Mississippi among least economically free states

By Steve Wilson
November 7, 2019

Dipa Bhattarai is suing the state so she can have the right to earn a living eyebrow threading without having to take hundreds of hours of irrelevant classes. She's not the only one having to jump through unreasonable hoops. Mississippi is one of the least economically free states according to an annual study by the Fraser Institute.

The Fraser Institute released its Economic Freedom of North America 2019 report Thursday and Mississippi was ranked 42nd with a score of 5.3 out of 10, ahead of only Kentucky, California, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Alaska, West Virginia, and New York. 

The study measures economic freedom in terms of three categories: government spending, taxes, and regulations and uses data from 2017, the most recent year data was available for all jurisdictions. 

Mississippi ranked 44thin government spending, 36th in taxes and 40thin labor market freedom. 

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 20.5 percent of those employed in the state in work for a division of government, be it federal, state or local. 

This figure outstrips manufacturing, retail, and food services.

The non-partisan Tax Foundation rated Mississippi 31stin its annual Business Tax Climate Index, with the state having the 10thlowest corporate tax rate while having a mid-pack (27th) individual income tax rate. The state’s sales tax was 34th highest in the nation while the property tax rate was 37thworst.

According to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the state’s regulations contain 117,558 restrictions and 9.3 million words. It’d take an individual 518 hours (or about 13 weeks) to read the state’s administrative code. 

New Hampshire and Florida were the top two states in the Fraser Institutereport, which also uses the same metrics to measure economic freedom in states in Mexico and Canadian provinces.

Mississippi was ranked as one of the “Least Free” among the states by the Fraser Institute’s annual report, a place it has been all but two years since 1998. Mississippi’s 42nd ranking was the same as last year, when Mississippi scored a 5.2 out of 10. 

Mississippi’s neighbors are doing much better in the rankings, as Alabama was ranked 35th(5.8 total score out of 10), Arkansas 32nd (6.0), Louisiana was ranked 26th (6.3) and Tennessee was third in the study (7.6).

The study was authored by Southern Methodist University economist Dean Stansel; Caminos de la Libertad head of research Jose Torra and Fred McMahon, who is the resident fellow as the Dr. Michael A. Walker Chair in Economic Freedom at the Fraser Institute.

The Fraser Institute, a Canada-based free market group, has conducted the Economic Freedom of the Worldreport for the last 30 years. The primary conclusion of the reports was that “economic freedom is positively correlated with per-capita income, economic growth, greater life expectancy, lower child mortality, the development of democratic institutions, civil and political freedoms, and other desirable social and economic outcomes.”

In the most-free states and provinces in North America, the average per capita income in 2017 was 9.2 percent above the national average compared to 3.4 percent below the national average in the least-free jurisdictions.

The trend line for economic freedom in the U.S. isn’t positive, according to Fraser Instituteresearch. 

From 2003 to 2017, the average score for U.S. states in the all-government index fell from 8.23 to 7.92. 


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