Pink sunset and dramatic clouds over a Nebraska field of wild sunflowers (Getty Images)
OMAHA — Nebraska ranked 11th among the states for overall prosperity in a newly released report, scoring low in certain areas such as its natural environment but making up ground in others including health and employment.
Behind the findings are partnering organizations, the Legatum Institute and the Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream.
The two compared states by about 50 categories, tapping dozens of data sources.
Results are reflected in their American Dream Prosperity Index, which is intended as a tool to help lawmakers and civil leaders shape policies and better understand barriers to greater prosperity.
For overall prosperity, Nebraska ranked behind Colorado, which was No. 10, and before Iowa, which was No. 12.
In the top spot was Massachusetts, followed by Connecticut and Minnesota.
Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana ranked at the bottom.
According to the report, Nebraska’s rise to the top tier was due to relatively high showings in health (including physical, mental and care systems), economic quality of life (including employment rate and fiscal health) and social capital (reflecting such areas as civic participation, family relationships and institutional trust).
Nebraska did not do as well in areas such as the natural environment (measured by factors such as preservation efforts, forests and land), infrastructure environment and business environment.
But overall the state fared better than last year, when Nebraska was ranked 15th by the prosperity index. Five yeas ago, Nebraska ranked 12th overall.
‘Deteriorating mental health’
“While our nation faces many challenges including record inflation, increased gun violence and a deteriorating mental health landscape, we are encouraged by the resiliency of communities across our country as they work to create prosperous lives for their residents,” said Milken Center President Kerry Healey.
For most states, the report said that 2022 has been a year of progress rebounding from COVID-19. But authors noted ill effects of rising gun violence, deteriorating mental health and suicides and opioid-related deaths.
Key findings also point to waning social cohesion across the country as another roadblock to U.S. prosperity.
“This is seen in the decreasing number of Americans who have helped a stranger, donated money to charity, volunteered or frequently talked to a neighbor,” said a statement by the Milken Center.
Nebraska was among the states for which data and rankings are available on the county level as well.
Among highlights reported:
- This year, 26 states have recovered to pre-pandemic levels of overall prosperity, with Oklahoma, New Jersey and New Mexico seeing the biggest improvement. Reasons vary from state to state, but economic factors such as rising entrepreneurialism were a key.
- Physical health improved over the past decade, with rates of smoking down by nearly a third, excessive alcohol use down by 17% and pain reliever misuse was reported to have declined by 21%.
The Legatum Institute is a London-based think tank with a vision to create a global movement toward prosperity.
The Milken Center is a nonpartisan organization devoted in part to research identifying barriers to social and economic mobility.
In a separate report described as the first ever “happiness report” by Gross National Happiness USA, Nebraska ranked No. 7 for overall happiness.
The Vermont-based organization is a nonpartisan nonprofit founded in 2009, with a mission to increase personal happiness and well being by changing how progress is measured. Its findings were based on a survey of 5,000 Americans.
The Huskers, as a state, finished No. 9 in life satisfaction and No. 44 for anxiety.
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