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These are the least independent states in the US: report

A WalletHub assessment found Kentucky is the least independent state in 2022.

Story at a glance

  • Kentucky was followed by Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, and South Carolina, respectively.

  • In comparison, Utah, Colorado, and Massachusetts ranked among the top five most independent states.

  • The rankings are based on consumer finances and reliance on the federal government, among other metrics. 

As the nation prepares to celebrate its 246th Independence Day this weekend, a WalletHub report took a look at how independent each state is in relation to the federal government. 

Based on consumer finances, government, job market, international trade, and personal vices, experts ranked each state on its self-sustainability despite increased reliance on federal assistance programs seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Breaking down these five categories revealed 39 key indicators of state independence. In 2022, Kentucky is the nation’s least independent state, followed by Louisiana, Mississippi, Alaska, and South Carolina. 

In contrast, the nation’s top five most independent states are Utah, Colorado, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Nebraska, respectively. 

With regard to median credit score, three of the worst states, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Kentucky also ranked in the bottom five. 

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Mississippi was also among the bottom five states having the least percentage of households with rainy-day and emergency funds. Texas, South Dakota, Alabama, and West Virginia rounded out this group. 

When measuring government dependency, researchers found Alaska, West Virginia, Mississippi, New Mexico and Kentucky were the most reliant on the federal government. Kentucky and Alaska also ranked among the lowest for international-trade dependency. 

Rates of binge drinking are highest in rural midwest states, while rates of adult drug use were highest in Pacific northwest and western states like Oregon, Washington and Colorado.

Mississippi has the highest percentage of adult gamblers, a proportion that is eight times higher than that of the state with the lowest proportion – Michigan. 

Rhode Island accounts for the highest percentage of residents on public assistance, followed by New Mexico, Oregon, New York and West Virginia. 

As part of the assessment, WalletHub asked Corinne M. Tagliarina, director of the human rights advocacy program at Utica College, about the fairness of some states relying on the federal government more than others. 

“I am not sure that fair and unfair is the best framing for this question,” Tagliarina said. 

“Ultimately the fairness issue is less about the amount of support each state gets from the government, but how much each state contributes to the general funds and whether those are mediated by the ability to pay,” she noted.