Quality of life index puts Maryland 12th, behind Virginia and Delaware

By Meg Tully


Chesapeake Bay satellite image. Photo by University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Photo by University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Maryland ranks 12th for overall quality of life out of the 50 states, according to a report released this week.

The study, published by the nonprofit, nonpartisan collaborative encyclopedia Ballotpedia, examined 19 different indices to determine quality of life from 1992 to 2012.

Neighboring states Virginia and Delaware both made the Top 10 rankings for overall quality of life, with Virginia at 7 and Delaware at 10. The state with the highest aggregate ranking was New Hampshire, and the worst performing state was Mississippi.

Virginia’s business record puts it above Maryland

Geoff Pallay, lead author of the study, said that Virginia and Maryland were similar in most data sets but Virginia outranked Maryland in best business surveys put out each year by publications like Forbes and CNBC.

“In all four of those different rankings, Maryland was out of the top 10 every year and actually for three of them it was in the 30s or the 40s,” Pallay said.

The only exception, he noted, was Maryland ranked 9th in the 2010 24/7 Wall Street Best/Worst Governed States.

In contrast, Virginia ranked in the first three spots for Forbes and CNBC’s rankings every year since 2006.

Maryland’s ranking increased during study period

Maryland was among five states that saw increases in rankings of more than 40% from the first half of the study to the second half. Maryland increased from 19.8 to 11.18.

Some of the data examined included: the poverty rate, best states for business as ranked by Forbes, real GDP per capita, unemployment rate, voter turnout and high school graduation rate.

Pallay said that there are regional externalities that contribute to quality of life, such as a regional economy or even better weather.

“By including so many indices, we’re hoping to cancel out the regional bias factor,” he said.

The report also aimed to get a big picture look by incorporating so much data and well-respected rankings, he said.

Maryland scored especially well in the state credit ranking category because the state maintained the highest possible credit rating for each of the 12 years an S&P credit rating was available. It tied with Delaware, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, Utah and North Carolina for top slot in the credit rating category.

Third part of study will overlay quality of life with state political trends

The quality of life ranking is the second part in a three-part series published on Ballotpedia that will examine how partisan politics contribute to quality of life.

The third part, expected to be published in July, will overlay quality of life with partisan trends in the states.

“We’re interested to see what kind of correlations we can find between what partisanship and different trends lead to better outcomes for various states,” Pallay said.

Ballotpedia is published by the Lucy Burns Institute, a non-profit organization whose mission includes connecting people to politics and promoting free and open information.

About The Author

Len Lazarick


Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Wilson Heath

    You really need to have mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds to have a high quality of life. FREEDUMB!

  2. Arlo Hanlin Hemphill

    Wow, this is really the worst study ever. The bias is horrendous. One of the indicators is whether Wall Street decides the state is well or poorly governed? And percentage of government employment is a negative?? No wonder Maryland falls behind! Why don’t we ask our Federal workforce in the DC suburbs if they’d be happier living in Delaware?

    • Ken430TX

      Agreed! Taxes are outrageous, infrastructure is in poor condition and failing, the electric grid constantly is in need of repair, and the water mains explode without warning! Maryland is a state to be FROM, far away FROM!

  3. JGwen

    Interestingly, the chart for Maryland indicates information in certain categories that were included and considered were not available. To me, several of these categories would have substantial impact on the overall rating if they were available for consideration.

    State Quality of Life Index (SQLI)

    CAFR Debt/GDP N/A
    Poverty Rate N/A
    Real GDP per capita N/A
    State Govt. Spending/GDP N/A
    State & local tax burden N/A
    Unfunded Pension Liabilities per capita N/A

    N/A The index type that Maryland had the lowest ranking in was Tax Freedom Day, in which it ranked 44th