How Maine ranks

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Ratings indicate Maine has a lot of advantages over other states (unless you’re talking about teeth, work or winter). Yes, surviving a zombie apocalypse is one of them.

Lifestyle website Thrillist declared Maine the second best overall state in the union for attributes like “delicious blueberries and . . . it has literally thousands of islands you don’t even know about where dudes named Wade are probably eating lobsters and drinking Moxie as we speak.”

No. 2 out of 50. Take that 48 other states! (Only Michigan ranked higher, for charm, beer and coastline — three things Maine is swimming in!) 

Forget the fact that last month the same travel, food and pop culture site declared “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” the greatest show of all time and avocados the sexiest health food on earth. Also ignore that the two-year-old ranking is almost certainly not based on any statistical accuracy — fact is, it’s flattering as heck, so it stands.

(BTW, Florida grabbed the 50th spot for, well, “an awfulness resumé . . . so staggeringly impressive that it couldn’t go any other way.”)

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Maine’s seen a flurry of rankings of late: Fourth happiest state in the country. Fifth best state to be a homeowner.

The . . . hard swallow . . . 50th best for workforce. (Ugh.)

So today we’re taking a dive behind some of the numbers that have us perfectly happy and perfectly in the pits, as well as rankings we just couldn’t overlook.

You want to know where Maine stands on the zombie apocalypse survivability scale, don’t you?

BEST STATES TO BE A HOMEOWNER IN 2017

Maine’s rank: 5

Why: The curiously named financial research group ValuePenguin included factors like “market quality” (a snapshot that includes home values versus incomes), ongoing affordability and livability (things like schools and crime, where Maine scored particularly well.)

Who we beat/got beaten by: Louisiana, 50. Iowa, 1.

What this means to you: Right now, if you’re a homeowner looking to sell, it means great things.

Greg Gosselin, president of the Maine Association of Realtors and owner of Gosselin Realty Group in York, said it’s a home sellers’ market right now because there aren’t enough properties up for sale. He’s hoping that inspires more people to list and he’s already seen that it’s inspired more buyers to build.

“I’m seeing an uptick (in new construction starts), which is a real positive because what that does to our economy in Maine is amazing,” Gosselin said. “It brings so many jobs into Maine every time you build a home.”

WELL-BEING AND HAPPINESS

Maine’s rank: 4

Why: Gallup-Healthways’ annual Well-Being Index uses five measures including liking where you live and what you do, feeling supported and loved, being in good shape and minimizing financial stress. Sounds like happy stuff to us.

Who we beat/got beat by: West Virginia 50, Hawaii 1.

What this means to you: Here’s the excellent news: We shot up in this ranking from no. 18 to no. 4 in 2016, the first time in the index’s nine years that the state has cracked the top 10.

Dan Witters, index research director, said the survey was based on 177,000 randomly dialed calls (cells and land lines) to people 18 and over.

In Maine, 979 people answered its 55 questions and many reported feeling better and doing better. Among the notable — and positive — drops: In 2015, 31.5 percent of people self-reported being obese; that dropped to 24.7 percent in 2016. Reports of daily physical pain dropped from 28.4 percent to 21.6 percent.

“As most people can tell you who’ve lost weight, the physical pain gets lower because you’re carrying around less luggage, so to speak,” said Witters.

A STATE’S WORKFORCE

Maine’s rank: 50

Why: U.S. News & World Report looked at education level, productivity per job and availability of workers, among other factors.

Who we beat/got beat by: Colorado ranked no. 1; no state fell below Maine in the workforce category.

What this means to you: Hard to say. Ryan Wallace, head of the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Southern Maine, approaches these sorts of rankings skeptically.

“They probably do give some indication about approximately where Maine might be struggling, but . . . I don’t think it necessarily paints an accurate picture,” Wallace said.

He guessed Maine’s aging demographics and a tight labor market — so tight that unemployment is below the national average — factored in.

“Unfortunately, they (rankings) do have pretty significant implications, especially if you’re a businessperson looking to relocate somewhere and you see workforce: ‘Maine’s ranked 50th, we’re not going there,'” Wallace said.

GENDER EQUALITY

Maine’s rank: 1

Why: For this one, U.S. News & World Report says it examined the ratio of men and women in the workforce, including management positions, men and women in political positions and rates of violence against women.

Who we beat/got beat by: Alaska, 50; we topped everyone else, too.

What this means to you: It certainly sounds like a cool thing to be tops in, but we probably can’t thump our chests too much — it’s a funky measurement to assemble, cautioned Wallace.

“They tell you the things they consider, but how they actually calculate out the rankings is still kind of a mystery,” he said.

ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE SURVIVABILITY

Maine’s rank: 17

Why: Undeadwalking.com, “The Walking Dead” news/fansite, considered factors like Mainers’ grit and willingness to use harpoon guns, and zombies’ inability to swim if all of Maine just takes to the water.

Who we beat/got beaten by: Rhode Island, 50. Montana, 1. (Sorry, Rhode Island. Despite all that ocean around you, looks like you’ll be eaten first?)

What this means to you: The Maine Emergency Management Agency’s Susan Faloon gave the agency a little tongue-in-cheek credit for the state’s relative high ranking on the list. No joke: Last October, MEMA held a zombie apocalypse drill up at Eastern Maine Medical Center — why pretend there’s a disease outbreak when you can pretend there are roaming hoards out there seeking brraaaiiinnns?

“We want to be No. 1 though, so we clearly have more work to do to keep the citizens of Maine safe and resilient,” said Faloon. “If you’re prepared for a zombie apocalypse, you’re prepared for most anything! Every household should have an emergency kit and an emergency plan.”

STATES MOST AFFECTED BY TRADE WAR WITH MEXICO

Maine’s rank: 49

Why: WalletHub measured things like exports and imports and the number of jobs supported by trade with Mexico.

Who we beat/got beaten by: Texas 1, Alaska 51 (D.C. was included in the ranking).

What this means to you: WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez said trade that is happening here involves some pretty specific industries.

“The (Maine) exports and imports to and from Mexico focus on the automotive industry, like cars and car parts. There’s also a small bit of trade when it comes to vegetables and even nuclear parts,” she said.

Despite the low overall affected ranking, curiously, she found three out of every 100 jobs in Maine are nonetheless supported by trade with Mexico, which ranked us 22 among the states in that category.

DENTAL HABITS AND CARE

Maine’s rank: 47

Why: WalletHub used no less than 15 different measures including costs, how many people had visited a dentist in the last year, how many adults smoke, how much soda kids drink and dentists per capita.

Who we beat/got beaten by: Minnesota 1, Alabama 51 (D.C. was included in the ranking).

What this means to you: Brush, Maine, brush!

Also scale back the soda and knock off the smoking, where Maine is currently ranked 13th highest in the nation with a smoking rate of 20.8 percent, according to Witters at the Well-Being Index.

BEST STATES TO HAVE A BABY

Maine’s rank: 2

Why: WalletHub based its ranking on things like hospital charges, average annual infant care costs, the number of pediatricians and parental leave policies.

Who we beat/got beaten by: Mississippi 51, Vermont 1 (D.C. was included in the ranking).

What this means to you: Basically, birth on, Maine.

“One thing that really sets our state apart is that Maine hospitals are highly dedicated to listening to patients,” said Dr. Michael Czerkes, chair of the women’s and children’s department at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, where they delivered 609 babies* last year. “The end result is a statewide hospital environment that promotes safe births, while also providing a patient-centered birthing experience.”

* Fun water cooler fact: That was 316 girls, 293 boys.

ONLINE DATING SAFETY

Maine’s rank:

Why: Home security company safewise.com and highspeedinternet.com collaborated on the ranking using crime and sexually transmitted infection rates.

Who we beat/got beaten by: Washington, D.C. 51, Vermont 1.

What this means to you: Great news, of course, but don’t read that and get lazy, says Sandra Caron, professor of family relations and human sexuality at the University of Maine.

“Even in a safe state, according to this ranking, things can go not well if you don’t use your own personal safety precautions,” said Caron, who brought the ranking up in class during a regular “sex in the news” chat.

Mix mingling with vigilance, romantically speaking.

“Something like Tinder is great because it’s connected to your Facebook page, so if somebody likes you or swipes, you can at least check out, do I know them, do I have friends who know them,” Caron said.

Meet in a public place. Tell people where you’re going. “The usual,” she said.

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION VOTER TURNOUT

Maine’s rank: 2

Why: America Goes to the Polls 2016 by Nonprofit VOTE and the U.S. Elections Project figured out that 72.8 percent of eligible voters in Maine turned out for last November’s presidential election, a fact the groups attributed in part to the state having same-day voter registration.

Who we beat/got beaten by: Hawaii 51, Minnesota 1 (D.C. was included in the ranking).

What this means to you: You’re basically on a roll.

“Maine voters have, historically, exhibited a high level of civic engagement,” said Secretary of State Matt Dunlap. “This year’s ballot was loaded with weighty issues that had the attention of the public. Aside from the competitive races involving local, county, state and federal offices, the citizen initiatives involving legalized marijuana, increased funding for schools, background checks for the private sale of firearms, raising the minimum wage, and ranked choice voting left most voters with little reason to stay away.”

So can we overtake Minnesota in doing our civic duty?

“It might help to remind folks that Maine hockey is better than Minnesota hockey, and that there’s no better place to show that than at the polls,” he said.

MOST MISERABLE WINTERS

Maine’s rank: 5

Why: Thrillist, those same folks that declared us the second-best state overall, used data like temperature and weather patterns as well as “the historical success rates of their winter-season sports teams” to arrive at the ranking. Maybe the Maine Red Claws’ strong season knocked us out of the top spot . . . Thrillist writers gave a nice shout-out to Mainers’ attitude: “They tend to be much more upbeat than say, us Bostonians, who always like to pretend that we’re getting it the worst and thus are the strongest.”

Who we beat/got beaten by: Hawaii 50, Minnesota 1. (OK, this is just eerie. Maybe there’s a voter turnout-miserable winter correlation? We need a new study and rank on this!)

What this means to you: We’re going to focus on the positive here: Our miserable winter is nearly over! The historical snowfall average for April as measured in Portland, going back to 1882, is just 3.6 inches, according to Margaret Curtis at the National Weather Service in Gray.

There have been dozens of years with just a trace amount of snow or less.

She did want to note that the highest snowfall for April was 20.5 inches in 1906. And that there is, very occasionally, May snow. A whopping 7 inches fell May 10-11, 1945. 

Here’s to hoping we’re on a Maine island eating lobster with Wade next month and not shoveling.

kskelton@sunjournal.com

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