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Ranking: States Where You Have The Best And Worst Chance Of Achieving the American Dream

by Forbes   •  

Dan Alexander, Staff Reporter

A Massachusetts group named Opportunity Nation says it has come up with a way to measure which states provide greatest access to the American Dream.

The Opportunity Index takes 16 economic indicators—among them traditional measures like the unemployment rate and nontraditional ones like the percentage of adults who volunteer—and mashes them together to create an opportunity score for each state. 

“As a country, what we need to do is focus on opportunity,” Executive Director of Opportunity Nation Mark Edwards said at the Forbes Reinventing America Summit on Friday. “This is not about the quality of outcome—it’s about the quality of opportunity.”

Some employers are using the data to make decisions about where they want to invest, and state lawmakers in places like Iowa and Washington have begun using the index as a benchmark for their states.

Midwestern and rural states in the North tended to do best on the index, while southern states generally landed toward the bottom.

“One of the things we measure is social capital in communities — are people volunteering, are they part of civic organizations?” Edwards said. “All of those Midwestern states don’t have the lowest unemployment rates necessarily, but what they do have are deep investments in education and strong social capital measures, so they tend to do really well on the Opportunity Index.”

Many states dropped in the rankings because of stagnant unemployment for young people.

“We believe that this issue of youth unemployment has been missing from the broader opportunity conversation,” Edwards said. “It’s great that we’re pulling ourselves out of the recession, but the particular cohort of 16 to 24 year olds is not recovering. Their unemployment rates are vastly higher than every other demographic, and these are our future workers.”

Here is the ranking of states with the best and worst access to the American Dream:

1. Vermont
2. Minnesota
3. North Dakota
4. New Hampshire
5. Nebraska
6. Iowa
7. Massachusetts
8. New Jersey
9. South Dakota
10. Wisconsin
11. Maryland
12. Kansas
13. Connecticut
14. Maine
15. Virginia
16. Utah
17. Colorado
18. Wyoming
19. Alaska
20. New York
21. Washington
22. District of Columbia
23. Pennsylvania
24. Hawaii
25. Montana
26. Illinois
27. Delaware
28. Missouri
29. Rhode Island
30. Ohio
31. Idaho
32. Oregon
33. California
34. Indiana
35. Michigan
36. Oklahoma
37. North Carolina
38. Texas
39. Kentucky
40. Florida
41. Tennessee
42. South Carolina
43. Georgia
44. Arkansas
45. West Virginia
46. Arizona
47. Alabama
48. Louisiana
49. New Mexico
50. Mississippi
51. Nevada

Read more at Forbes


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