NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Third Edition of Freedom in the 50 States

April 2, 2013

The Mercatus Center recently released the third edition of Freedom in the 50 States by Will Ruger and Jason Sorens. In this new edition, the authors score states on over 200 policy variables. Additionally, they have collected data from 2001 to measure how states' freedom rankings have changed over the past decade. While several organizations publish state freedom rankings, Freedom in the 50 States is the only one that measures both economic and personal freedoms, says Emily Washington, a policy research manager for the Mercatus Center.

Ruger and Sorens have implemented a new methodology for measuring freedom. While previously the authors developed a subjective weighting system in which they sought to determine how significantly policies limited the freedom of how many people, in this edition they use a victim-cost method, assigning a dollar value to each variable that restricts freedom measuring the cost of restricting freedom for potential victims. The authors' cost calculations are designed to measure the value of the states' freedom for the average resident.

In addition to an overall freedom ranking, Freedom in the 50 States includes a breakdown of states' Fiscal Policy Ranking, Regulatory Ranking and Personal Freedom Ranking.

  • On the overall freedom ranking, North Dakota comes in first followed by South Dakota, Tennessee, New Hampshire and Oklahoma.
  • At the bottom of the ranking, New York ranks worst by a significant margin, with rent control and burdensome insurance regulations dragging down its regulatory freedom score.
  • New York is behind California at 49th, then New Jersey, Hawaii and Rhode Island.

The authors note that residents respond to the costs of freedom-reducing policies by voting with their feet.

  • Between 2000 and 2011, New York lost 9 percent of its population to out-migration.
  • In addition to all types of freedom being associated with domestic migration, the authors find that regulatory freedom in particular is associated with states' growth in personal income.

Source: Emily Washington, "Third Edition of Freedom in the 50 States," Mercatus Center, March 28, 2013. "Freedom in the 50 States," Mercatus Center, March 2013.


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