For the third year in a row, U.S. News & World Report ranks Louisiana as the worst state in the nation when it comes to healthcare, education, opportunity and quality of life indicators.
And once again, in response, Gov. John Bel Edwards is dismissing the publication’s ranking as relying on outdated data that does not accurately reflect the progress the state has made in recent years under his administration.
U.S. News & World Report released its annual “Best States” list today, which measures how well states are performing for its citizens and notes that data for each of its indicators “should be from 2015 or later” with regularly scheduled updates.
Louisiana, which ranks 50th overall, performed the worst among all states in the areas of economic opportunity, pollution and crime and corrections. The state was also near the end of the list in terms of economy, ranking 49th in economic growth, as well as education and infrastructure, both ranking 48th in the nation.
For some in the business community, the rankings point to a troubling trend in Louisiana that might explain why the state’s population is declining.
“For the last three years Louisiana ranked last and has lost more population than it gained,” says Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President and CEO Stephen Waguespack. “We’re losing people and losing respect around the nation.”
The state did improve its fiscal stability ranking, moving up to 43rd from 48th last year, which likely can be attributed to the efforts of the governor and state lawmakers to solve Louisiana’s $2 billion deficit and stabilize the budget in recent years. The state’s healthcare metrics also improved, with Louisiana ranking 45th in the nation, up from 47th in 2018, as one of Edwards’ top priorities has been the Medicaid expansion in 2016.
State leaders have also enacted criminal justice reforms and returned to fully funding higher education under Edwards’ administration, though rankings in those areas have not shown much if any improvements in the “Best States” report.
“It takes time for improvement to show up in data, and some of the U.S. News and World Report’s data sources are several years old, which is frustrating,” Edwards says in a statement. “But we know we’re doing far better than we were years ago and we fully expect that will show up in future rankings.”
Improving the state’s national standing is “not a complicated formula,” Waguespack says, and it starts with creating more jobs and economic opportunity.
“If we have more good-paying jobs, people will want to live here,” he says. “We have to get out of the business of beating up business and the private sector and other good rankings will follow suit. I hope this is a wake-up call.”