How Much Weight Does MN’s “Best State” Ranking Hold?

When it comes to making “Best of” lists, Minnesota is quick to proclaim its superiority.

But a MinnPost article questions whether the state is really among the best or just among the best at getting good grades. It’s a good read, and it shows how subjective these rankings tend to be.

Minnesota does seem to punch above its weight, finishing high on quite a few of these rankings. But does that mean, as Minnesotans would have you believe, that the North Star State is really one of the best states in the union? Or does it say more about the lists themselves — and the people making them?

In February, the U.S. News & World Report ranked Minnesota the #3 Best State Overall in America. To determine a state’s overall score, categories including health care, education, economy, and others were weighted and prioritized by survey participants. 

Education held the second most weight in determining a state’s overall rank based on two metrics within that category: higher education and Pre-K to 12. In education overall, Minnesota ranked #11. But when the higher education metric was broken down, Minnesota had one of the poorest rankings (#45) in low debt at graduation and a poor ranking in tuition and fees (#38). Under Pre-K to 12, Minnesota ranked #32 in high school graduation rate. MinnPost explains this is the problem with ranking based on an index:

These kinds of rankings are not without their detractors. A big issue with the rankings: creating an index based on many variables requires making a judgment about which variables are included in the first place and which variables are more important than others.

We see this issue play out in the economy category, as well. Overall, Minnesota’s economy ranked #12. And while the state received lower scores in economic subcategories — #44 in growth of young population, #39 in entrepreneurship including new business creation, #22 in job growth — opinions determined these factors didn’t hold enough weight to affect the state’s overall standing.

Here’s the takeaway with Minnesota’s overall lofty rankings: Numerical order does not transform a subjective opinion into an objective fact. So, let’s look at the facts. When it comes to Minnesota’s economy, the fact is it’s average, at best. According to a report written by Dr. Joseph Kennedy and published by the Center, Minnesota’s economy underperforms. Minnesota can do better, but “if Minnesotans want a better future, they cannot continue the same policies that have led to an erosion of the state’s historic competitiveness. There is no room for complacency. …[I]t will require a hard look at how current policies are undermining future growth.”

Sound policies, not subjective rankings, will make Minnesota one of the “best.” And right now there’s still work to be done before the state has full bragging rights.