2018 Best States Report – U.S. News & World Report

Iowa is the best state in the country, according to the second annual 2018 Best States study from U.S. News & World Report, the global authority in rankings and civic journalism. U.S. News evaluated all 50 states across a range of criteria, from education and health care to infrastructure and the economy, to capture how states best serve their citizens.

Quality of life was added as a new category this year in an effort to factor in the natural and social environment in a state. Metrics include drinking water quality, pollution, voter participation and community engagement. North Dakota takes the top spot on that list, followed by No. 2 Minnesota and No. 3 Wisconsin.

“U.S. News & World Report is well-known for producing in-depth, data-driven rankings in education and health care that help people make key life decisions,” said Eric Gertler, chairman of U.S. News & World Report. “In evaluating the best states in the nation, we have combined trusted, high-quality data with the power of journalism to fill the current gap in local reporting, and ultimately to empower citizens, business leaders and policymakers to engage in improving their states.”

Key findings in the 2018 Best States Report:

  • The top 10 states overall are geographically and politically diverse. Iowa is No. 1 due to its strong performance in two important categories: opportunity and access to high-quality health care. Opportunity takes into account metrics such as education and income inequality to evaluate whether a state is granting all its residents the tools to succeed economically. Minnesota follows at No. 2 and Utah comes in at No. 3.
  • In the thick of Congressional debates on the topic, citizens around the country weighted health care as the most important topic for their governments to solve. Hawaii remains the No. 1 state for health care quality and has the second-healthiest population in the nation. Washington and Iowa are No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, on the list.
  • Massachusetts is the best state for education, New Jersey comes in at No. 2 and Utah rounds out the top three. States that rank highly in education do well in the overall rankings, with eight of the top 10 states overall also landing in the top 10 for education. This ranking looks at metrics for Pre-K – 12 and higher, such as high school and college graduation rates, college readiness and low debt at graduation.
  • Rocky Mountain states Colorado and Utah take the No. 1 and No. 2 spots on the economy, respectively, which factors in GDP growth, unemployment rate and a state’s business environment. While energy production and resource mining are large industries in a number of states, those known for coal mining or crude oil production – Alaska, New Mexico and Wyoming – generally rank at the bottom of the list due to high unemployment and lower GDP growth.
  • Iowa comes out on top for infrastructure, due to high scores for internet access, public transportation, commute times and bridge and road quality. Utah is No. 1 for fiscal stability, New Hampshire is the best for opportunity and Maine is at the top for crime and corrections.

The rankings are based on 77 metrics and tens of thousands of data points provided by McKinsey & Company’s Leading States Index. In determining the weights of the eight categories in the rankings, two years of data were used from McKinsey’s “citizen experience” survey, which asked more than 30,000 people to prioritize each subject in their state and provide levels of satisfaction with government services. Health care and education remain the most highly weighted factors in the methodology, followed closely by the economy.

The Best States rankings are the centerpiece of the growing U.S. News Best States portal, a platform combining analysis, daily reporting, historical information and photos on state issues. The interactive data explorer tool allows citizens and government leaders to draw comparisons between their own states and others through more than 100,000 charts. Best States is part of the expanding civic journalism at U.S. News, which includes the Best Countries report and the upcoming Healthiest Communities project.

2018 Best States Rankings

*See the full rankings here.

Overall – Top 10

  1. Iowa
  2. Minnesota
  3. Utah
  4. North Dakota
  5. New Hampshire
  6. Washington
  7. Nebraska
  8. Massachusetts
  9. Vermont
  10. Colorado

Health Care

  1. Hawaii
  2. Washington
  3. Iowa


  1. Massachusetts
  2. New Jersey
  3. Utah


  1. Colorado
  2. Utah
  3. Washington


  1. New Hampshire
  2. Maryland
  3. Minnesota


  1. Iowa
  2. North Dakota
  3. Oregon

Crime & Corrections

  1. Maine
  2. New Hampshire
  3. New Jersey

Fiscal Stability

  1. Utah
  2. North Dakota
  3. Florida

Quality of Life

  1. North Dakota
  2. Minnesota
  3. Wisconsin