Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, SQLI, About the Index
The two major political parties claim that their policies will lead to better outcomes. What does the data show?
At Ballotpedia, we explored these issues in a three-part study, Who Runs the States.
This page contains the section of Part Two pertaining to the About the Index.
About the Index
How do you define "quality of life"? It's a subjective concept. You may have a very different idea about the best kind of life than your neighbor across the street. That said, many people agree on some fundamental characteristics that go into defining or capturing what it would mean for most people to enjoy a high quality of life.
For this study, we selected 19 state comparison indexes to combine into our aggregate index. Each of the 19 state comparison indexes we chose tries to capture a part of what it would mean for one state to have a relatively higher performance than other states.
Each index we selected includes annual state-level data from respected sources. Many of our data sets reflect economic considerations because economic data is more readily available and because economics are an important part of quality of life. We also included social, health-related, and governmental indices and indicators.
A major challenge was finding indices that stretched back for any significant amount of time. Most of the more popular indices that we used have been in existence only since 2004. These include Forbes Best States for Business (2006) and Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® (2008). We calculated our quality-of-life index by equally weighting all of our indicators for which we had data for a given year and then giving each state an annual rank from 1 to 50. We then totaled all the annual rankings to give each state an overall SQLI ranking. This allows us to assess how a state's performance changes from year-to-year relative to the other 49 states -- rather than just the individual raw score variations.
Because much of our data and most of our indices cover only the later years in the 1992-2012 period, our more recent years tend to include more data sets than the earlier years. For 2010, the year with the greatest amount of data, we used data from 18 indicators and indices. For our rankings from 1992 through 2000, the years with the least amount of data, we used only 10 data sets. For more details about the index and the 19 indicators used, see the Methodology section.
- Ballotpedia:Who runs the states
- Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Part One: State Partisanship
- Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Part Two: State Quality of life Index (SQLI)
- Part 1 Full report PDF
- Part 2 Full report PDF
- State government trifectas
- More information about the individual indices can be found in the Methodology. The 19 indices are: Best and Worst Governed States (24/7 Wall St.); America's Health Rankings® (United Health Foundation); Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) debt-to-GDP ratio (Institute for Truth in Accounting); Best and Worst States for Business (Chief Executive magazine); Top States for Business (CNBC); Best States for Business (Forbes); Government employment's share of the population (Bureau of Labor Statistics via State Data Lab); High school graduation rate (National Center for Education Statistics via United Health Foundation); Personal income per capita (Bureau of Labor Statistics); Poverty rate (Census Bureau via State Data Lab); Real GDP per capita (Bureau of Economic Analysis); State general obligation bond credit rating (Standard and Poor's via Pew Center on the States); State government spending-to-GDP ratio (Census Bureau via State Data Lab); State and local tax burden per capita (Tax Foundation); Tax Freedom Day® (Tax Foundation); Unemployment rate (Bureau of Labor Statistics); Unfunded pension liabilities due per capita (Institute for Truth in Accounting/Census Bureau); Voter turnout (United States Elections Project); The Well-Being Index® (Gallup-Healthways).
- We recognize that there is a degree of subjectivity to selecting indexes. Results will vary for state rankings depending on which indexes are picked and emphasized. For more details, see the Methodology.
- We considered choosing only indices that were available for the full 21-year period. However, this would have discounted many of the more recent advancements in ways to measure quality of life. There are some tradeoffs associated with having new studies added in recent years, but we believe this provides a more comprehensive picture in how to evaluate a state.