Plenty of Granite Staters, including the governor, are cheering after New Hampshire scored the No. 2 spot on a new U.S. News and World Report “Best States” index. But the details behind that new ranking paint a more complex picture than that "second-in-the-nation" title suggests.
“New Hampshire is among the best states in the nation to live, work and raise a family,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in a press release sent soon after the rankings went live Tuesday morning. “Though we have much work to do to ensure that our state continues to grow and thrive, this announcement is something that Granite Staters can be particularly proud of today. It will also serve as useful information to those considering moving their home or business to New Hampshire.”
U.S. News and World Report sized up states across a number of issue areas: health care, education, crime and corrections, infrastructure, opportunity, economy and government. Some of those metrics got more weight than others — which helps to explain why New Hampshire, No. 2 overall, came in 13th place when it comes to infrastructure and the economy, and 30th place when it comes to the functioning of its government.
Even in areas where the state gets high marks overall, disparities are still evident. U.S. News and World Report named New Hampshire the No. 3 state for education — but while it comes in first place on “Pre-K - 12” education (getting credit for things like strong test scores and college readiness), it’s close to the bottom of the pack on measures related to higher education (thanks in part to being at or near the bottom of the nation on measures of college costs and student debt at graduation).
The state’s criminal justice ranking is similarly a mixed bag. The state ranks 12th overall, benefiting from some of the lowest rates of property and violent crimes in the nation. But it’s in 48th place — ahead of only Nevada and Nebraska — when it comes to reducing its incarceration rate in recent years.
New Hampshire is also in last place nationally for “equality in juvenile jailing,” which “evaluates the difference in the juvenile incarceration rates for whites and Asians compared to black Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, people of more than one race and others.”
The rest of the state’s report card continues this more nuanced narrative than the second-place ranking suggests on its own: New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate in the country but one of the highest disability unemployment rates; its power grid reliability is in the middle of the road but its electricity prices are among the most expensive; it has one of the lowest infant mortality rates but a higher-than-average suicide rate.
As with any “best of” list, it’s best to take this one with a grain of salt — and to remember that any one headline or statistic or power ranking, on its own, doesn’t tell the whole story.
For a deeper dive on some of the issues highlighted in the rankings, we recommend looking at some of NHPR’s past coverage on…
- …how New Hampshire public schools are coping with rising poverty and behavioral health needs among students.
- …the gaps in mortality rates across different income levels and geographic regions in New Hampshire.
- …the challenges officials face in taming the state’s energy prices and shoring up its infrastructure projects.
- ...how kids' experiences and well-being in the Granite State vary widely depending on where they live and how much money their families have.
- ...how New Hampshire's demographic makeup influences its overall state-level math and reading scores.
- ...the persistent hurdles faced by those seeking access to mental health care, and how that can put an added strain on the state's criminal justice system.
- ...how more New Hampshire residents are covered by health insurance but also face rising health costs, and how access to health care can be particularly hard to come by in more rural parts of the state.
And, of course, you can keep turning to NHPR for ongoing coverage of the evolving stories around the state of the state's economy, educational system and other issues that help to shape the overall quality of life in New Hampshire.