates. You can draw your own conclusions from all this, but at the very least, anyone should be able to see that those who believe in liberal concepts have some valid data backing up their thinking. In the end, I did this for myself and myself alone, and I’m satisfied that it was a good cross check. If it helps anyone else, well, that’s just a bonus. I do hope if any conservatives are reading this they can concede that liberals do have at least some credible information from which they can draw their support of their ideology.

Obviously, conservatism also consists of issues such as abortion, immigration, gun control, and the like. But you have to ask yourself why is it that it has to be all or nothing. You can be a liberal who is against abortion, and you can be a conservative who thinks there should be stricter gun laws. But neither side can hide from the only truly accurate way to decide what is the most effective governance, and that’s to compare.

Indeed, the Minnesota Timberwolves may be the worst NBA team during its history, but that’s also only by comparison. I’m sure they have always been able to take down any high school team in the world.


Here are the sources of the data:

Here are the states divided by red and blue:

Red states:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

Blue states:

  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s