New Hampshire is the best state, says Politico (just don’t measure our coastline)

  • Sunrise on Star Island in the Isles of Shoals, the first place in the state that sees the sun rise each day. By Leah Willingham

Monitor staff
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The state of New Hampshire is great, according to a new ranking published by news outlet Politico hours before the president delivered his state of the union speech.

The political journalism website said that New Hampshire was No. 1 among all the states based on 14 attributes. Which may just go to show that if you make a comparison based on things that New Hampshire does well, then New Hampshire will do well in the comparison.

Admittedly, most people would say that Politico’s attributes are worth measuring.

They include unemployment rate, percent of people below the poverty line and rate of infant death, in all of which New Hampshire is the best or second-best state. Also included were less obvious but important items like obesity rate and GINI index, a measure of income inequality, where we also ranked in the top half-dozen states.

Many reasonable attributes were not measured, however, such as ethnic diversity, youthfulness and coastline variety. Since New Hampshire is very white, very old and has the nation’s smallest seashore, their inclusion would have sent us tumbling down the rankings.

Or consider this item on Politico’s index: “Percent employed in computer, engineering, science,” where New Hampshire did well: We tied for fourth at 6.6 percent.

Politico is a website based in Arlington County, Va., near Washington, D.C. If it were based in Iowa, the editors might instead have chosen “percent employed in agriculture,” also a valuable measure of a state’s quality. Then New Hampshire wouldn’t have seemed so impressive.

Politico notes that H.L. Mencken, a famous journalist of the early 20th century, really got the idea of state-versus-state rankings going in 1931 when he compiled his own rankings for the now-defunct American Mercury magazine. Mencken, it should be noted, lived up to his curmudgeonly reputation: He headlined the series, “The Worst American State.”

Mencken used what data he could get at the time, which was the start of the Great Depression. By his tally, New Hampshire was just the 16th-best state in the country then. The best overall? Massachusetts.

Well, we know that’s wrong.

You can see Politico’s ranking online at politico.com.

(David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)