By Lynn Ashby 26 March 2010
How good, bad or indifferent are we here in Texas compared to, say, Chad? No, make that compared to Louisiana or California or Chad. Every now and then you and I discuss these comparisons on health, education, halfbacks, etc. It’s a good apples-to-apples measuring standard. But now let’s put them all together to see if we really are the rankest state in the Union.
We might start with state-to-nation rankings. If Texas were a republic again, it would be 10th largest in the world with the 12th largest economy based on gross domestic product. Texas would be fifth in the world in oil and gas production. We would rank seventh among all countries in our number of executions.
Among the states, we’re first in executions. In 2009 the U.S. had 52. Of those, 24 were in Texas. Our state’s crime rate is the highest in the U.S. and 24 percent higher than the national average. Maybe that’s why we have more convicts in our prisons than any other state: 170,000 — higher than even California’s, which has 50 percent more overall population.
On a happier note, we are sort of happy. A scientific study on happiness published in the respectable magazine, Science, considered undisputed indicators for each state such as temperature, taxes, schools, health, etc. And the researchers asked residents about their happiness. Louisiana was first. New York was last. Texans ranked 16th.
Lakewood Church in Houston, with more than 40,000 weekly in attendance, is the largest congregation in the nation. Texas has 300,000 miles of streets and highways, more than any other state. We are last in per capita state appropriations for the arts (18 cents a year). Austin residents are the No. 1 spenders in the U.S., averaging $67,076 in overall household expenses (excluding mortgage and rent). We are first in persons killed in alcohol-related auto crashes, and with 17 military installations, we are second.
Texas had the nation’s longest-running war with the Indians. “Texas remained in a virtual state of war for nearly 50 years, the longest continuous struggle of its kind in American history.” – The Conquest of Texas by Gary Clayton Anderson. In one case we’re not first but last. The Battle of Palmito Ranch, near Brownsville, on May 13, 1865, more than a month after the surrender of Gen. Robert E. Lee, was the last land action of the Civil War. The Confederate Texans won.
We’ve got lots of history, so it follows that Texas has more official historical markers than any other state — currently 15,416. That’s almost six to one over the silver medalists, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia with between 2,000 and 3,000 markers.
Let’s look at business. Among the states, Texas is ranked #1 for total livestock and livestock product receipts. It’s ranked #2 for total agricultural receipts. We lead the states in the total value of mined products, producing large quantities of oil and natural gas. We have the largest inland port on Earth (Houston) and is home to more Fortune 400 companies than any state. Houston alone has 100 of them.
We lead in getting screwed by our power companies: In the years after Texas deregulated its retail electricity market, rates have leaped higher than any other state with similar open competition. Between 1999 and 2007, our residential rate rose 64 percent. Before deregulation, Texans paid far less than customers in other states. But we are first in wind power with 9,410 megawatts.
For the second year in a row, the Dallas and Houston metropolitan areas led the nation in population growth. The Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area gained 146,530 residents from July 2008 to July 2009, the highest numerical increase in the country. The Houston-Baytown-Sugar Land area ranked second with 140,784 additional residents. Texas is the only state to have three cities listed in the top 10 in population.
According to the closely watched US News and World Report rankings of universities, Texas doesn’t do too well. In overall rankings, Rice comes in at 17, UT-Austin 47 and A&M 61. Among public schools it’s UT at 15 and A&M at 22. Baylor College of Medicine is 17th best in its field. UT-Law ranks 15th. The Aggies’ Parson’s Mounted Cavalry is the No.1 mounted ROTC unit in the United States, mainly because it’s the only one. California has nine nationally recognized research institutions – known as flagship schools. New York has seven; Pennsylvania has four; while Texas, the second most populous state in the nation, is tied for third.
We have four of the top 20 public high schools. Speaking of this, Texas ranks 45th with $7,818 in the amount we spend per public school student per year. Texas State Comptroller Susan Combs says Texas ranks 49th in verbal SAT scores and 46th in math scores. Of the 50 states, we’re No. 49 in the percentage of adults who’ve completed high school and dead last in the percentage of residents 25 years or older with a high school diploma.
In health and nutrition, Texas has the worst performing food stamp program in the nation. It’s last among the 50 states and U.S. territories in processing food stamp applications. It also does a poor job getting eligible low-income people to apply, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And because Texas is far below the national average in enrolling those eligible, Texas grocery retailers are missing out on nearly $1 billion a year in food sales. But we have the most astronauts.
The Texas Medical Center is the largest medical center on Earth. People come from everywhere to die in Houston. However, in overall health — which considers healthy behaviors, socioeconomic factors, health policies and mortality rates — the state ranks 39th among the 50 states. Texas dropped from being the 12th-fattest state last year to 14th this year. Finally, when it comes to where Texas ranks in influence and power in Washington these days (read: receiving money), it’s somewhere south of Chad.
Ashby is outranked at email@example.com