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We're No. 1? The Trouble With U.S. News And World Report's Ranking Of The Bay State

 (Your Best Digs/Flickr)
(Your Best Digs/Flickr)

I think I hear the duck boats being fired up for another parade. No, not for another sports championship, but for Massachusetts being ranked No. 1 by U.S. News and World Report for outcomes for citizens. From health care access to education to internet access, we are at the top.

This is worth celebration — but are we really No. 1?

While we hold the superlative in several categories, we rank 45th in income inequality, which means there are 44 other states who have done a better job at building their community so everyone has the opportunity to thrive. This means 44 other states — from Utah to Arkansas to our neighbor, New Hampshire — perform better in measurements of opportunity and have worked harder to give all neighbors a fair shot.

Income inequality impacts all of us, no matter our income bracket or ZIP code. From missed talent, to failing infrastructure, to college debt, closing the income inequality gap solves many issues still plaguing our state.

From missed talent, to failing infrastructure, to college debt, closing the income inequality gap solves many issues still plaguing our state.

Massachusetts ranks 46th for prison overpopulation. This means we need to work harder to create pathways for otherwise disconnected young people so that they can contribute to our community and economy. For many, this starts young. Providing universal prekindergarten for children would not only reduce the likelihood that they will be arrested by 50 percent, but would provide the opportunity to one day earn 50 percent more in income, too.

In Massachusetts, our road quality ranks 47th. Infrastructure might not seem directly connected to income inequality, but it is. New and updated infrastructure powers our economy and catalyzes economic and rapid productivity growth. Investments in infrastructure create thousands of well-paying jobs — and help our hard-working Bay Staters get to their jobs on time and safely.

Lastly, we rank 39th for debt at graduation and 41st for tuition and fees. Tuition and fees at colleges and universities throughout the state more than doubled between 2002 and 2013, and they’re steadily climbing still. We know that college degrees have a profound effect on a person’s income and upward mobility — and therefore their future contribution to our community — but it’s still not accessible to everyone. In fact, more than 3,890 college students and alumni across the commonwealth have signed onto the Fair Shot agenda and reached out to their local legislators in order to encourage debt-free college here in Massachusetts.

It’s time to start passing laws to increase universal pre-kindergarten and reduce the debt of higher education, which are proven ways to give everyone a fair shot and keep Massachusetts at the top.

It’s all connected. We ranked 33rd in GDP growth — in part because people across the state are struggling to get the education they deserve. We rank 47th in commute time because our road quality is so poor and we rank No. 1 in train derailment because our public transportation is so outdated. While students throughout Massachusetts are sinking $234 million a month into loan payments, consider what that dollar amount might mean for transportation funding.

Our top ranking in health care access isn’t by chance, but because Massachusetts has made health care reform laws a priority in every legislative session since 2006. Massachusetts has led the nation in many ways, and it has often started by tackling tough issues. If we want to continue to be No. 1 in the United States, we have to work on our weaknesses — and that means starting with income inequality.

In order to make steps towards closing the gap, it’s time to start passing laws to increase universal prekindergarten and reduce the debt of higher education, which are proven ways to give everyone a fair shot and keep Massachusetts at the top.

Related:

Matt Patton Twitter Cognoscenti contributor
Matt Patton is the executive director of Fair Shot for All.

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