2002-10-31 / Arts & Entertainment

ANDY ROONEY

©2002 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

States By

The Numbers

Minnesota is the best state to live in, according to a book of statistics called "State Rankings," put together by Kathleen and Scott Morgan—who live in Kansas, the 13th best state to live in.

After Minnesota come Iowa, New Hampshire, Virginia and Massachusetts. It’s hard to understand why New Hampshire is third and Vermont only 18th best because those two states are almost indistinguishable in many respects.

The worst states to live in, according to the book, are Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi. Florida is ranked way down as 39th best, which is strange, considering how many people choose to go there from some other state to live.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are now 288,291,993 people in the United States. I hope we don’t decide to have a celebration in a few years when we hit 300 million because it’s nothing to celebrate. Empty lots have been disappearing under houses, apartment buildings and office structures all my life. The more people we have, the more buildings we put up.

We don’t need any more people. If God was rewriting the Bible, I think He’d delete His advice to "be fruitful and multiply." We’ve multiplied enough already. No one knows how many people there were on earth when the Book of Genesis was written — probably less than a million. Historians estimate that 10,000 years ago, there were 5 million people living on Earth. Now there are over 6 billion. We have multiplied ourselves six thousand million times.

It hasn’t been long since New York had the largest population of any state but it’s been dwarfed in the last 20 years by California. California, with 34 million people, is almost twice as big as New York, with 18 million. Even Texas is bigger than New York now with 20 million people. Lucky Wyoming has fewer than half a million. There are seven other states with fewer than a million people.

The worst statistic is the number of people in state prisons. There were 1,236,476 people locked away in the year 2000, and that figure hasn’t changed much. Most prisoners are men. There are only 93,000 women in the pokey. No one seems to know whether women are more honest or just smarter and don’t get caught as often.

It costs about $60,000 a year to keep each prisoner. You’d think there might be some way prisoners could be put to work and pay their keep. The trouble with that is, of course, if you give a prisoner a job, someone will complain that this deprives an honest person of a job. It just seems like there’s so much work to be done in the world that we ought to be able to find something useful for more than a million and a quarter people to do rather than sit in prison cells all day.

A lot of those prisoners probably were put away for stealing cars. In the whole United States, an amazing 1,165,559 cars were stolen in 2000. You wonder why we go to all the trouble of locking them. What good are locks if we have that many cars stolen every year?

People make the most money in Connecticut, where the average salary is $40,870. I live in Connecticut and make more than that and am surrounded by people who make more than I do. Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York are next. The lowest average incomes are in Mississippi, New Mexico and West Virginia. The average salary in those states is about half what it is in Connecticut.

In Massachusetts, 35 percent of the people have college degrees.

Maine is one of my favorite states but it has some unusual statistics. In almost every category, it’s near the top or the bottom of the list. For example, more people vote in Maine than almost any other state. It has the most number of veterans per capita, the highest local taxes but a low crime rate. Florida, South Carolina and Maryland have the highest violent crime rates.

More people own their own homes, about 77 percent, in Michigan and Iowa, and fewest own them in New York, only 53 percent. That’s because in New York City, there are relatively few private homes. Most people live in rented apartments.

Every once in a while, no matter what you’re doing, you need to do an easy one.

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