The Georgia Public Policy Foundation's Friday Facts, point out a new report from the Mercatus Center at George Mason University entitled Freedom in 50 States: An Index of Personal and Economic Freedom. The authors of the report, William Ruger (currently serving in Afganistan) and Jason Sorens present "...the first-ever comprehensive ranking of the American states on their public policies affecting individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres." All of the data used is publicly available:
"This study improves on prior attempts to score economic freedom for American states in three primary ways: (1) it includes measures of social and personal freedoms such as peaceable citizens’ rights to educate their own children, own and carry firearms, and be free from unreasonable search and seizure; (2) it includes far more variables, even on economic policies alone, than prior studies, and there are no missing data on any variable; and (3) it uses new, more accurate measurements of key variables, particularly state fiscal policies.
We find that the freest states in the country are New Hampshire, Colorado, and South Dakota, which together achieve a virtual tie for first place. All three states feature low taxes and government spending and middling levels of regulation and paternalism. New York is the least free by a considerable margin, followed by New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, and Maryland. On personal freedom alone, Alaska is the clear winner, while Maryland brings up the rear. As for freedom in the different regions of the country, the Mountain and West North Central regions are the freest overall while the Middle Atlantic lags far behind on both economic and personal freedom. Regression analysis demonstrates that states enjoying more economic and personal freedom tend to attract substantially higher rates of internal net migration."
It is well worth a read. Handy maps are presented as well as a state-by-state analysis with comments at the end of the report.