New Hampshire nabs top spot in OECD ranking

by Erin Lee | 10/13/14 6:40pm

New Hampshire ranks highest in the nation for quality of the life, according to a report released last week by the Office of Economic Cooperation and Development. The study, “How’s Life in Your Region? Measuring Regional and Local Well-Being for Policy Making,” scored all 50 states and Washington, D.C., along with more than 300 other regions across the OECD’s 34 member nations. Regions were evaluated in nine categories: health, safety, housing, access to broadband, civic engagement, education, jobs, environment and income.

In addition to being ranked the highest overall, New Hampshire had the highest score in the country in safety and Internet. The state tied for highest housing and income.

“It’s not the first time we’ve heard that the state received high marks for high quality of life, but to get that designation from an international entity is clearly an honor for the state,” Hanover town manager Julia Griffin said.

The OECD, an international economic organization founded in 1961 that focuses on improving global social and economic welfare, started the regional well-being project to provide comparable measures that can help citizens gauge effective policies.

The report ranked the state safest in the nation. New Hampshire has the lowest homicide rate in the U.S. at 1.11 per 100,000 people.

Safety and Security director Harry Kinne said this is in part due to the state’s rural nature and small population. Crimes do occur both on and off campus, but at a much lower frequency than on other more urban campuses, he said.

New Hampshire’s safety is “a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Griffin said.

“Many people make a conscious decision to come here because of the high quality of life and as a result, I think, are generally conscious about doing their best to help maintain that quality,” she said.

Many people are attracted to the state because of its safety, said Donna Langlais, a longtime New Hampshire resident who works at Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery.

The beauty of the environment and the numerous opportunities for outdoor recreational activity are also part of the state’s appeal, said fellow Lou’s employee Jenny Lavoie, who has lived in New Hampshire for more than 20 years.

Though New Hampshire’s landscape is prized by its population, it ranked 19th in cleanest environment, a measure determined by air and water quality measurements.

New Hampshire ranked seventh in the nation in terms of health, based on life expectancy and mortality rate. Sean Mehegan, who lived in New Hampshire for 22 years but has since moved to Vermont, said the active population enjoys the outdoors, which could account for the state’s good health.

Easy access to locally-grown food year-round, an effective medical care system and reduced stress as a result of living in a rural environment may also contribute to the health rankings, Griffin said.

New Hampshire’s education system tied for second-best in the country, with 91.3 percent of adults holding at least a high school diploma.

“The school districts in the state are very much local and regional, so local citizens oversee the operations of their school districts and they have a lot to say about the quality of education provided,” Griffin said.

New Hampshire received a perfect score from the OECD in both housing, as measured by number of rooms per person, and income per capita.

The average household income per capita after taxes in New Hampshire is $34,208, among the highest in the country and in the top 4 percent across all OECD regions.

The state’s 69.4 percent voter turnout gave it a high score in political engagement.

Many people feel a strong sense of loyalty to New Hampshire, said Mary Keeler, who works at Simon Pearce’s Hanover glass shop.

She moved to New Hampshire in 1996 to live in her husband’s hometown and has grown to love the state because it is “less artificial” than New York and Boston, where she lived previously. Her father-in-law, a World War I veteran and postal worker, collected postcards from every New Hampshire town.