Pennsylvania lags neighboring states in new prosperity rankings


A new study examining prosperity in the United States shows that Pennsylvania finds itself ranked in the middle among all states. However, when compared against other states in its region, the Keystone State remains far behind.

The Legatum Institute, a British-based think tank, released its United States Prosperity Index 2019 this month. The report not only ranks the states and the District of Columbia across more than 200 metrics, it also shows how the states have performed over a 10-year period in growing and nurturing prosperity.

Prosperity, though, isn’t just based on economic standing. The Institute also evaluated each state on safety and security, personal freedom, living conditions, health and the environment.

"Our ambition for this Index is that it becomes a valued tool for leaders and others at a state and federal level, to track progress, help set their agendas and implement strategies for social and economic development," said Dr. Stephen Brien, the Institute's policy director.

Pennsylvania ranks 25th among all states in the report. However, when compared to other northeastern states – the Institute combined the six New England states with New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania – the Keystone State finished at the bottom, 10 spots lower in the overall rankings to the next-worst northeastern state, Maine.

The metrics were grouped into 11 categories, or “pillars” as the Institute called them. The report breaks down where the states were ranked in each. Pennsylvania scored best in market access and infrastructure,” where it placed sixth nationwide. It finished seventh in business environment and 11th education.

What hurt Pennsylvania’s overall ranking was its placement in economic quality, 47th, and governance, 48th.

“Where a state is showing a strong or weak performance on prosperity in a pillar or element, it is possible to drill down and identify what particular indicators are driving that trend,” the Institute wrote in its report. “This will help identify the policy action needed to strengthen performance.”

For Pennsylvania, the budget is where it needs the most improvement. The economic quality pillar included looking at the state’s budget balance and its reserves capacity. In both of those metrics, the state ranked worst in the country.

Pennsylvania’s combination of high and low marks isn’t uncommon. The report indicated that only Massachusetts, the top overall state, was ranked in the top 20 in all pillars, and Connecticut, Minnesota and Washington state ranked in the top 30 in all pillars.

“[N]o single state has yet succeeded in fostering a high degree of both economic and social wellbeing for its population,” the Institute said in the report.

In the report, the Institute’s data shows Pennsylvania’s score has risen slightly from 2009 to this year, from 53.8 to 55.2. However, over the same timeframe, the state has dropped from 22nd to its current 25th national ranking.

Of Pennsylvania’s border states, Maryland ranked the highest at ninth overall, followed by New Jersey (10th), New York (12th) and Delaware (18th). Overall, the state fared better than Ohio (34th) and West Virginia (48th).