Purpose of the Index

Purpose of the Index

This project develops an index of economic and personal freedom in the American states. Specifically, it examines state and local government intervention across a wide range of public policies, from income taxation to gun control, from homeschooling regulation to drug policy.

This report can be put to a variety of uses:

  1. State legislators, their staff, and local policy makers interested in liberty can use the data and rankings to see where their states stand relative to others and to determine where real improvements can be made. While recognizing that policy makers are better situated to make such determinations, we offer some pro-freedom policy recommendations tailored for each state. These are contained in the state profiles located at the end of the study.
  2. Scholars can use the indices to model politics and policy outcomes in areas such as economic growth and migration.
  3. Businesses considering new investment or relocation can use the data to analyze state tax and regulatory regimes and the relative openness and tolerance that attract highly productive employees.
  4. Individuals can use the data to plan a move or retirement.

We score all 50 states on overall respect for individual freedom and on specific components of freedom: fiscal policy, regulatory policy, and paternalism. The data are valid as of January 1, 2009 (fiscal data through fiscal year 2008), the latest year available consistently across our variables. Our approach in this study is to weight policies according to the number of people affected, the intensity of preferences on the issue, and the importance of state policy variation. However, we happily concede that different people value aspects of freedom differently. Hence, we provide the raw data and weightings on our website so interested readers may construct their own personal freedom rankings.

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