RI is No. 21, Mass. takes first place on new US News ranking of the states

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – U.S. News & World Report released its first-ever ranking of the 50 states on Tuesday, and there was good news and bad news for Rhode Island in the magazine’s analysis.

The good news: Rhode Island ranks among the top half of states overall, coming in at No. 21 on the list.

The bad news: Rhode Island ranks last in New England and 20 spots behind next-door neighbor Massachusetts, the No. 1 state in the country according to U.S. News. In between were New Hampshire (No. 2), Vermont (No. 10), Connecticut (No. 12) and Maine (No. 18).

U.S. News said it used 68 different metrics to calculate its rankings, relying on “tens of thousands of data points” from the last four years provided by the elite consulting firm McKinsey & Company. McKinsey separately conducted a survey of Americans to determine how heavily they would want each metric weighed.

“U.S. News is known worldwide for its rankings of colleges and hospitals. We take the same in-depth approach to evaluating states,” U.S. News editor Brian Kelly said in a statement. He called the list “a comprehensive effort to provide citizens with a full picture of what’s working and what needs to be improved in their states.”

Rhode Island was boosted by its high ranking in two of the seven subgroups reviewed by U.S. News: crime and corrections (No. 3) and health care (No. 7). But the state was well down the list for the subgroups of education (No. 31), opportunity (No. 32), infrastructure (No. 35) and government (No. 38).

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo chose to accentuate the positive in her response to the rankings, which were previewed at the National Governors Association meeting in Washington last weekend. She said the state ranked No. 8 on college readiness, and argued that metric strengthens her case for offering two years of free tuition at state colleges.

“We know that the jobs coming to Rhode Island require a degree beyond high school,” Raimondo said in a statement. “This survey validates the work we’ve done to better prepare our high school students for college. It also makes clear that we can’t afford not to invest in their future.”

Rhode Island leaders often downplay national rankings, particularly economic-focused ones such as CNBC’s that perennially place Rhode Island dead last or close to it. But they’ve also acknowledged concern about the perceptions created by such lists.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) covers politics and the economy for WPRI.com. He writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram