A few months ago, a job recruiter warned me that a job listing was in a “red state,” eventually clarifying that an increasing number of applicants were refusing to consider moving to states with a strong Republican lean.

While there are numerous valid personal reasons^{1} for this, the bluntness surprised me and made me curious
precisely how much quality of life varies with the political leaning of a state.

To be clear, **none of the conclusions here prove a causal relationship**. The focus is on a broad comparison based on
the recruiter’s simple “red state vs. blue state” framework.

## Significant trends, in order of statistical significance#

When values are aggregated from lower-level metrics, we split the hierarchy into high-level, mid-level, and low-level metrics. This hierarchy helps us understand the broader trends while also allowing us to zoom in on specific areas of interest.

Below, we present the strength of the statistically significant^{2} trends as explained by political party lean
alone. Later, we’ll show plots that demonstrate a large fraction of these trends remain significant even after
correcting for differences in state wealth (measured by per capita GDP) and population density.^{3}

### High-level metrics#

Overall, Republican states:

- Have
**stronger government fiscal stability**, such as a balanced budget \( \left( p \approx 0.1\% \right) \) - Offer
**more opportunity**, such as lower cost of living \( \left( p \approx 0.2\% \right) \)

On the other hand, Democratic states:

- Have
**better health care**\( \left( p \approx 1 \cdot 10^{-11} \right) \) - Enjoy
**higher incomes**\( \left( p \approx 6 \cdot 10^{-9} \right) \) **Live longer**\( \left( p \approx 2 \cdot 10^{-6} \right) \)- Are
**happier**\( \left( p \approx 0.02\% \right) \) - Have
**better environments**, such as less pollution \( \left( p \approx 0.7\% \right) \) - Enjoy
**more personal freedoms**^{4}\( \left( p \approx 0.9\% \right) \)

### Mid-level metrics#

Overall, Republican states:

- Are
**more affordable**\( \left( p \approx 2 \cdot 10^{-13} \right) \) - Demonstrate
**better short-term government fiscal stability**\( \left( p \approx 0.01\% \right) \)

While Democratic states:

- Have
**better public health**\( \left( p \approx 5 \cdot 10^{-10} \right) \) - Enjoy
**higher emotional and physical well-being**\( \left( p \approx 3 \cdot 10^{-6} \right) \) - Provide
**broader health care access**\( \left( p \approx 1 \cdot 10^{-5} \right) \) - Achieve
**better crime / corrections outcomes**\( \left( p \approx 1 \cdot 10^{-5} \right) \) - Offer
**higher economic opportunity**\( \left( p \approx 0.07\% \right) \) - Maintain
**better health care quality**\( \left( p \approx 0.08\% \right) \) - Foster
**better business environments**\( \left( p \approx 0.1\% \right) \) - Achieve
**higher equality**\( \left( p \approx 0.7\% \right) \) - Ensure
**less pollution**\( \left( p \approx 1.0\% \right) \)

### Selected low-level metrics#

There are too many significant trends to list here, so we only highlight those with minimal overlap with previous higher-level categories. All trends can be viewed in the dropdown selector in the next section.

Overall, Republican states:

- Enjoy
**shorter commutes**\( \left( p \approx 1 \cdot 10^{-5} \right) \) - Have a
**lower tax burden**\( \left( p \approx 3 \cdot 10^{-5} \right) \) - Maintain
**higher-quality roads**\( \left( p \approx 6 \cdot 10^{-5} \right) \) - Earn
**more 2-year college degrees**\( \left( p \approx 0.1\% \right) \) - Experience
**higher migration rates**\( \left( p \approx 1.3\% \right) \)

In contrast, Democratic states:

- Have
**better public transit**\( \left( p \approx 1 \cdot 10^{-10} \right) \) - Achieve
**more equal incomes between genders**\( \left( p \approx 2 \cdot 10^{-8} \right) \) - Are
**more educated**\( \left( p \approx 7 \cdot 10^{-8} \right) \) - Maintain
**lower incarceration rates**\( \left( p \approx 3 \cdot 10^{-7} \right) \) - Ensure
**better internet access**\( \left( p \approx 2 \cdot 10^{-6} \right) \) - Have
**lower suicide rates**\( \left( p \approx 5 \cdot 10^{-6} \right) \) - Create
**more patents**\( \left( p \approx 1 \cdot 10^{-5} \right) \) - Earn
**more 4-year college degrees**\( \left( p \approx 0.02\% \right) \) - Receive
**more venture capital funding**for businesses \( \left( p \approx 0.02\% \right) \) - Ensure
**lower food insecurity**and**lower poverty rates**\( \left( \text{both } p \approx 0.04\% \right) \) - Enjoy
**more affordable health care**\( \left( p \approx 0.05\% \right) \) - Host
**more company headquarters**\( \left( p \approx 0.2\% \right) \) - Maintain
**more reliable power grids**\( \left( p \approx 2.1\% \right) \)

## Plots of all trends (dropdown selection)#

Here, we provide a hierarchical view of every plot. Use the dropdown menu to explore various quality of life metrics and see how they correlate with political party strength.

The WalletHub (“WH”) happiness scores have two layers of hierarchical information, while the US News (“USN”) quality of life categories have three layers of metrics.

The 16 metrics that are significantly better in Republican states are marked “[R]” and the 43 metrics that are significantly better in Democratic states are marked “[D]”.

**Select metric to plot**

## See also and references#

For additional details, see the links in the footnotes and the data sets themselves. I primarily analyzed data from the following sources:

- The
2022 Cook Partisan Voter Index,
which judges the political lean of each state over the last two presidential elections compared to the nation as a
whole. They only publicly publish this to whole percentage points, so I replicated the calculation
^{5}myself for additional precision using the 2016 and 2020 publications from the Federal Election Commission.^{6} - The Cato Institute’s 2023 Personal Freedom Index
- The 2024 US News Best States Rankings at all levels of their hierarchy: (high-level) categories, (mid-level) category attributes, and (low-level) category attribute metrics.
- WalletHub’s 2023 Happiest States in America
- The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’s May 2023 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates
- The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis’s 2023 state GDPs
- The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2023 state population estimates and 2010 State Area Measurements for population density calculations
- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2020 States Life Tables

Reproductive and LGBT rights immediately come to mind as unequivocal deal-breakers for many individuals. Similarly, I know a number of teachers who refuse to consider Republican states due to increasing attacks on education in general. ↩︎

Here and in the later plots, we’re using a significance level of \( \alpha = 0.05 \), Benjamini-Hochberg corrected for the large number of multiple comparisons. This effectively controls the false discovery rate without inflating the likelihood of false positives and ends up being equivalent to taking a per-trend significance level of \( \alpha \approx 2.1\% \). ↩︎

Almost all the metrics analyzed here are already quoted on a per-capita basis, so correcting for population density effects is more appropriate than population alone. Technically speaking, we actually correct against log population density in order to address heteroscedasticity in the data. ↩︎

It

*might*be surprising on the surface that Republican states have significantly fewer personal freedoms than Democratic ones, but as the Cato Institute explains, “socially conservative states tend to restrict alcohol, gambling, marijuana, and, until Obergefell v. Hodges, marriage freedoms.” Other examples include some GOP charters striving to require proof of fault for all divorces and aiming to repeal the Voting Rights Act of 1965. ↩︎This was actually somewhat difficult since their official methodology and every source I could find are ambiguous and/or misleading on the precise calculation. What they’re actually doing is

- Tabulate per-state vote counts for the Republican and Democratic candidates.
- Calculate the percentage that voted Republican/Democratic
*out of those that voted for either party*. So, a state that votes 45% Republican / 50% Democratic gets normalized to ~47.4% Republican / ~52.6% Democratic. - Compare this to the same nation-wide calculation, again normalizing the percentage by ignoring all third-party voters. This uses the total votes for each party’s candidate across the entire country rather than an aggregation of the states’ results. I.e., the comparison is to the “average voter”, not the “average state”.
- Subtract the per-state and nation-wide party leans and report the final index as the 75% / 25% weighted average of the last two presidential elections.

As a humorous aside, the

↩︎**official**U.S. Excel export for the 2020 results have an overlooked note to double-check one of the vote counts in Connecticut (placed in a column that should be blank for that state). It seems they officially tabulated 219 votes for some minor candidate, but wanted to double-check if the actual count was 218? Indeed, the government site for the Connecticut Secretary of State claims 218 votes here, so the discrepancy appears real.