Are States with Better Educated Legislatures Better Governed?
That depends on how you define “better governed.” If, for simplicity’s sake, you measure the quality of governance by fiscal solvency (or more aptly the lack thereof), then the answer appears to be no. Of course, these are strange times; forty-two states have a combined fiscal deficit of more than $100 billion, so maybe the data’s a bit skewed. Still, comparing a Chronicle of Higher Education report on the collective education level of each state’s legislature, to Stateline.com’s list of state budget deficits from March seems worthwhile. And the results don’t exactly make the case for education being a good predictor of fiscal competence.
The graph below plots the education of state legislatures on the x-axis, defined as the percentage of members with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and the fiscal budget deficit as a percentage of 2011 spending on the y. California has the most educated legislature in the country, with 89.9% of members having bachelor’s degrees or higher. They’re also looking down the barrel of a $25.4 billion budget deficit, tops in the country. On a per-spending basis though, California’s budget deficit slips to fourth, behind Nevada, New Jersey and Texas.
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