Americans value independence. We fought hard for it during the American Revolutionary War, and in the present day, we celebrate not only our freedom from the British crown but also our strong ability to rely upon ourselves as individuals. The past year and a half has been an especially big test of our independence, as Americans have been forced to stay much more isolated from others than usual during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thankfully, the distribution of the vaccine has allowed restrictions to become largely relaxed in recent months.
The pandemic hasn’t just kept people physically apart, though. It’s also caused financial hardship, which has led many people to become at least temporarily more dependent on support from the federal government. Other people have become more dependent on personal vices, such as drinking and drugs, due to isolation and stress.
In order to find out where Americans are the most self-reliant despite coronavirus, WalletHub compared the 50 states based on five sources of dependency: consumer finances, the government, the job market, international trade and personal vices. We broke down these categories into 39 key indicators of independence in order to determine which states are most self-sustaining.
Most Independent States
|Overall Rank||State||Total Score||Financial Dependency||Government Dependency||Job-Market Dependency||International-Trade Dependency||Vice Dependency|
Note: With the exception of “Total Score,” all of the columns in the table above depict the relative rank of that state, where a rank of 1 represents the best conditions for that metric category.
Ask the Experts
Reliance on others can be challenging to overcome. For the best ways to achieve greater independence in several of the dependency categories we examined in this report, we asked a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the following key questions:
- Is it fair that some states are more dependent than others on the federal government?
- How will the Federal Government condition future funding based on state-specific measures taken during the pandemic?
- What tips do you have for a person who wishes to increase his or her financial independence? What are some first steps?
- What tips do you have for a person who wishes to reduce his or her job dependency? Should they try to join the “gig” economy?
- Should presidential campaigns be publicly funded in order to help ensure the president is as independent as possible from special interests?
- Should states try to make their economies more or less dependent on international trade? How?
- How will the COVID-19 impact on the global economy and world trade affect production and consumption in the long term?
Ask the Experts
In order to determine the most independent states, WalletHub compared the 50 states across five key dimensions: 1) Financial Dependency, 2) Government Dependency, 3) Job-Market Dependency, 4) International-Trade Dependency and 5) Vice Dependency.
We evaluated those dimensions using 39 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the highest level of independence.
We then determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order the states.
Financial Dependency – Total Points: 20
- Median Credit Score: Full Weight (~1.18 Points)
- Share of Adults with Rainy-Day & Emergency Funds: Full Weight (~1.18 Points)
Note: This metric is based on the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s economic inclusion survey and measures to the share of adults who have set aside emergency or rainy day funds that would cover expenses for 3 months, in case of sickness, job loss, economic downturn, or other emergencies.
- Share of Adults Saving for Children’s College Education: Double Weight (~2.35 Points)
Note: “Adults” include individuals with financially dependent children.
- Employer-Based Retirement Access & Participation: Full Weight (~1.18 Points)
- Median Debt per Income: Double Weight (~2.35 Points)
- Median Household Income (Adjusted by Cost of Living Index): Full Weight (~1.18 Points)
- Poverty Rate: Full Weight (~1.18 Points)
- Age Dependency Ratio: Full Weight (~1.18 Points)
Note: Age dependency ratio is the ratio of dependents--people younger than 15 or older than 64 – to the working-age population – those ages 15-64.
- Share of Millennials Living with Their Parents: Full Weight (~1.18 Points)
- Share of Low-Income Households where No Adults Work: Full Weight (~1.18 Points)
- Share of “Underwater” Mortgages: Double Weight (~2.35 Points)
Note: This metric measures the share of homes with mortgages that have negative equity.
- Homeownership Rate: Full Weight (~1.18 Points)
- Foreclosure Rate: Full Weight (~1.18 Points)
- Bankruptcy Rate: Full Weight (~1.18 Points)
Government Dependency – Total Points: 20
- Federal Dependence: Quadruple Weight (~10.00 Points)
Note: This metric is based on WalletHub’s “Most & Least Federally Dependent States” ranking.
- Share of Household Receiving Public Assistance & SNAP/Food Stamps: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: “SNAP” refers to the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
- Share of Occupied Subsidized Housing Units: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Share of Federal-, State- & Local-Government Employees: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
- Tax Freedom Day: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
Note: “Tax Freedom Day” refers to the day when the state’s taxpayers have collectively earned enough money to pay their federal, state and local tax bills for the year. This metric measures the number of days since the beginning of the year that the event takes place (sooner indicates greater independence).
Job-Market Dependency – Total Points: 20
- Industry Variety: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Job Growth Rate: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Long-Term Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric measures the share of the unemployed who had been jobless for 27 weeks or longer.
- Underemployment Rate: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Job Creation Index: Full Weight (~3.33 Points)
Note: This metric is based on Gallup’s “Job Creation Index” and measures the share of workers who reported that their employer is increasing its workforce minus the percentage reporting the opposite.
International-Trade Dependency – Total Points: 20
- Share of Jobs Supported by Exported Goods: Full Weight (~6.67 Points)
- Share of Private-Industry Employment at Foreign-Owned Firms: Full Weight (~6.67 Points)
- Share of State GDP Generated by Exports to Other Countries: Full Weight (~6.67 Points)
Vice Dependency – Total Points: 20
- Share of Adult Drug Users: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
Note: “Drug Users” refer to individuals who reported using illicit drugs in the past month.
- Retail Opioid Prescriptions Dispensed per 100 Persons: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Share of Adult Binge Drinkers: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Share of Current Adult Smokers: Double Weight (~3.33 Points)
- Share of Adults with Gambling Disorders: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Share of Population Spending More than They Earn: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Share of Social-Network Users: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
Note: “Users” refer to the population aged 15 and older.
- Share of Online-Video Watchers: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
Note: “Watchers” refer to the population aged 15 and older.
- Share of Smart-Device Users: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
Note: “Users” refer to the population aged 3 and older.
- Median Daily Time Spent Watching TV: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
- Average Time Spent on Adult Entertainment Sites: Full Weight (~1.67 Points)
Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, FINRA Investor Education Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Council for Community and Economic Research, Tax Foundation, Gallup, International Trade Administration, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Council on Problem Gambling, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Minnesota Population Center, University of Minnesota, TransUnion, Renwood RealtyTrac, Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, ATTOM Data Solutions, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, PornHub and WalletHub research.