S.C. is 45th – We’re better than this


By Phil Noble, co-founder of EnvisionSC


Many company leaders have a management dashboard that they use to monitor the status of their company and its operation. Like a car’s dashboard that monitors what a car it doing – its speed, engine temperature, oil and gas levels, etc. – a business dashboard monitors the key metrics of a company’s activities. It’s a fairly standard tool that is widely used simply because it is so useful.


However, U.S. New and World Report just produced a dashboard for South Carolina and the other 49 states and we’re not doing too well. In fact, it’s pretty bad. Our state ranks 45th overall, and on certain key metrics we’re even worse. We rank 48th for opportunity and 50th for education.


It doesn’t have to be this way.


First the study: U.S. News and World Report has compiled an amazing study of each of the 50 states using 68 common metrics in seven different categories: health care, education, infrastructure, crime and corrections, opportunity, economy, and government. As good as the data is, what’s most interesting is the graphic presentation. By clicking on a few links, users can find more than 10,000 charts and it’s all available for free on the web. Just Google US New and World Report – Smart States.


What it shows about South Carolina is pretty discouraging. Now, I’m hugely optimistic by nature. Someone once called me South Carolina’s biggest cheerleader – and I’d accept that title with pride. After all, our state’s motto is about as optimistic as you can get: while I breathe, I hope.


But what the study show is that we as a state are not living up to our potential. And, most importantly, we are failing worst in the areas that are vital to our state’s future.

Here’s a quick run-down on how we ranked among the 50 states in each of the seven categories and within each category, the three metrics where we do best and worst:


Health care

Overall we rank 39th.

We do well in fewest nursing home citations (14), child dental visits (18) and fewest hospital readmissions (21).

We do poorly in low morality rate (42), adult dental visits (43), and health care affordability (46).



Overall, we rank 50th.

We do well in pre-K quality (4), 4-year college graduation rate (13) and educational attainment (34).

We do poorly in pre-school enrollment (43), 2-year college graduation rates (48), and college readiness (48).


Crime and Corrections

Overall we rank 41st.

We do extremely well in low prison population (1), parole completion (3), and change in incarceration rate (6).

We do poorly in least juvenile incarceration (35), low violent crime rate (44) and low poverty crime rate (46).



Overall we rank 43.

We do well in road quality (15 – really?), commute time (23), and renewable energy use (25).

We do poorly in power gird reliability (40), public transit usage (43), and households with internet access (45).



Overall we rank 48th.

We do well in cost of living (19), racial gap in income (19) and disability employment rate (24).

We do poorly in low poverty rate (40), gender equality (42), and household income (43).



Overall we rank 16.

We do well in net migration (5), growth of young population (8) and job growth (11).

We do poorly in entrepreneurship (29), patent creation (35), and labor force participation (42).



Overall we rank 32.

We do well in government credit rating (1), government budget balancing (11), and government digitalization (35).

We do poorly in state integrity (36), pension fund liability (36), and budget transparency (37).


So what does all this blizzard of numbers (and a whole lot more not listed here) tell us?


The bad news is really bad. We do worst in the most important rankings: our overall ranking of 45th, 48th for opportunity and 50th for education. Education is the key; if we don’t fix education then we’ll never be able to create opportunity and ultimately everything else will suffer.


The good news is that economically we are doing well at 16th… and that’s about where the good news ends.


It doesn’t have to be this way.


Just one comparison proves this: the overall ranking for Georgia is 36th and North Carolina is 25th. No two states are identical but this comparison is pretty damning.


What all this means is: we have done it to ourselves. We are responsible for our poor showing. Our neighboring states have done a whole lot better.


John Kennedy said, “Our problems are man-made; therefore, they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.”


How big do we in South Carolina want to be?


Phil Noble has a technology firm in Charleston, is Co-founder of EnvisionSC and writes a weekly column for the SC Press Association. Contact him at phil@philnoble and get his columns at www.PhilNoble.com.