Alabama Is Not the Dumbest State in the Country, but It’s Close

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The Big Picture –
By Glynn Wilson

MOBILE, Ala. — The national press is making fun of my native state of Alabama, again. How should I react?

Jump on the funny bandwagon and agree? Or attack the national press and defend “my people?”

Let’s look at the facts, first, before we take a stand with commentary.

In a story designed mainly to make fun of states where a majority of voters support presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump, or to counter Trump’s assertion that the voters of Iowa were “dumb” to vote for Ben Carson over him, the Washington Post ran a story awhile back quoting Trump, saying, “How stupid are the people of Iowa?”

Since this story is making the rounds on Facebook and Twitter again, I finally got around to analyzing the results.

In a rare bit of quantitative analysis, not something the American press is really known for, The Post put together what it called “objective measures” to rank the “intellegence” of the states.

First they started with an academic measure of state Intellegence Quotient (IQ), as estimated by Virginia Commonwealth’s Michael McDaniel in a study published in the journal ScienceDirect in 2006. In that study, Alabama showed up as the dumbest state in the country with an average IQ of 95.7, a little more than 4 points below the average IQ of 100. This was based on the number of white people in non-public education, in this case 9.5 percent, along with a measure of gross state product, an indicator of individual health, the amount of violent crime and “government effectiveness.”

On the last measure, there can be little doubt that Alabama must have the lest effective government in the country, considering that all three branches of state government are crippled with the governor under investigation for corruption, the Speaker of the House on trial for using his public office for personal gain and the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court suspended and facing removal from office for a second time.

The study was published in 2006, however, well before the current state problems occured after the Republicans took over all three branches of government in 2010. They already had the executive branch and the judiciary, but they took over the legislative branch in 2010 for the first time since Federal Reconstruction after the Civil War. So on that measure, things have gotten worse since 2006, the “brain drain” of college graduates continues apace, so there’s little doubt the state would come in last in intelligence if the study were updated today.

The next measure taken into account by The Post were the 2015 SAT scores, where Alabama did not come in last. In fact, the 1616 average score was far higher than that of Washington, D.C. itself, which came in last with an average score of 1313. Presdient Barack Obama’s home state of Illinois actually came in first, with a score of 1802.

The next indicator were ACT scores, from the company that administers the tests.

Next came the percentage of college graduates in the states, as compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau.

To create an intelligence score, The Post staff determined the percentage-point difference between a state’s score and the national median score. Then, since IQ seemed to be “the most on-the-nose metric,” they doubled that value and then added it all up.

Their results show that the smartest five states were Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Kansas and Vermont, Bernie Sanders’ home state. Donald Trump’s home state of New York came in 17th. Iowa came in 8th. The bottom five states were Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada and, in the 50th spot, Hawaii.

Before anyone goes off saying “thank god for Mississippi,” Alabama was not last, at least, consider how people in Alabama voted in the primaries.

According to the Secretary of State’s Website, there are 3,066,732 registered voters in Alabama. On Super Tuesday, only 41 percent of registered voters bothered to show up and case a ballot. Less than half. That’s pretty dumb. The total number of votes cast came to 1,269,751 in a state with 4.7 million people.

Of those who did show up to vote, Donald Trump pulled 376,353 total votes, 66,331 more than Hillary Clinton who got 310,022. Only 76,446 voted for Bernie Sanders, but that shows some potential. Who would have thought a democratic socialist could get that many votes in a state still known as “The Heart of Dixie,” home to the capital of the Confederacy and the Ku Klux Klan?

The Post admitted that the metrics it used had a lot of built-in bias. Questions have been raised about racial bias in the SAT and IQ testing, for example. Also, college is more accessible to people of higher economic status, and southern states like Alabama may be disadvantaged there. There’s also a slight correlation between the final scores and the percentage of the state that is white, but the correlation is not that strong, and the statistical measure of correlation does not prove a causal relationship in any event.

“Given how hard it is to identify objective metrics of intelligence,” The Post said, “we worked with what we had.”

I’m willing to go along with The Post in this analysis as far as it goes. There is no doubt my home state is pretty dumb, mainly because anyone with enough money to leave for a higher education somewhere else tends to live and work in another place. Many of the people I went to high school with moved to Atlanta. But George ranks pretty low too, coming in at 38th.

These days, people are moving to Colorado and Oregon, where you don’t have to worry about going to one of Alabama’s horrifically overcrowded prisons simply for smoking a joint.

Things do not look that great for Washington, D.C. either. Things don’t work very well there. The federal government is almost totally dysfunctional, mainly because the dumbest states like Alabama send do-nothing, anti-government Republicans to Congress like Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions.

I like Maryland, however, which ranks 20th on this list. It is a very rich and very liberal state. If I had the money, I might move to Takoma Park.

I also like some things about Virginia, mainly the mountains around the Shenandoah National Park and the Thomas Jefferson and George Washington National Forest. Virginia came in at 13th, but it still has a fair amount of that good-old-boy Southern thang going on.

I will give The Post credit for trying, but with any statistical analysis, there are always outliers, which in this case, may be the most important thing to consider.

For example, how in the world does so much important music come out of a backwater place like Muscle Shoals?

How is it that Tuscaloosa is the football capital of the nation?

Some of the world’s most important space science was developed in Huntsville.

The Alabama Gulf Coast has some of the most visited beaches.

Monroeville produced Harper Lee and Truman Capote. The Anniston-Oxford-Possom Trot area produced Rick Bragg.

Admittedly, Montgomery needs a lot of work, as does the port city of Mobile. Maybe if we can ever get over the Cold War and fully embrace Cuba, that would help Mobile.

As for my home town of Birmingham, hey. I came from there. That’s something, LOL : )

We would welcome your comments below on where Alabama should rank and why.

Here are The Post‘s state-by-state results.

Rank State Score IQ deviation SAT deviation ACT deviation College grad deviation

1 Massachusetts 35.3 3.4 -0.1 14.6 14
2 Minnesota 32.8 2.8 14.5 6.6 6.1
3 New Hampshire 27.5 3.3 0.8 14.1 6
4 Connecticut 26.4 2.2 -2.5 14.6 9.9
5 Wisconsin 22.2 2 14 4.2 0
6 Kansas 22 1.9 12.6 2.8 2.8
7 Vermont 21.8 2.9 0.1 10.3 5.6
8 Iowa 21.5 2.3 13 4.2 -0.3
9 New Jersey 20.4 1.9 -2.1 8.9 9.8
10 Colorado 19.5 0.7 11.8 -2.8 9.1
11 South Dakota 19.2 1.9 12.9 2.8 -0.3
12 Nebraska 18.5 1.4 13 0.9 1.8
13 Virginia 17.7 1 -1.3 8.5 8.5
14 North Dakota 16.9 2.9 15.3 -3.3 -0.9
15 Illinois 16.2 -0.9 16 -2.8 4.8
16 Missouri 15.8 0.1 14.4 1.9 -0.7
17 New York 12.3 -0.1 -5.4 11.3 6.6
18 Ohio 10.2 0.9 6.7 3.3 -1.6
19 Maine 8.3 2.5 -10.4 13.6 0.1
20 Maryland 8.1 -1.1 -5.9 6.6 9.6
21 Michigan 7.6 -0.3 15.1 -5.6 -1.3
22 Montana 7.4 2.5 6.6 -4.2 0
23 Washington 7 1 -3.7 5.2 3.5
24 Utah 6.1 0.2 10 -5.2 0.9
25 Wyoming 6 1.5 11.8 -5.2 -3.6
26 Pennsylvania 5.8 0.6 -4.4 7.5 1.5
27 Oregon 2.3 0.3 -0.5 0.9 1.3
27 Rhode Island 2.3 -1.3 -5.2 8.5 1.6
29 Delaware -0.6 -0.4 -11.9 10.3 1.8
30 Oklahoma -2.1 -1.5 9 -2.8 -5.3
31 Kentucky -2.9 -1.4 12.6 -6.1 -6.6
32 Indiana -3.8 0.8 -5.2 3.8 -4
33 Tennessee -5.8 -3.1 10.9 -7 -3.5
34 California -6.9 -5.3 -3.9 5.6 2
35 Idaho -8.8 0.5 -11.7 6.6 -4.7
36 Arkansas -9.9 -3.3 8.7 -4.2 -7.8
37 Alaska -11 -1.8 -3.8 -0.9 -2.7
38 Georgia -13.5 -2.8 -6.6 -1.4 0.1
39 Texas -14.4 -0.8 -9.2 -1.9 -1.7
40 New Mexico -15.9 -5.1 4.5 -5.6 -4.6
41 Arizona -16.2 -3.4 -0.1 -6.6 -2.7
42 North Carolina -16.8 -0.6 -4.8 -10.8 0
43 Louisiana -18.7 -5.5 7.9 -8.9 -6.7
44 West Virginia -19.1 -2.1 -3.3 -2.3 -9.3
45 South Carolina -19.4 -2.4 -7.1 -4.2 -3.3
46 Florida -21.5 -2.4 -7.7 -6.6 -2.4
47 Alabama -21.9 -5.1 4.1 -10.3 -5.5
48 Mississippi -22.4 -6.6 10.3 -10.8 -8.7
49 Nevada -23.4 -4.3 -6.1 -1.4 -7.3
50 Hawaii -27 -5.2 -5.2 -13.1 1.7

© 2016, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

  1 comment for “Alabama Is Not the Dumbest State in the Country, but It’s Close

  1. David Weiser
    June 9, 2016 at 9:11 am

    The dumbest, most ineffective, most corrupt state government in the U.S. has to be Alabama. What is Hawaii doing in last place? I don’t think any state has bigger idiots than Bentley, Hubbard, and Roy Moore. Hands down!

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