A surprising new study measuring economic and personal freedom finds that conservative red states are freer than more liberal blue states — and attracting more new residents.
George Mason University's Mercatus Center conducted the study, Freedom in the 50 States, calculating rankings according to a wide range of factors.
"We score all 50 states on over 200 policies encompassing fiscal policy, regulatory policy, and personal freedom," the center explained.
"We weight public policies according to the estimated costs that government restrictions on freedom impose on their victims."
Fiscal policy includes tax burden, government employment, government spending, government debt, and fiscal decentralization.
Regulatory policy includes freedom from tort abuse, property rights protection, labor market freedom, health insurance freedom, and several other factors.
The personal freedom category focuses on victimless crime freedom, gun control freedom, civil liberties, and freedom relating to a variety of topics including tobacco, alcohol, marriage, and gambling.
The overall freedom ranking was determined by combining scores for the three major categories.
The five states with the highest ranking for freedom are, in order, North Dakota, South Dakota, Tennessee, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma. Only New Hampshire voted for President Obama in the 2012 election.
The state with the lowest ranking for freedom is New York, followed by California, New Jersey, Hawaii, and Rhode Island. All five states voted for Obama in 2012.
Alaska scored the highest for personal freedom, South Dakota for economic freedom, Indiana for regulatory freedom, Texas for labor market freedom, and Nevada for civil liberties. California scored lowest in three of those categories.
The study also compared its freedom rankings to population shifts and income growth, and found that the freer states performed better on both fronts than did less-free states.
It found a strong correlation between freedom and migration, "which means that Americans are gravitating toward states that have less-intrusive governments,"
Investor's Business Daily (IBD) points out in an article about the study.
William Ruger, a political scientist at Texas State University and a co-author of the study, said: "People are voting for places with greater freedom," adding that "if you have economic freedom you will have economic growth."
IBD observes that the study's findings "call into question" assertions Obama made during the 2012 campaign that tax cuts and deregulation won't produce growth and prosperity.
"It doesn't work," he said. "It has never worked."
IBD concludes: "If anything, the data show precisely the opposite."