U.S. News and World Report released the fourth edition of its best states report, which uses more than 70 metrics and thousands of data points to look at the benefits of living in each of the 50 states in the U.S.
This year, the winner is Washington state.
It's the second year that the Evergreen State sits at the top of the list, which weighs eight categories — including health care, education, economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime and corrections and natural environment. Health care and education are considered the most important rankings.
According to the report, Washington is one of just two states to be ranked in the top half of each of the eight categories, ranking No. 3 for public infrastructure, fourth in education, fourth in economy, sixth in fiscal stability and eighth in health care. The second state, Minnesota, is also highly ranked, but Washington pulled ahead in several categories.
Other top-ranked states include Utah, New Hampshire and Idaho.
The publication measured more than 70,000 responses to develop the rankings. They also shared which state ranked first in each category.
According to the rankings, Hawaii "leads the way" in health care, ranking No. 1 in health care quality and access, and sixth in public health. A press release also noted that Hawaii "takes the top spot in several health care metrics including child wellness visits, health care affordability, and preventable admissions." Hawaii also ranks No. 1 for natural environment.
When it comes to education, New Jersey "especially has a commanding performance," especially in the pre-K through 12th-grade subcategories. According to the press release, it's the only state to earn "top-three spots in every metric in that subcategory."
The economy is strong in several states, but Utah gets top billing with impressive "growth of its young population;" workers aged 25-29 increased 4% between 2016 and 2019.
Meanwhile, Nevada ranks first for infrastructure while Iowa is No. 1 in terms of opportunity. Alaska takes the top spot for fiscal stability, and New Hampshire ranks best for crime and corrections.
The report also surveyed people about the coronavirus pandemic and its social impacts. According to the survey, conducted between November 2020 and February 2021, about 3 in 4 respondents "no longer spend time at social gatherings" of 10 people or more, at mass gatherings or "inside local establishments." Over half the respondents said they were no longer visiting family or friends.
When it came to the impact of the virus itself, 1 in 20 respondents said they had tested positive for COVID-19, and about half knew someone else who had tested positive. Eighteen percent of people said they knew someone who had died from the virus.
The majority of respondents said they were working remotely due to the virus, with only 18% of those surveyed saying they went into their workplace regularly. Just over 10% of respondents said they were furloughed or laid off from work, and an additional 8% said they saw their hours "significantly reduced."
Many said that their state had handled the pandemic well. While most respondents disagreed with the statement that "The federal government has handled the COVID-19 pandemic well," about 44% of respondents said they agreed with the same statement about their state government. Just over 40% of people disagreed that their state government had heralded the pandemic well, while another 15% said they were neutral on the topic.