8 Economic Indicators — Are Red or Blue States Better?

In comparing the quality of life between Red vs Blue states, I’ll be grouping all 23 indicators into 4 main categories:

Intro Comments

As with every other indicator in this study, all of the data collected comes from official government sources and not potentially liberal universities, think tanks, etc.  Specifically, the Bureau of Econ Analysis at the Dep of Commerce (GDP per Capita), the US Census (Median Income, HS Graduation, College Graduation), the Bureau of Labor Statistics at the Dep of Labor (Unemployment), the Dep of Agriculture (All Poverty, Child Poverty), and the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (Homelessness).  All data sets are the most recent I could find, and from 2018 or 2019, except for the two graduation rates (2017).

If you have any questions about purchasing power parity, what year $$’s are bench-marked at, real vs nominal figures, etc etc, then please check out the respective data sets linked to in this Excel document on Economic Indicators.  Since this is just a personal side project I’m doing for fun, I decided to defer to whatever that gov agency decided was the best to collect and present that stat when comparing states.

One interesting indicator that was ultimately rejected was 1) a State Gov’s Federal Dependency, ie funding per capita a state receives from the national government.  In some recent debates, states that take the most money are, in a twist of the common phrase, “welfare states.”  However, I couldn’t find direct gov stats, only third party studies (which themselves used such stats).  Similarly, I couldn’t find anything about per capita welfare program participation, except for 2) Food Stamps.  I rejected using this since I didn’t want to be seen as cherry picking this particular program.  Both Indicators are analyzed in the Controversial Indicators post (not yet up).

TL ; DR!

Note: A political party can do “vastly,” “clearly,” or “slightly” better.

GDP per Capita  –  Democrats do Vastly Better

Median Household Income – Democrats do Vastly Better

Unemployment  –  Democrats do Slightly Better

All People in Poverty  –  Democrats do Vastly Better

Child Poverty  –  Democrats do Vastly Better

Pop Graduated HS  –  Democrats do Slightly Better

Pop Graduated College  –  Democrats do Vastly Better

Homelessness – Republicans do Vastly Better

GDP per Capita

In this oft touted economic metric, Democrats do vastly better than Republicans in 2019, winning each category and almost all with major wins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The purpose of this study isn’t to get into causal pathways, but I’ll nonetheless be sharing my own personal ideas on such and speculate on patterns.  Feel free to do the same in the comments!

The first things that caught my eye was oil – every Red states in the good basket (top 15) is a major producer of oil and natural gas.  Texas and North Dakota are the top producers of oil in the US by a huge margin.  Alaska and Wyoming are 6th and 8th, respectively.  If all of the wealthy Red states are wealthy because of oil, it makes me wonder how the inevitable switch to renewable energy will affect American politics.  Additionally, I wonder how much the resource curse has already impacted these “Banana Republics.”

I’d also like to note that Dems are split almost 50-50 above and below the US average.  However, this changes dramatically when you account for how Blue a state is.  (1) means they voted Blue or Red in all 4 past elections, while (.5) means they “defected” once.  There’s only one (.5) Blue state above the average (and it’s close to it).  In sharp contrast, 55% of Blue states below the average are (.5)’s.

*Note: This level of partisanship isn’t formally accounted for in my data analysis.  However, if anyone has the time, it’d be great to run those numbers!

All in all, it seems the more Blue, the better you do!  Unless, of course, you have oil.

Data Sets 1 ,2

Model & Failed States – Top & Bottom 5

60% are the Model States are Blue, making Democrats only the minor winner for this metric.

However, 100% of Failed States are Red, making Democrats the major winner.

The Good & Bad Baskets – Top & Bottom 15

73% of the Good Basket, are Blue, making Democrats the major winner.

Similarly, 73% of the Bad Basket are Red, again giving Democrats a major win.

States Making America Great – Percent Above US Average

Last, but not least, 52% of Blue States and 21% of Red States are Making America Great.  So Democrats are the major winner here by a hair.

Median Household Income

Again, as with almost all of the economic indicators, Blue states have an absolutely decisive victory over Red states in 2018 – with major wins in all 5 metrics!  I should have added a “devastatingly better” title for indicators.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, I’d like to point out that, again, it looks like oil is responsible for the Red state outliers who’re above the US average.  Alaska and North Dakota were already noted, but Utah fits the mold since it earned 10th place in oil production in the source I link to above.

Second, the same pattern of Blue partisanship holds true again, but this time in sharper contrast.  Now 71% of the Blue states that’re below the US average are (.5)’s.  Similarly, the first seven states are all (1), ie true Blue Democrats!

Personally, I also think Median Income is much more important than GDP per Capita since it looks at where regular Americans are at and isn’t skewed dramatically by billionaire outliers.

Again, it appears the middle class is sustained by liberal policies.  Unless, of course, you have oil.

Data Sets 1, 2

Model & Failed States – Top & Bottom 5

100% of the Model States are Blue, making Democrat the major winner.

And 80% of Failed States are Red, again making Democrats the major winner.

The Good & Bad Baskets – Top & Bottom 15

87% of the Good Basket are Blue, making Democrats a third major win.

Similarly, 87% of the Bad Basket are Red, giving Democrats yet another major win.

States Making America Great – Percent Above US Average

Last, but not least, 70% of Blue States and a mere 13% of Red States are Making America Great.  So Democrats are the major winner here by an enormous margin.

Labor Force Unemployed

Democrats definitely won this indicator, carrying 3 of 5 metrics, including the only major win, over Republicans in 2019.  And while the liberal in me is content with the results, the researcher in me wishes the quality of the data and some technical aspects of its analysis were better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, some points about analysis.  Namely, there isn’t much difference or variation in the numbers as I’d like, resulting in a lot of ties.  So, for instance, I had to take the top 6 and bottom 16 states.  This, combined with the fact that Purple states count as zero (see the Methodology post), made for some weird results for both “Basket” metrics.

Second, it looks like this metric would benefit a lot from elucidating partisanship a bit more.  For instance, the first “solid Blue state” with a (1) is 8th from the bottom.  Additionally, a very close majority of Red and Blue states are above the US average.

Third, I’d like to point out that my Red Oil Theory continues to hold since North Dakota and Utah are leading Red states.

Fourth, there’s no Welfare Indicator (except in the Controversial Indicators post (to come)) in this study, but with how much conservatives talk up welfare as being horrible because it incentivizes unemployment, this indicator at least comments on the debate.  To start, no one really disagrees with this claim.  Welfare obviously lowers employment incentives.  But this doesn’t yet tell the full story.  After all, seat belts lower incentives to drive safely.

The real question is, “how much?”  And the answer, which this indicator proves, is “not nearly enough to warrant conservative panic.”  Even if welfare lowers employment incentives, a roaring economy (see first two indicators) more than makes up for it.  Additionally, Dem’s believe welfare reduces poverty, which is addressed in the next metric.

Data Set 1

Model & Failed States – Top & Bottom 5

60% of the Model States are Blue this time, making Democrats the minor winner.

80% of Failed States are Red, again making Democrats the major winner.

The Good & Bad Baskets – Top & Bottom 15

47% of the Good Basket are Blue, making Democrats the minor winner here.

Also, 50% of the Bad Basket are Blue, giving Republicans their minor win.

States Making America Great – Percent Above US Average

Lastly, 61% of Blue States and 71% of Red States are Making America Great.  So Republicans are the minor winner here.

All People in Poverty

Like Median Income above, Democrats won another “crushing” victory over Republicans in 2018 since all five metrics were major wins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once again, my Red Oil Theory holds.  All of the leading Red states, except for Nebraska, are top 10 oil producers.

In addition, it seems that welfare is doing the job predicted by Democrats and staving off poverty.  Despite there being pretty similar amounts of unemployed people in both Red and Blue states, percentage-wise, Blue states do an excessively better job making sure those unemployed people aren’t in poverty.  Yes, this means a few grifters won’t reap the fruits of their laziness.  But that’s a bullet I’m personally more than willing to take to make sure a family down on their luck can eat.

Data Set 1

Model & Failed States – Top & Bottom 5

80% of the Model States are Blue, making Democrat the major winner.

And 80% of Failed States are Red, similarly making Democrats the major winner.

The Good & Bad Baskets – Top & Bottom 15

73% of the Good Basket are Blue, giving Democrats another major win.

And 87% of the Bad Basket are Red, giving Democrats yet another major win.

States Making America Great – Percent Above US Average

87% of Blue States and 42% of Red States are Making America Great.  So Democrats are the major winner here, with an enormous percent above average.

Child Poverty

Similar to percent of all people in poverty above, Democrats have almost all majors wins across all 5 metrics compared to Republicans for 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you Jesus (it appears) that the oil rich Red states of Utah and North Dakota have used their money to bail children out of poverty.  However, Blue states, again, completely dominate this indicator.

This is the first of six child centered or related indicators.  I speak about all of them together and relate them to the abortion debate in the up coming Summary of All 23 Indicators post.  But briefly, if you care about abortion so much that it’s what you focus on when casting your ballot, then you should care about child poverty.  And on this, Democrats do a vastly better job.

Data Set 1

Model & Failed States – Top & Bottom 5

60% of the Model States are Blue, making Democrat only the minor winner.

And 80% of Failed States are Red, providing Democrats a major winner.

The Good & Bad Baskets – Top & Bottom 15

67% of the Good Basket are Blue, giving Democrats another major win.

And 87% of the Bad Basket are Red, giving Democrats a third another major win.

States Making America Great – Percent Above US Average

Finally, 83% of Blue States and 42% of Red States are Making America Great.  So Democrats are the major winner here.

High School Graduation

Like Unemployment, Democrats only do a bit better than Republicans on this metric in 2017.  Republicans have a win and a tie, but Democrats still pull three wins, two of them major.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d like to start by making it clear why education is included under economics: human capital theory.  Some conservatives complain about education as if it’s part of some liberal agenda, but the truth is that its just Econ 101 straightforward required for a flourishing economy.  It’s also, of course, intrinsically valuable for a flourishing mind, arts, and  civil society.  But I included it here to emphasize, in true conservative American fashion, it’s economy utility.

Notably, the Good Basket here is the first and only tie I recorded across all indicators, a result of Purple states counting for 0, ie neither side.  I’d interpret this plus the other metrics as, “It’s unclear whether Red or Blue states do HS better, but it’s clear who does it worse.”

Also, my Red Oil Theory is still certainly present, but not as strong.  Besides Montana at first, the next four Red states (much of the Good Basket, btw) are all oil states.

I’d also like to note that out of all 23 indicators, this is where there is the most “socialist” agreement across all 50 states.  Every single state has guaranteed every student, regardless of ability to pay, schooling through high school.  It’d be interesting to see how states compare when this guarantee is removed.

Data Set 1, 2

Model & Failed States – Top & Bottom 5

60% of the Model States are Red, making Republicans the minor winner.

And 60% of Failed States are Red, providing Democrats a minor winner.

The Good & Bad Baskets – Top & Bottom 15

50% of the Good Basket are Red & Blue, making this a tie.

And 73% of the Bad Basket are Red, giving Democrats the first major win.

States Making America Great – Percent Above US Average

Finally, 83% of Blue States and 50% of Red States are Making America Great.  Providing Democrats a second major win.

College Graduation

With % of the population graduating college we’re back to a crystal clear win for Democrats over Republicans in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, this win is all the more stark when additional “hues” are taken into account.  The bottom five Blue states are all (.5) states and Maine is the only “true blue” Democrat state, ie (1), to fall under the US average.

Second, a limitation of this indicator is that it does not include trade jobs.  I’d love to have included some kind of indicator on average salary for a trade job or graduates from trade schools, but didn’t easily find anything.  I need to look more into this, and if I ever find something will have to add it.

Nonetheless, despite all of the complaints about college, especially skyrocketing costs (see guaranteed public option I mention for HS), it’s still the case that a college degree will add 50 to 100% more, on average, to your lifetime income compared to only a HS diploma, and this earning gap is continuing to get wider.  They’re expensive, but remain well worth the price tag.

Data Set 1, 2,

Model & Failed States – Top & Bottom 5

60% of the Model States are Blue, making Democrat only the minor winner.

And 80% of Failed States are Red, providing Democrats a major winner.

The Good & Bad Baskets – Top & Bottom 15

67% of the Good Basket are Blue, giving Democrats another major win.

And 87% of the Bad Basket are Red, giving Democrats a third another major win.

States Making America Great – Percent Above US Average

Finally, 83% of Blue States and 42% of Red States are Making America Great.  So Democrats are the major winner here.

Homelessness

Here we finally have a solid win for Republicans over Democrats in 2019, taking all 5 metric including two major wins!

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, this win is even more impressive if you account for more nuance political affiliation since 60% of the top 5 Blue States are (.5)’s and there’s only one Red state below the US average.  Additionally, only one Red state is below the US Average.  Democrat states clearly have a massive homelessness problem!

Second, we can muse over the causes, but I think both conservatives and liberals roughly agree that higher houses costs in Blue states and lower pop density and more land in Red states plays a big role.  Like unemployment, it’s also likely that Republicans are right that welfare lowers incentives to rise out of poverty, including homelessness.

Third, I’d like to mention a well tested and proven liberal leaning “welfare type” of solution that even Blue states aren’t doing – just give the homeless free homes.  It’s consistently worked in foreign countries and domestic states, and is cheaper than approaching the problem with policing and shelters.  You can read here how it reduced homelessness in Utah by 90%.  And then once the program was stopped, homelessness doubled.

Data Set 1, 2,

Model & Failed States – Top & Bottom 5

60% of the Model States are Red this time, making Republicans the minor winner.

100% of Failed States are Blue, again making Republicans the major winner.

The Good & Bad Baskets – Top & Bottom 15

53% of the Good Basket are Red, making Republicans the minor winner here.

Also, 80% of the Bad Basket are Blue, giving Republicans a major win.

States Making America Great – Percent Above US Average

Lastly, 61% of Blue States and 96% of Red States are Making America Great.  So Republicans are the minor winner here.

Conclusion

I’ve already spoken about quite a few different topics.  But to recap and add a bit:

Blue states clearly do better than Red states on Economic Indicators, except for homelessness.  And to bolster this point, it appears like there’s decent evidence that most Red outliers that are doing well, economically-speaking, are doing well because of oil.

Whether this overall economic success is caused by Blue policies and culture or vice versa is hard to say.  However, in so far as you think political policies and culture affect economic outcomes, 12 years of voting Democrat hasn’t severely hurt Blue states’ current economic outlook, and voting Conservative hasn’t done wonders for Red states.

5 responses to “8 Economic Indicators — Are Red or Blue States Better?

  1. Pingback: Research Methodology — Are Red or Blue States Better? | Applied Sentience·

  2. Pingback: 7 Health Indicators – Are Red or Blue States Better? | Applied Sentience·

  3. Pingback: Summary of 23 Quality of Life Indicators — Are Red or Blue States Better? | Applied Sentience·

    • Good thing to look in to! Economists and sociologists usually look into both pull and push factors for why ppl move. And these factors vary for diff demographics! So first ask who’s moving and then ask those ppl why.

      The leading explanation is that relatively wealthy individuals are moving bc of housing costs. Housing costs are higher in CA, NY bc everyone wants to live there. Ppl have been moving into those states for a long time and now they’ve past a supply and demand threshold. Tx, Fl are a lot poorer and have much lower housing costs in their cities. So these middle and upper class CA, NY indv’s can get more bang for their buck there.

      However, most ppl who can afford to move (which is always expensive) in Tx, Fl are still too poor to get comparable places in Ca, Ny.

      Like

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