Iowa — When you are at the top, there is nowhere to go but down.
Iowa fell from first place to 14th overall in the annual ranking of states from U.S. News & World Report.
Iowa did rank well in quite a few categories. Iowa ranks second in opportunity, thanks in large part to affordability. Iowa also ranks within the top ten for education. But it took a big step backwards in terms of healthcare, infrastructure and natural environment.
The biggest change was in infrastructure. In 2018 Iowa was the best state in this category, but now it is 23rd.
“They haven’t provided a lot of information about the reasons why the numbers changed. So we don’t have a lot of detail to share at this point about how they are conducting their calculations at U.S News and World Report,” Matthew Behrens, Iowa’s Chief Technology Officer said.
One of the biggest reasons for dropping in infrastructure is ranking 39th for internet access.
“I think what the report underscores, at least from my standpoint, is the governor is focused on the right things, which include a lot of the rural broadband development programs that we are working on right now and some of the funding that’s going to be coming up for the broadband grant programs down the road,” Behrens said.
Iowa is also 39th in transportation, mainly due to public transit usage and the second worst bridge quality in the nation.
A new category for this year’s ranking is natural environment. Iowa fell short in this category, landing as one of the ten worst states for air and water quality.
“We can really point directly to the factory farm industry as polluters to our air and water,” said Cherie Mortice, board president for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI). “It’s well documented. Iowa CCI raised the red flag on this in the 1990s when we began to see them expanding very rapidly and now the expansion is literally out of control.”
Healthcare was another low point for Iowa. Last year it ranked third, but now it plummeted to 20th. While Iowa did rank first in healthcare affordability and eighth in mental health, it was within the ten worst in Medicare quality, hospital quality and low obesity rates.
Gov. Kim Reynolds released a statement today saying: “Iowa is and will always be the best place in America to live, work, and raise a family. As I have said all along, we’re just getting started. That’s why this year I proposed a bold new plan for a more coordinated health care system, greater funding for broadband internet, and history investments in education and job training. I’m proud of the progress we’ve made, and I’m as excited as ever about where we’re heading.”
Economy also played a big role in Iowa’s overall ranking, despite having the second lowest unemployment rate in the country. It was dinged for things like being the third worst in job growth and having a high tax burden. It also landed 44th in business environment and entrepreneurship.
You can click here to see the full report for 2019.