Want to be Healthier, Wealthier, and Wise? Live in a Blue State

7 mins read

Yesterday, Trump tweeted a meme blaming Nancy Pelosi for homelessness in her district. It’s a trope I’ve heard a lot recently from the right — the idea that because most cities are run by Democrats, and cities have crime and homelessness problems, this proves the failure of Democratic policies.

It’s very faulty logic, for at least two reasons. First, cities will always face problems of affordable housing, homelessness, and crime that rural areas will not due to the density of the populations. More people crowded into smaller areas makes housing more expensive, attracts homeless people for the services and the possibility of charity, and means more crime simply because there are more opportunities and more people.

Second, cities have comparably much less power than state and federal governments to address these issues. City budgets are much smaller, and cities often have to provide services for people living in the suburbs who visit the cities or work there, but who do not pay property taxes to the center city. In fact, in many states, especially ones run by red governors like Ohio and Texas, cities pay more money in taxes than they get back from the state. State governments are actively hamstringing cities’ ability to address these problems. Hard to blame city governments for that.

A better comparison happens at the state level, because states get relatively the same amount from the federal government. The Founders of our country chose federalism as a system because they believed that having different policies in different states would be a “laboratory for democracy,” enabling us to see which policies work best. So, let’s compare red states and blue states on a variety of measures and see the results.

Spoiler Alert: Blue states dominate the top 15 of nearly every measure, and red states dominate the bottom fifteen.

Let’s start with the most important thing — health. According to the United Health Foundation’s Annual rankings, the top fifteen states for health care include thirteen blue states and only two red states (Utah at 5 and North Dakota at 14). The bottom 15? Twelve red states, three purple states, no blue states. The US News and World Report rankings confirm these results. For health care quality, the top 15 states include 11 blues states, 2 purple states, and only 2 red states (Utah and Alaska). The bottom fifteen states are all red. For health care access, the top fifteen states include 11 blue states, 3 purple states, and only one red state. The bottom 15? Twelve red, 3 purple, no blue.

So, if you want to be healthier, live in a blue state. But what about wealth?

The top fifteen states in median income include 13 blue states and 2 red states (Alaska and Utah). The bottom fifteen include twelve red states and 3 purple states. This bears out in poverty rates, too. The bottom fifteen states in poverty rate are twelve red states and three purple states. The top fifteen states consist of ten blue states and 5 red ones, with Utah and Alaska starting to look like major outliers.

Of course, some will probably say this measure doesn’t include cost of living, so I included a list on purchasing power which adjusts these median incomes based on cost of living. Here, to the dismay of conservatives, the evidence is not clear-cut in their favor. The top fifteen states in purchasing power includes seven blue states, six red states, and 2 purple ones. The bottom fifteen has 5 of each color. Given how much more space and less population red states have compared to blue states, this is a pretty bad outcome for conservatives looking for evidence of the success of their policies.

What about crime, then? Surely the “hard on crime” Republicans would have less crime. Not so fast. The top fifteen safest states include nine blue states, 3 purple, and 3 red. The bottom fifteen? Eleven red states, 3 purple, and only one blue.

You probably know by now what to expect when we turn to education. A ranking of best public schools by World Population Review has nine blue states, two purple states, and only 4 red states in the top fifteen (including Utah again). The bottom fifteen has nine red states, four purple states, and 2 blue states. The US News and World Report rankings are similar. The top fifteen states include ten blue, 3 red, and 2 purple. The bottom fifteen states have only 3 blue, 2 purple, and ten red states! The same is true for college education. The bottom fifteen states include twelve red states, 3 purple states, and no blue states! The top fifteen has only one red state, our good ol’ outlier Utah.

It seems that the bluer your state is, the healthier, wealthier, safer, and wiser it is. This bears out with purple states as well. Many of those that rank low have had Republican controlled governments for a while, while others that rank highly have not.

This isn’t just fun with numbers. This is a matter of life and death. As Paul Krugman has recently noted, the average life expectancy in Trump districts is now over FOUR YEARS LOWER than those in Clinton districts. And the gap is growing.

It’s no wonder so many conservatives seem so angry these days. Things are not going well in their states. But it’s comical to blame Democrats when consistently the worst states in these scores are states that have had decades of unopposed Republican control.

If the states are laboratories of democracy, the experiment is over. The evidence is overwhelming. Blue policies make better states — with wealthier, healthier, and wiser citizens. Maybe those states that consistently dominate the bottom ten — I’m looking at you, Deep South — should pay attention.


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