Best-state ranking masks a distressing reality for Minnesota

Minnesota has long been at the top of most lists that matter: education, health, literacy, hockey. You name it and Minnesota is looking down on most every other state.

It’s a lofty spot and so unlike a state like ours to be  No. 1. It’s too showy a spot for Minnesotans. Coming in second is comfortably exceptional.

When you’re No. 2, you’re still not Louisiana, or Mississippi, or New Mexico, or West Virginia or any of those other places that some people think Minnesota should be more like to be successful.

No, thank you, US News and World Report. Being No. 2 is just fine, even if Iowa is No. 1 in its latest rankings of best and worst states.

Minnesota succeeded largely on the usual factors: quality of life (second) opportunity (third), infrastructure (sixth) and health care (seventh), which more than made up for middle-of-the-road scores in economy (20th) and fiscal stability (24th). Surprisingly, Minnesota lost out to Iowa on two relative strengths: education and health care.

What dinged Minnesota in the latter category was its No. 45 ranking in child visits to the dentist. No. 45! That’s Mississippi territory.

It also fared poorly in preventable hospital visits by Medicare/Medicaid beneficiaries.

There are other troubling signs for Minnesota, and none of them are new.

The state ranks 43rd in the amount of debt students have by the time they get out of college and 43rd in the growth of the 25-to-29-year-old population.

It’s employment gap by race — 47th — is shameful by any yardstick, especially since the state nearly leads the nation in household income, low food insecurity, and low poverty. And even housing affordability is 15th in the nation.

The state ranks 11th overall in the crime and correction category, but Minnesota is the next-to-worst state in the nation when it comes to the rate at which it locks up people of color, which shouldn’t come as any news since a study by the business news publication 24/7 Wall Street last fall identified Minnesota as a basket case. So have dozens of other studies.

And that’s the problem with rankings of states on overall factors. It allows us to be comfortable in our lofty second-place ranking while pretending that there isn’t a Minnesota that isn’t a good place to live.