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McKinsey research informs “Best States” project

The World Economic Forum is a great place to make connections. As it happens, it was in Davos last year when McKinsey senior partner Vivian Riefberg met the leaders of U.S. News & World Report, who were launching their Best Countries Ranking. Given the tremendous success of “Best Countries” and McKinsey’s deep US-states expertise, why not collaborate, they thought, and do something similar for US states.

“We wanted to better inform an area that’s not always talked about,” shared Aly Spencer, an associate partner who works in the State and Local government practice. “There’s a lot of data at the national level and on cities, and so we saw an opportunity to look at the state level.”

As of today, U.S. News’s Best States platform is live, leveraging data collected and organized by McKinsey across seven categories: healthcare, education, infrastructure, crime and corrections, opportunity, economy, and government. All of this collectively makes up the Leading States Index. The weightings of each of the indices were based on McKinsey’s proprietary customer satisfaction survey that covered over 10,000 citizens in 22 states. The site includes U.S. News’s rankings and editorial content that offer a snapshot of states’ economic and social situations.

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From left, Aly Spencer, an associate partner in McKinsey’s New York office and Ted Rounsaville, an associate partner based in New Jersey

It took a collaborative effort over the course of nine months to collect, analyze, and synthesize the data so that it was as comprehensive yet as concise as possible. “We worked with longtime sector experts across healthcare, education, and infrastructure; McKinsey Global Institute researchers; and analytics and research capabilities from our Knowledge Networks in Waltham and Costa Rica,” explained Ted Rounsaville, an associate partner in the State and Local government practice who concentrates on education and healthcare. “Each of the seven categories was reviewed in depth by people who have spent their entire careers focused on those respective areas.”

What does “Leading States” mean for public sector institutions? “It’s the first comprehensive measurement of how citizens experience their states, so now government leaders can identify the most important opportunities to improve,” explained Aly. Additionally, it’s a tool for citizens and other community leaders to understand their states and how they can work collectively to improve them.

“We designed the Leading States Index with a strong citizen experience lens,” she added. “We used easily recognizable and broad measures that are relevant to all US citizens, like having access to high quality public education.”

As for the rankings’ results, “there is no clear winner,” observed Ted. Every state showed successes as well as areas for improvement. Now that it’s up and running, the index can be tracked and will be updated next year with the latest data.

Interested in learning more? Take a look here at how the states stack up.