Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Have and Have-Not States

Popular Economics Weekly
A very interesting study came out recently which analyzed the percentages of passport holders in each state. The results were perhaps not so startling. Those states with the highest percentage of passport holders had also the most diverse population, were most educated, most politically liberal, and the wealthiest. Of course, wealth seems to go in hand with education, which shouldn’t be surprising. But those same states also had the best public services, most creative workforce and best health care outcomes, as well.
Conversely, those states with the fewest passport holders were the least educated, least wealthy, and had the least amount of governmental services—the poorest states, in a word. What does this mean for our future? It means we are slowly evolving into the have and have-not states, with those red states in the Midwest and South falling behind in receiving the benefits of a modern society.
Another way of looking at it is this tells us which policies work. Downsizing government, privatizing health care, and schools doesn’t create more wealth for the many—just the few, as has been proved by the huge shift in wealth upwards since the 1970s. Good and available public services in education, health care, and infrastructure create more wealth, not less.
Let us start with wealth. Maryland leads with a $34,000 median per capita income, followed by New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Alaska, and Massachusetts. New York, California, and New Hampshire aren’t far behind. Conversely, Mississippi, West Virginia, Alabama, and Arkansas are at the bottom of the wealth ladder.
Those states also have the highest and lowest educated workforces, respectively, and even more importantly, are the most innovative workforce. There is a reason for it. The higher percentage passport-holding citizens have more open personality traits, such as Openness to Experience, according to studies done by Cambridge University Psychologist Jason Rentfrow and his colleagues.
And finally, states with more passport holders are also happier. There is a significant correlation (.55) between happiness (measured via Gallup surveys) and a state’s percentage of passport holders.  Yet again, that correlation holds when we control for income. Though it is a leap, this tells us why there is also such an unequal distribution of wealth, and what it does to the poorest states. They have less access to the rest of the world—whether via world class universities or even international airports.
So the question should be how to bring the Have-Not states into the 21st century?
Harlan Green © 2011