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January 21, 2015

For the second year in a row, Politico magazine has ranked states in terms of overall “strength” based on the idea that education, health, and wealth make a state strong, while crime, unemployment, and death do not. The Garden State came in No. 10, jumping up two spots from 12, presumably because the unemployment rate has vastly improved from 7.8 percent to this year’s 6.4 percent.

The ranking is based on a 1931 H.L. Mencken magazine series called the “Worst American State” and takes the ideas embodied in judging a state’s wellbeing and uses today’s data to conduct a ranking. (In 1931, New Jersey was ranked fourth by Mencken.)

New Jersey performs best when it comes to per capita income ($36,027) and eighth-grade reading and math scores. It also does well -- but not superlatively -- in the percent employed in computing, engineering, and science; percent living below the federal poverty level; and lack of obesity. And it’s got some work to do when it comes to percent of home ownership, life expectancy, high school graduates, violent crime rate, and income inequality.

Minnesota and New Hampshire were tied for first in this year’s rankings. Mississippi came in at the bottom as it did last year and also in 1931.

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