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Survey Results Show California Is Sixth Most Independent State

With Independence Day just passed and high inflation threatening Americans’ financial independence, the personal-finance website WalletHub has released its report on 2023’s Most Independent States, as well as expert commentary.

To determine the most self-sufficient states, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 39 metrics, which measure how dependent Americans are on the government and other people for finances, their jobs and personal vices.

Top state in terms of independence was Utah, followed by Colorado at number two, Florida at number three, Washington in fourth and Virginia rounding out the top five. California just missed placing in the top five, coming in at number six. The bottom five were West Virginia, ranked at number 46, followed by Alaska, Kentucky, Mississippi and, at number 50, the least independent state, Louisiana.


Independence in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

4th – Median Debt per Income

6th – Share of Adults Saving for Children’s College Education

24th – Share of Federal-, State- & Local-Government Employees

28th – Share of Jobs Supported by Exported Goods

6th – Industry Variety

2nd – Share of Current Adult Smokers

For the full report, visit:


Expert Commentary

Is it fair that some states are more dependent on the Federal Government than others?

“I would not characterize reliance on federal programs and federal funds in terms of ‘fairness,’ per se. Different states have different populations that have different needs, and that is not inherently fair or unfair – e.g., my own state of Minnesota is going to have a greater need for transportation funds because the brutal winters wreak havoc on our roads and infrastructure, and that need does not reflect any kind of moral failing or unfair demand for transportation grants and programs. The issue of fairness comes into play when politicians attack the needs of another state as illegitimate while lobbying for as much support for their own state’s needs as they can get. The political debate over ‘fairness’ usually reflects perceptions of hypocrisy on the part of state leaders who happily accept as much federal largesse as they can get (e.g., federal emergency aid after natural disasters) while attacking other states for doing the same thing. There is also the issue of national policymakers criticizing ‘out of control spending’ on discretionary programs when their own home states receive vastly more federal funding and benefit more from those same programs than their citizens pay in taxes. My point is that it is not the dependency itself that is ‘unfair’ – it is how the programs are exploited and mischaracterized by leaders for political gain that is hypocritical and unfair.”

James B. Cottrill, Ph.D. – Associate Professor; Chair, Department of Political Science; Co-Director, SCSU Survey Research Center, St. Cloud State University


“States vary in the prosperity and eligibility for federal benefits among their populations, so some states will inevitably be net recipients of federal funds and some net contributors.”

Steven Schier – Professor, Carleton College


Should presidential campaigns be publicly funded in order to help ensure the President is as independent as possible from special interests?

“Yes, publicly funded presidential campaigns can help reduce the influence of special interests and ensure the independence of the President. The current system, which heavily relies on private campaign financing, often leads to concerns about undue influence and unequal access to policymakers. Public funding of campaigns can level the playing field, allowing candidates to focus on policy issues rather than fundraising efforts. By providing equal resources to qualified candidates, we can encourage a more diverse pool of candidates, reduce the influence of wealthy donors, and enhance democratic representation … However, it is important to note that the design and implementation of public campaign financing systems require careful consideration and ongoing evaluation to ensure their effectiveness and integrity. Transparency, accountability, and appropriate oversight mechanisms are crucial to maintain the integrity of the public financing system and prevent potential abuses.”

Robert A. Cropf, Ph.D. – Professor, Saint Louis University


“Public funding of presidential campaigns must be optional for candidates due to the Supreme Court’s Buckley V. Valeo 1976 ruling. It is unlikely incumbent presidents will ever press for public financing because incumbents benefit from the present funding system.”

Steven Schier – Professor, Carleton College