If the wellbeing of a state rested solely on its economic output, Texas would rank 2nd on GDP, comparable to Canada. The American Dream Prosperity Index confirms this strong economic performance. The Lone Star state has the highest per capita value of exported manufactured and non-manufactured goods of any state, boasts some of the highest rates of start-ups and entrepreneurship across America and ranks 6th of all states for attracting foreign direct investment. This impressive performance leads to a ranking of 2nd on Economic Quality. Its economic engine is undoubtedly well-oiled and combined with its performance on Business Environment (16th) and Infrastructure (25th), Texas tanks 6th in the Open Economies domain.
Robert F. Kennedy famously remarked that GDP “measures everything except that which is worthwhile”. True prosperity is a multidimensional concept which the American Dream Prosperity Index seeks to measure, explore, and understand. The framework of the Index measures prosperity through three equally-weighted domains which are the essential foundations of prosperity — Inclusive Societies, Open Economies, and Empowered People. These domains are made up of 11 pillars, built upon 49 actionable policy areas, and are underpinned by 230 reliable indicators from over 90 data sources, presenting a holistic and comprehensive understanding of the extent to which Americans are achieving prosperity.
Although Texas ranks 6th in the Open Economies domain, the Index reveals the Lone Star state lagging behind many states on other important aspects of prosperity. To improve the wellbeing of Texans, attention needs to be given to strengthening these aspects while continuing to sustain its strong economic performance. Some progress has already been made over the past decade. For example, above-average improvements in poverty rates and access to urban and rural broadband across the state have resulted in the state seeing a 7-rank rise in the Living Conditions pillar since 2012, which is to be commended. Texas needs to replicate this improvement across other pillars of prosperity, including Governance (ranked 48th), Personal Freedom (ranked 41st), Social Capital (ranked 41st), and Safety and Security (ranked 39th). Making improvements in these areas will lead to increased prosperity across the state. A full analysis of Texas’s performance on all aspects of prosperity and how it has changed since 2012 can be viewed here.
Bringing about statewide improvements in certain areas of prosperity will require change at the local level. Texas is one of 17 states within the Index that has county-level data, which reveals that there are significant disparities in prosperity across the 254 counties. For example, in Collin County (on the edge of Dallas), the most prosperous county in the state, over half its residents (53%) are degree educated, compared to less than 30% in Bexar County. In San Augustine County, poor Internet access contributes to the county being the least prosperous in Texas. Only one in four county residents have access to the Internet, compared to nearly nine in ten for the state as a whole, and for those that do have access, download speeds on average are a quarter of those across Texas. Analysis of each county across the state can be found here.
The American Dream Prosperity Index was founded on the principle that better data leads to better decisions and outcomes and has been designed as a key tool for local, state and federal lawmakers and civic leaders. The development of local data-led initiatives, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ approach, is essential for transformation across the country. This distinct data can guide changemakers throughout the state of Texas to better outcomes, and ultimately a higher level of prosperity for all of its residents.
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