Kentucky among least independent states

Published 11:44 am Thursday, July 6, 2023


A recent study found Kentucky is among the nation’s least “independent” states.

WalletHub released a study to determine the most independent state, basing that on 39 data points that evaluated residents’ financial, government and vices dependencies as well as each state’s dependencies on the job market and international trade. Kentucky came in 48th ahead of only Mississippi and Louisiana.

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Kentucky ranked in the bottom 10 in a third of the metrics, although some of those aren’t really negatives. For example, Kentucky ranked 50th, or highest, with 7.62% of the state’s private-sector employees working at foreign-owned companies. It also ranked 48th among the states, with 17.72% of its GDP generated by exports.

But there are areas of concern, such as the state’s smoking rate, which at 20.1% of adults ranked 48th. In addition, 21.12% of Kentucky residents spent more than they earned, making the state 44th nationally in that category.

Steven G. Koven, a professor at the University of Louisville’s Department of Urban and Public Affairs, said people should follow radio host Dave Ramsey’s advice to achieve personal financial independence.

“To become financially independent, pay off your debt, even if it means eating rice and beans for a year or taking a second job,” he said. “A first step in becoming financially independent is to take stock of your spending relative to the income you earn. If you want to climb out of the pit of just having enough to make minimum payments on your credit cards, you need to begin to pay the cards off.”

WalletHub found that 62.2% of Kentucky adults have a “rainy day” fund. The state ranked 36th in that category.

Kentucky also earned low marks in such categories as median credit score (693, 41st), poverty rate (16.3%, 46th), underwater mortgages (6.1%, 46th) and bankruptcy rate (46th).

Kentucky’s highest scores actually came in some of the vice categories. At just 1.1%, Kentucky has the second lowest rate of adults with gambling disorders, and in the land of bourbon, only 13.8% of adults are considered binge drinkers. The state ranked seventh in that category.

Three of Kentucky’s neighboring states – Tennessee (42nd), Indiana (43rd) and West Virginia (46th) – joined it in the bottom 10. Ohio and Illinois came in 36th and 37th, respectively. Virginia earned the highest score of any state bordering Kentucky, coming in fifth.

According to WalletHub, Utah is the most independent state in the country, followed by Colorado, Florida and Washington.