Because of its clean air, low unemployment, generous heal insurance coverage and student achievement in math and reading, Minnesota ranks as the most caring state in the nation, according to a report released last week by the United Way.
In the first report of what it says will be an annual series, the United Way of America, the national association of local non-profit service organizations based in Alexandria, Virginia, has compiled an index of factors it believes reflect Americans' "capacity to care for one another." It gave each state a score based on their performance on 32 measures within six categories: economic and financial well-being, education, health, civic engagement, safety and the environment.
Minnesota earned 685 points out of a possible score of 1000. The lowest performing state, New Mexico , chalked up just 361 points. The national average was 536.
Researchers also went through old data to compare national and state performance over the 11 years from 1988 to 1998. For the nation as a whole, the index showed a marked improvement since 1988, led by sharp drops in property and violent crimes. Gains in science and math achievement among high school seniors and declines in infant deaths also helped boost the national score, researchers found. Those improvements were offset by the growing inequality separating rich from poor and the high cost of owning a home.
Louisiana showed the greatest improvement over the 11 years of the study, although it still ranked 48th in 1998.
Sharing top honors with Minnesota are: Massachusetts in second place, Connecticut in third, New Hampshire in fourth and Maine in fifth place.
The least caring, along with New Mexico and Louisiana, are: Mississippi, 49th, Arizona at 47th and Arkansas 46th.