Recently, the state of Missouri has garnered unwanted press attention as one of the worst states in which to live. In 2014, Forbes magazine, Time magazine, USA Today, Politico.com, and Wallethub.com published reports which analyzed a number of “quality of life” indicators which consistently place Missouri near the bottom of the list. Most notably, USA Today ranked Missouri as the 8th “Most Miserable State in the USA,” CNBC ranked Missouri the 3rd worst of “America’s 10 Worst States to Live In,” and Wallethub.com declared Missouri the 9th “Worst State for Working Moms.”
Is this bad press warranted? Possibly. Although some measures are clearly subjective (such as the Gallup polling of respondents’ happiness and sense of well-being), most are based on reasonable methodologies using respected data sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Moody’s Analytics. Each of these reports uses a variety of indicators and all put Missouri near the bottom of their rankings, suggesting that Missouri’s poor performance related to quality of life issues is not an anomaly based on one particular methodology or data set.
“Quality of life” as measured in each of these reports is a combination of indicators which are weighted to reflect the physical, economic and emotional well-being of a state and its residents. These indicators include a fairly wide range of measures, including access to health care, employment, household income, educational attainment, parental leave policies, recreational opportunities, obesity rates, and crime rates. Several indicators are common to more than one report:
This brief synopsis suggests that by most standard “quality of life” measures, Missouri is lagging behind. This is significant because, as the CNBC and Forbes report titles suggest, the quality of life in a state can affect its appeal to business and future economic growth.
The news isn’t all bad for the Show-Me state. For example, although CNBC ranked Missouri the third worst state for quality of life, this was just one of many measures that led CNBC to rank Missouri overall as the 23rd best state for business. In this analysis, the low quality of life ranking was offset in part by Missouri having one of the lowest costs of doing business (#11), and strong infrastructure and transportation (#13). Research quantifying the role that quality of life indicators play when businesses are determining where to locate is not definitive, so the perception that Missouri does not offer a good quality of life may or may not directly affect the state’s ability to foster a successful business environment.