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Red state, blue state, money

September 29, 2016

Governor Brownback no longer wants to be accountable for the economic trends of his administration, and so is burying the state report on that. It’s true, of course, that no one state’s course is true test of any policy. As with medicine, any one patient has a unique history and may respond idiosyncratically for any number of reasons. If you want to test state policies, compare all the states. That article rightly points out the tricks that are played otherwise:

How can conservative commentators claim that red states dominate? A tactic favored by Mr. Trump’s economic adviser Stephen Moore is to rely on measures goosed by population expansion, like job growth or a state economy’s size. That’s like portraying India as a beacon of prosperity because it has one of the biggest economies in the world and creates millions of jobs annually. Economic performance is measured in the lives of individuals, not aggregates. Another favorite approach is to cherry-pick a handful of red states with decent records and contrast them with the most troubled blue states. With Texas now stumbling as oil prices fall, the new conservative favorite is Utah. Utah’s low poverty rate and long life expectancy are impressive, but spotlighting a single state ignores the more numerous red states that dominate the lowest ranks of state performance — whether for life expectancy, obesity, rates of violent crime and incarceration, or labor force participation of prime-age workers.

Of course, even where someone isn’t purposely cherry picking the data, there’s still the problem that any correlation may have causes other than the one being tested. Many of the worst performing states were parts of the former Confederacy. Even now in the 21st century, that history may still be a cause of economic under-performance. As well as a their conservative leanings.

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