Check in Mail States Delay Tax Refunds

Some states may delay paying tax refunds again this year.  Taxpayers should call them the “Check In the Mail” States.

Last year Kansas, North Carolina, California and Missouri delayed tax refunds.  Taxpayers were not happy about it.  Tax refund delays are another sign of government mismanagement.  In response to last years fiasco, Missouri state house legislators this week passed a bill that if enacted will shorten the time period that the state can withhold payment without interest.  Missouri had to use stimulus money to pay its tax refunds.  See: Missouri State House Approves Quicker Refunds .

This year New York, Kansas, Iowa and Hawaii have already announced they may have to delay payments.  Taxpayers, who are entitled to refunds in these states, will unfortunately suffer.

Here are a few of the headlines and links to the state stories.

Hawaii will delay sending out tax refunds to balance budget

Hold It: Unpaid Parking tickets could delay Iowa tax refunds

NY Governor considers delays in paying tax refunds

Forbes recently published its “Special Report: The Global Debt Bomb.”  In one of its pieces,  United States of Debt , it ranks states according to financial health.  The metrics Forbes looked at for each state when building its ranking included unfunded pension liabilities, changes in tax revenue, credit agency ratings, debt as a percentage of Gross State Product, debt per capita, growth expectations for employment and the state economy, net migrations and a moocher ratio that compares government employees, pension burdens and Medicaid enrollees to private-sector employment.

The Worst States for Debt Trouble, according to Forbes, are Illinois, New York, Connecticut, California and New Jersey.

The States with the least Debt Problems are Utah, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Texas and Virginia.  All states have significantly lower debt per capita than the Worst States.  The Best States also have lower unemployment than the U.S. average of 9.7% and lower than the Worst States with Debt Problems.  The Best States for Jobs will typically have better government management of debt.

Forbes also ran an analysis that shows that the states with the Worst Debt and Financial Problems are blue states i.e. states controlled by Democrats.  The piece attributed political unions and big spending by Democrats as the cause of the deepest fiscal holes.
See Political Litmus Test: Bluest States Spilling The Most Red Ink

Trustworthy States: Best States to Lose Your Wallet

Gallup recently released a poll on Best States to Lose Your Wallet

With unemployment rising and economic stress increasing, the trust we have in our neighbors and community is of increasing concern. We want to live in a Safe States as they are Best States to Live.  The poll asked people if they believed a lost wallet with $200 in would be returned.  Nationwide 70% of people believe that their wallet would be returned with money still in the wallet.  Large States according to Gallup are generally viewed as less trustworthy.  People in the Southern half of the country do not trust their neighbors as much as people in the North. See Gallup’s map below.

The Best States for Neighbor Trust are:

Top 10 States, Trust in Neighbor

The Worst States for Neighbor Trust are:

Bottom 10 States, Trust in Neighbor

People in the South do not trust their neighbors as much as the North according to Gallup. Chart courtesy of Gallup.

U.S. Map: Trust in Neighbor, by State
When picking your place to live consider your neighbors. Safe States are Best States to Retire and are Top States to Live

Comment on “Soak the Rich, Lose the Rich”

My good friend Steven Moore along with Art Laffer wrote a great piece today in the Wall Street Journal titled Soak the Rich, Lose the Rich

Their piece reinforces the general messages of this site, namely that there are Best and Worst States in the U.S. to live, create wealth and grow a business.  The story makes a case for common sense state policies of low taxes and favorable business regulatory climate.  In the piece Moore and Laffer point out that the no income tax states have created “89% more jobs and had 32% faster personal income growth than their high-tax counterparts.”  In other words, successful people and businesses go to the more favorable tax and regulatory environments.

We have long advocated state governments to adopt  more business and citizen friendly policy.  Laffer and Moore bring this issue to the forefront today with their well-written piece.  I hope state governors and legislators also read it and take action.

For more on tax policy of states see our posts Best and Worst States for Individual Taxes

and Best and Worst States for Business

For those of you interested the nine no income tax states in the U.S. are  Texas, Nevada, New Hampshire, Florida, South Dakota, Wyoming, Washington, Alaska and Tennessee.  New Hampshire and Tennessee do tax interest and dividends however.

Are Pay Equity Studies Equitable? Are State Rankings Meaningful?

Are Pay Equity Studies Equitable?  Are State Rankings meaningful?

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) http://www.aauw.org recently published a state ranking of pay equity for college educated women as compared to men.

The report found that in the United States, the earnings gap between college educated men and women over 25 years of age and who work full-time year round was 71%, meaning these women make 29 cents less on the dollar nationally. They also reported the differences in pay equity by state.

While we do not dispute the numbers as put forth by the study i.e. women typically are paid less than men, we do question the validity of the issue and the reasons typically put forth for its existance.   We believe it presents a one sided argument in favor of legislation supporting the “Paycheck Fairness Act.”  The AAUW supports legislation that would close the gap with legislation.  The study has received significant publicity without some common sense rebuttal.

Why do we question the fairness and validity of this study?

We think many other factors also influence pay.

Should experience matter?  Would it be fair to require people with more experience to be paid the same as those with less experience?

Should training and knowledge matter?  Would it be fair to require pay to be the same for people with less training than others?

We believe training and experience should matter!!

The AAUW study neglects to point out that there are significant differences between men and women in the work place.

The Social Security Administration http://www.socialsecurity.gov reports that women typically work 13 years less than men during their lifetimes.  13 years of less work experience for any person is meaningful.  You would expect those with less work experience regardless of sex to be paid less on average.

Women typically also leave the workforce to raise children.  One study has measured the average time women leave the workforce for child rearing at 11.5 years.  Women work less work years.  This typically also leads to less training and development of computer and other specific job skills that are part of the pay criteria.  Much of this is learned on the job.  It is common sense to expect people with less training and less experience to be paid less.

While we highly respect the important contributions that women make to our world, we do not believe the AAUW study should be considered as an important fact to support pay fairness.  Many women as matter of choice, happily leave the workforce.   We hope for the benefit of fairness that this study and the “Pay Fairness Act” do not become accepted wisdom and law.

The chart below is from the Urban Institute  The Urban Institute recognizes and charts the differences in male/female work experience. Men work significantly more years than women.
Cumulative Distribution of Work Years
The “Best and Worst States for Pay Equity” are listed below.  Read them with caution.  Interestingly we could not find any obvious conclusions from the listings.

The “Best State for Pay Equity” is Vermont.  Nearby New Hampshire is one of the “Worst States for Pay Equity.”  Does this suggest that employers in Vermont are more “fair” to women than in New Hampshire?  Why?

Are employers in Wisconsin or Montana fundamentally more “fair” than nearby poorly ranked Iowa?  Are there factors other than male/female pay discrimination that are more influential that create lower average pay for women in Iowa?  For example, do families in Wisconsin have a lower value for child rearing resulting in more work time for women and thus more pay?  We think that would be a meaningless conclusion.

There are many factors that influence differences in pay between the sexes.  We think state by state rankings offer limited insight and create numerous questions for understanding why.

Best States for Pay Equity

1) Vermont 87%
2) Hawaii 83%
3) Delaware 80%
4) New York 78%
5) Montana 77%
6) Wyoming 77%
7) New Mexico 77%
8) Wisconsin 76%
9) Oregon 76%
10) Nevada 75%

Worst States for Pay Equity


42) Utah 69%
43) Michigan 68%
44) Arkansas 68%
45) Iowa 68%
46) New Hampshire 68%
47) Oklahoma 67%
48) Virginia 67%
49) Mississippi 67%
50) West Virginia 67%
51) Louisiana 65
%

Finally, the AAUW Executive Director Linda D. Hallman, CAE, said “Our analysis is quite disturbing, especially when you consider how more and more families are depending on a woman’s paycheck as the primary source of income in these tough economic times. Consequently, the issue of pay equity takes on an added sense of urgency. This is just one of the reasons why we’re urging the Senate to join the House and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act,”

We disagree.

The “Paycheck Fairness Act” would be unfair if it punishes experience and training. Fairness requires that all people regardless of sex should be paid on the basis of experience and training as well.

Best and Worst States for Seatbelt Usage, Michigan Best, Massachusetts Worst

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently released 2008 data on State seat belt usage.

The Best State for Seatbelt Usage is Michigan with a 97.2% usage.  The other top 5 Best States are Hawaii, Washington, Oregon and California.

The Worst State for Seatbelt Usage is Massachusetts with only a 66.8% usage.  The other Worst 5 States are Wyoming, New Hampshire, Arkansas and Mississippi.

These stats tend to get wide publicity and embolden states to take more action against citizens who do not use seat belts.

22 states do not allow police officers to stop motorists for not wearing a seat belt.  Primary States, those that allow stopping drivers for no seat belts, tend to have the highest seat belt usage.

According to a 2001 study of US crash data, it was found that previous estimates of seat belt effectiveness had been significantly overstated. According to the analysis used, seat belts were claimed to have decreased fatalities by 1.35% for each 10% increase in seat belt use.  Many drivers would prefer not to be pulled over for lack of seat belt usage.  Should we be asking our limited police departments to pull over drivers for not using seat belts? Are there more important “crimes” that our police should be pursuing?  Are drivers in Massachusetts that much more dangerous than Michigan?
See:

‘The Effects of Mandatory Seat Belt Laws on Driving Behavior and Traffic Fatalities’ by Alma Cohen and Liran Einav at Harvard Law School      
State Seat Belt use %Change
1 Michigan 97.20% 3.50%
2 Hawaii 97.00% -0.60%
3 Washington 96.50% 0.10%
4 Oregon 96.30% 1.00%
5 California 95.70% 1.10%
6 Maryland 93.30% 0.20%
7 Iowa 92.90% 1.60%
8 New Jersey 91.80% 0.40%
9 Delaware 91.30% 4.70%
10 Indiana 91.20% 3.30%
11 Texas 91.20% -0.60%
12 New Mexico 91.10% -0.40%
13 Nevada 90.90% -1.30%
14 Illinois 90.50% 0.40%
15 Dist. Of Columbia 90.00% 2.90%
16 North Carolina 89.80% 1.00%
17 Georgia 89.60% 0.60%
18 West Virginia 89.50% -0.10%
19 New York 89.10% 5.60%
20 Connecticut 88.00% 2.20%
21 Vermont 87.30% 0.20%
22 Minnesota 86.70% -1.10%
23 Alabama 86.10% 3.80%
24 Utah 86.00% -0.80%
25 Pennsylvania 85.10% -1.60%
26 Alaska 84.90% 2.50%
27 Oklahoma 84.30% 1.20%
28 Maine 83.00% 3.20%
29 Nationwide 83% 1%
30 Ohio 82.70% 1.10%
31 Montana 82.60% 3.90%
32 Colorado 81.70% 0.60%
33 Florida 81.70% 2.60%
34 North Dakota 81.60% -0.60%
35 Tennessee 81.50% 1.30%
36 Virginia 80.60% 0.70%
37 Arizona 79.90% -1.00%
38 South Carolina 79.00% 4.50%
39 Kansas 77.40% 2.40%
40 Idaho 76.90% -1.60%
41 Missouri 75.80% -1.40%
42 Louisiana 75.50% 0.30%
43 Wisconsin 74.20% -1.10%
44 Kentucky 73.30% 1.50%
45 Rhode Island 72.00% -7.10%
46 South Dakota 71.80% -1.20%
47 Mississippi 71.30% -0.50%
48 Arkansas 70.40% 0.50%
49 New Hampshire 69.20% 5.40%
50 Wyoming 68.60% -3.60%
51 Massachusetts 66.80% -1.90%

Source:  National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

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Tax Freedom Day 2009: Pick Your State Carefully

The Tax Foundation recently released their 2009 Tax Freedom Day Study.  It measures how many days the average worker must work to  pay taxes. There is a wide disparity among states. The tax burden you bear can significantly impact your quality of life.

The Best State for Tax Freedom is Alaska where it takes 82 days almost 25% of the year just to pay taxes.  Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota, North Dakota and West Virginia are also rated Best States for Tax Freedom.  If you are not retired, these states would be considered as candidates for Best States to Work.

The Worst State for Tax Freedom is Connecticut where it takes 120 days or until April 30 to pay taxes.  If you live in Connecticut 1/3 of your time every year goes to pay taxes to the Federal, State and Local governments.  That is almost 50% more days than Alaska.  New Jersey, New York, California and Maryland are also rated Worst States for Tax Freedom.

According to the Tax Foundation study, five major categories of tax dominate the tax burden. Individual income taxes, both federal and state, require 38 days’ work. Payroll taxes take another 27 days’ work. Sales and excise taxes, mostly state and local, take 15 days to pay off. Corporate income taxes take 6 days, and property taxes take 12. Americans will log 4 more days to pay other miscellaneous taxes, most notably including motor vehicle license taxes and severance taxes, and about 1 day for estate taxes.

What state you live in is very important in determining your lifestyle as higher cost of living states tend to have higher tax burdens.  Lower disposable income is the result.  Many states are also increasing many taxes due to economic conditions which will increase tax burdens.  Noteworthy examples are the proposed increases in New York and California that will make these heavily burdened states more undesirable to live.  If you are not retired, New York and California would have to be considered as 2 of the Worst States to Work.

Tax
State Days Freedom Day
1 Alaska 82 23-Mar
2 Louisiana 87 28-Mar
3 Mississippi 87 28-Mar
4 South Dakota 88 29-Mar
5 North Dakota 91 1-Apr
6 West Virginia 91 1-Apr
7 Alabama 92 2-Apr
8 New Mexico 92 2-Apr
9 Montana 93 3-Apr
10 Kentucky 93 3-Apr
11 Oklahoma 94 4-Apr
12 Iowa 94 4-Apr
13 South Carolina 94 4-Apr
14 Arkansas 94 4-Apr
15 Tennessee 95 5-Apr
16 Wyoming 95 5-Apr
17 Missouri 96 6-Apr
18 Maine 96 6-Apr
19 Texas 96 6-Apr
20 Nebraska 98 8-Apr
21 Kansas 98 8-Apr
22 Nevada 98 8-Apr
23 Indiana 98 8-Apr
24 Florida 99 9-Apr
25 Oregon 99 9-Apr
26 North Carolina 99 9-Apr
27 Michigan 100 10-Apr
28 Arizona 100 10-Apr
29 New Hampshire 100 10-Apr
30 Ohio 101 11-Apr
31 Delaware 101 11-Apr
32 Vermont 102 12-Apr
33 Idaho 102 12-Apr
34 Georgia 102 12-Apr
35 Colorado 102 12-Apr
36 Illinois 103 13-Apr
37 Hawaii 103 13-Apr
38 Utah 103 13-Apr
39 Wisconsin 103 13-Apr
40 Pennsylvania 104 14-Apr
41 Rhode Island 104 14-Apr
42 Minnesota 105 15-Apr
43 Washington 106 16-Apr
44 Massachusetts 106 16-Apr
45 Virginia 106 16-Apr
46 Maryland 109 19-Apr
47 California 110 20-Apr
48 New York 115 25-Apr
49 New Jersey 119 29-Apr
50 Connecticut 120 30-Apr

Source: Tax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day

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State Unemployment Up Everywhere in Feb, Michigan tops 12% Unemployed

The February 2009 State Unemployment numbers were released this past week and they were not pretty. Every state in the U.S. saw its unemployment rate increase.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)  also released March Unemployment, along with Feb state data, and the nationwide unemployment rate increased again to 8.5% nationwide.  It was 8.1% in February.

Seven States had unemployment above 10% in February.  Michigan was the Worst State for Jobs with a whopping 12% unemployment number.  South Carolina, Oregon, North Carolina, California Rhode Island and Nevada also qualify as Worst States for Employment as the 6 other states with unemployment above 10% .

The Best State for Jobs based on a low 3.9% unemployment is Wyoming. 4 other states qualify as Best States for Employment with rates still below 5%.  They are:  Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa.

Some of the state year on year changes are quite large.  Unemployment increased by over 100% from last year in Hawaii and Oregon for example.  Of the large states, Texas is holding up the best with unemployment of only 6.2% in February which was below the U.S. Feb average of 8.1%.

State data is released with a one month lag so expect March state unemployment to get even worse as unemployment increased nationwide in March by .4%.

State Feb-08 Feb-09 Change
1 Michigan 7.4 12 4.6
2 South Carolina 5.7 11 5.3
3 Oregon 5.4 10.8 5.4
4 North Carolina 5.2 10.7 5.5
5 California 6.2 10.5 4.3
6 Rhode Island 6.5 10.5 4
7 Nevada 5.5 10.1 4.6
8 District of Columbia 6.1 9.9 3.8
9 Florida 5.2 9.4 4.2
10 Indiana 5 9.4 4.4
11 Ohio 5.9 9.4 3.5
12 Georgia 5.4 9.3 3.9
13 Kentucky 5.6 9.2 3.6
14 Mississippi 5.9 9.1 3.2
15 Tennessee 5.5 9.1 3.6
16 Illinois . 5.9 8.6 2.7
17 Alabama 4.1 8.4 4.3
18 Washington 4.7 8.4 3.7
19 Missouri 5.5 8.3 2.8
20 New Jersey 4.7 8.2 3.5
21 Minnesota 5 8.1 3.1
22 Alaska 6.5 8 1.5
23 Maine 4.9 8 3.1
24 Massachusetts 4.6 7.8 3.2
25 New York 4.6 7.8 3.2
26 Wisconsin 4.5 7.7 3.2
27 Pennsylvania 4.8 7.5 2.7
28 Arizona 4.5 7.4 2.9
29 Connecticut 5.2 7.4 2.2
30 Delaware 4 7.4 3.4
31 Colorado 4.5 7.2 2.7
32 Vermont 4.4 7 2.6
33 Idaho 3.9 6.8 2.9
34 Maryland 3.7 6.7 3
35 Arkansas 4.8 6.6 1.8
36 Virginia 3.5 6.6 3.1
37 Hawaii 3.1 6.5 3.4
38 Texas 4.5 6.5 2
39 Montana 4 6 2
40 West Virginia 4.2 6 1.8
41 Kansas 4 5.9 1.9
42 Louisiana 3.8 5.7 1.9
43 Oklahoma 3.2 5.5 2.3
44 New Mexico 3.8 5.4 1.6
45 New Hampshire 3.7 5.3 1.6
46 Utah 3.3 5.1 1.8
47 Iowa 3.9 4.9 1
48 South Dakota 2.7 4.6 1.9
49 North Dakota 3 4.3 1.3
50 Nebraska 3 4.2 1.2
51 Wyoming 2.8 3.9 1.1
p = preliminary.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Graduation Rates, SAT Scores and Educational Spending. Who is the Best and Worst?

Does increased spending on Education lead to higher performance?

*******Go to 2009 State SAT Scores List  for the latest SAT results.*********

This question was raised in prior posts.

I thought you might find these 2 charts interesting.  Best and Worst States For Education Spending ranks all states by spending and shows the SAT Score Rank of its students. I also have attached a Chart from  Heritage that shows that the best funded cities do not have the highest graduation rates.

The more money spent clearly does not show up in higher SAT scores or graduation rates. 

New Jersey spends the most money.  Its SAT score rank is 33 .  New York, at 2nd on the money spend, ranks 44th on SAT scores.  The “Worst” State for Education Spending is Utah yet its students rank 20th on the SAT score list above NY and New Jersey. Utah spends about 1/3 the dollars of NY and New Jersey.  Its students do better than all of the Top 10 spenders on Education.  Utah may be considered a Best State for Education considering its bang for the dollar.

Arizona
is the next lowest spend state yet ranks 29th on the SAT Scores list.  Arizona students perform better than the top 6 spenders.  Mesa, AZ which is at the bottom of the Heritage list of city spends has a graduation rate of 77.1%.  Mesa spends only 40% of Boston which has a much lower graduation rate of 57%.

Clearly money is not the only factor that impacts educational performance.  You may want to consider carefully your state’s approach to education.  It appears more dollars on education does not lead to better results.  Tell your political leaders you want accountability for results not just money spent.

State Ed Spend SAT Rank
1 New Jersey 15,033 36
2 New York 14,593 44
3 DC 14,214 50
4 Connecticut 13,059 31
5 Vermont 12,749 30
6 Rhode Island 12,425 41
7 Massachusetts 12,398 29
8 Delaware 11,619 43
9 Alaska 11,551 33
10 Maine 11,014 51
11 Pennsylvania 10,900 45
12 Wyoming 10,852 16
13 Maryland 10,682 37
14 New Hampshire 10,405 26
15 Wisconsin 10,388 6
16 Michigan 9,947 13
17 Ohio 9,936 23
18 West Virginia 9,609 32
19 Hawaii 9,581 48
20 Indiana 9,498 38
21 Illinois 9,473 2
22 Virginia 9,463 34
23 Nebraska 9,365 9
24 Minnesota 9,284 3
25 Montana 8,661 22
26 Oregon 8,595 27
27 Georgia 8,589 46
28 Iowa 8,479 1
29 Kansas 8,440 7
30 California 8,418 35
31 Missouri 8,368 4
32 New Mexico 8,342 21
33 North Dakota 8,337 7
34 Colorado 8,334 18
35 Washington 8,218 25
36 Louisiana 8,167 14
37 Arkansas 8,156 11
38 South Carolina 8,039 49
39 South Dakota 7,949 5
40 Texas 7,716 42
41 Florida 7,683 47
42 Kentucky 7,595 15
43 Alabama 7,532 19
44 North Carolina 7,352 41
45 Tennessee 7,295 10
46 Nevada 7,246 41
47 Oklahoma 7,039 12
48 Mississippi 6,973 17
49 Idaho 6,729 24
50 Arizona 6,586 29
51 Utah 5,555 20


Sources:  Dept of Education.  Spending not regionally adjusted.  College Board.

http://www.heritage.org/research/Education/images/b2179_chart5.gif
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Best and Worst States for Health

American Health does a ranking every year of states utilizing a methodology that looks at 22 measures of health determinants and outcomes.  It then ranks the states.

The Best and Worst States for Health in 2008 are:

Best States for Health

1.  Vermont
2.  Hawaii
3.  New Hampshire
4.  Minnesota
5.  Utah


Worst States for Health

50.  Louisiana
49.  Mississippi
48.  South Carolina
47.  Tennessee
46.  Texas

According to American Health Vermont has been ranked Best for the 2nd straight year.  Positive factors included high rate of high school graduation, a low violent crime rate, a low percentage of children in poverty, high per capita public health funding, ready access to primary care, low geographic disparity of mortality rates within the state and a low premature death rate. Two challenges are low immunization coverage with 79.8 percent of children ages 19 to 35 months receiving complete immunizations and a high prevalence of binge drinking at 17.3 percent of the population.

Louisiana
, the Worst State, fell to 50 from 49 in 2008. It has been rated in the bottom 2 states for all years since 1990.  It ranks in the bottom five states on 10 of the 22 measures including a high prevalence of obesity, a high percentage of children in poverty, a high rate of uninsured population, a high incidence of infectious disease, a low rate of high school graduation and many preventable hospitalizations.

The state you live can have an important role in your health.

For the full listing and more info go to their site at American Health Rankings

Should You live in a low income State? Livability Rankings

Low Income States Consistently Rated Worst States for Livability

We thought you might like to see a comparison of the Best and Worst States for Livability and the income rankings associated with each state.  Money may not buy happiness but the state you spend it in just might.

Best States for Livability and their Income Ranks

1.      New Hampshire                       $41,512          8
2.      Utah                                        $31,189         45
3.      Wyoming                                 $43,226          6
4.      Minnesota                                $41,034         11
5.      Iowa                                        $35,023         27

Worst States for Livability and their Income Ranks

50.     Mississippi                               $28,845          50
49.     South Carolina                         $31,013          47
48.     Kentucky                                  $31,111          46
47.     Tennessee                                $33,280          39
46.     Louisiana                                  $34,756          31
45.     West Virginia                           $29,537          49
Source:  U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis
CQ Press 2008 State Livability Rankings

                State income data is for 2007.

The highest income state, Connecticut at $54,117, has a livability ranking of 11. New Jersey, with an average state income of $49,194, has a livability rank of 7.  New York, rated 24th on livability, was rated 4th in income and California was 30th on livability and 7th on income.   It appears very low income states are low on livability yet high income does not insure being rated a Best State for livability.  Utah is a outlier in that it ranks 2 in livability yet has one of the lowest state incomes.

In about 60 days new data will be released on state income levels for 2008.  Also CQ press does a nice study of state livability each year. We will keep you posted when the new data is released.  Review top income states when they are released.  High income does not insure high livability.
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