RI ‘used to be about as rich as Mass.,’ then ‘stagnated terribly’September 5th, 2012 at 1:21 pm by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
Slate’s Matt Yglesias serves up some real talk about Rhode Island (emphasis mine):
The real truth, as noted in this great Andrew Gelman post from five years ago, is that there isn’t that much change over time in states’ economic well-being. All things considered the best predictor of how rich a state was in 2000 was simply how rich it was in 1929. There are some exceptions to this. … Rhode Island used to be about as rich as Massachusetts and has stagnated terribly. …
[T]he truth is that it’s very difficult to alter to the long-term trajectory of a state’s economic fortune. That’s primarily because people can move. If Mississippi starts doing a much better job of preparing its students to succeed in higher education, a lot of those people will probably leave and move to higher-income states like Connecticut or Massachusetts. Indeed, neither [Deval] Patrick nor Romney was born in Massachusetts. Rather, like many of the state’s most successful individuals they moved to the Bay State from elsewhere to go to Harvard and then stuck around. But creating Harvard was a smart public policy initiative undertaken in the seventeenth century and not something anyone alive today can take credit for.
This is something too often missed in all the debates over Rhode Island’s economy - after starting at parity after World War II, the state has spent six decades losing ground economically to its neighbors, particularly during the 1980s and 1990s. That’s a major problem for a variety of reasons, many of which were noted by Josh Barro in his must-read post from May.
Yglesias also indirectly references this 2005 Steve Sailer post tabulating “the monetary standard of living by state, as calculated by median income for a family of four divided by the Accra’s cost of living index.” Sailer gives Minnesota the highest standard of living, “at least in terms of things money can buy (i.e., not weather).”
As for Rhode Island? It was way down the list at #40, far behind Connecticut (#15), Massachusetts (#20) and Vermont (#33). (The other two New England states weren’t ranked due to lack of data.)