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New index shows rising prosperity in Alabama and the U.S.

Evan Mealins

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A new U.S. Prosperity Index shows that Alabama is the fifth-lowest ranked state in the Union based on 11 “pillars of prosperity.” 

Those pillars — defined by the Legatum Institute, which published the index — are used to quantify the overall prosperity of each state, the results of which are used to rank the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Examples of pillars of prosperity include economic quality, safety and security, governance and education.

Alabama has seen an increase in its prosperity score since 2009, when the Legatum Institute released a similar prosperity index. Alabama’s score increase edged out the national average increase.

Alabama earned its highest ranking, 19th, in market access and infrastructure, which measures the quality of the infrastructure that enables trade and the barriers that inhibit trade. Southeastern states performed particularly well in this area, with much of the improvement over the past decade chalked up to the region’s transport infrastructure. 

Alabama’s next highest ranking was 36th for social capital. 

In all nine other pillars, the index ranked Alabama at 41st or below.

As a whole, the nation has seen an increase in prosperity over the past decade, with only four states earning a lower prosperity score in 2019 than they did in 2009. However, prosperity is unevenly dispersed geographically across the nation, with the Northeast remaining far ahead of the Southeast and Southwest, the two least prosperous regions in the country. 

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Social capital is on the decline nationwide, with only 11 states seeing an increase over the past 10 years. A declining trust in the media and less interaction with neighbors are the main contributing factors, according to the Prosperity Index.

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Despite improved physical health in the U.S., growing self-reported mental illness, increasing deaths due to drug overdoses and a rise in cases of serious mental illness, indicate the country is facing a mental-health crisis.

No state saw an increase in all 11 pillars, and nearly all states have a pillar ranked below 30th, indicating room for improvement across the nation.

 

Evan Mealins is a reporting intern at the Alabama Political Reporter and student at Auburn University working toward a B.A. in media studies. You can follow him on Twitter @EvanMealins or email him at [email protected]

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