Home » Kentucky’s progress and failings detailed in latest rankings

Kentucky’s progress and failings detailed in latest rankings

Jacqueline Pitts

By Jacqueline Pitts, The Bottom Line

FRANKFORT, Ky. — New statistics show where Kentucky stands compared to other states and nation in jobs, infrastructure, workforce, and government — the four areas laid out in the Kentucky Chamber’s vision for the state.

When laying out priorities to move Kentucky forward with the release of the Four Pillars for Prosperity publication in 2015, the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce created a dashboard to gauge the state’s performance and monitor key indicators.

Research is conducted each year on the state’s standings in significant areas under each of the four pillars and made available via the online dashboard.

The findings on these progress points updated in November 2018 are summarized below:


Kentucky’s Business Tax Climate Index moved from No. 39 last year to No. 23 for this year, a move of 16 places — more than any other state in the country. The Tax Foundation attributed Kentucky’s significant progress in this area to the tax reform package passed by the 2018 Kentucky General Assembly.

Kentucky’s overall pension funding ratio for FY 2016 is 31 percent, tied with New Jersey for the worst in the country. The U.S. average was 66 percent.


The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is a periodic national assessment that measures what U.S. students know and can do in various subjects in the 50 states. NAEP scores in Kentucky are above the national average for 4th grade reading, at the national average for 4th grade math and 8th grade reading, and below the national average for 8th grade math.

The commonwealth’s high school graduation rate (percentage of high school students who graduate on time) of 89 percent is above the national average of 84 percent.

Kentucky’s 2017 violent crime rate of 225.8 per 100,000 population remains among the lowest in the country and well below the national average of 382.9.

Kentucky moved up three spots, from 45th place to 42nd place, in the annual America’s Health Rankings, which ranks health status in the 50 states on a wide range of health factors.

The percentage of people living in poverty in Kentucky dropped from 18.5 percent of the population in 2016 to 17.2 percent in 2017. The national average for 2017 was 13.4 percent.

At $39,393, Kentucky’s annual per capita personal income decreased slightly over the last year and stands at 78 percent of the national average of $50,392.


The percentage of Kentucky’s workforce employed in manufacturing is 12.76 percent — significantly higher than the national average of 8.56 percent.

With over $30 billion in exports in 2017, Kentucky was 18th among the 50 states in total value of exports last year.

Kentucky’s 2018 Economic Freedom ranking, as measured annually by the Cato Institute, moved up seven spots among the 50 states to No. 26 from No. 33 in the last ranking.

Kentucky dropped seven spots — from 35 in 2017 to 42 this year — in the annual CNBC Top States for Business rankings.  Kentucky scored well in infrastructure and cost of doing business, but problem areas included education and quality of workforce.


Kentucky was considerably below the national average in the percentage of the state population with access to broadband. Eighty-five percent of Kentuckians have broadband access compared to the national average of 92.3 percent.

In terms of the percentage of bridges that are structurally deficient, Kentucky fares better than the national average, with 7.8 percent of Kentucky’s bridges rated structurally deficient compared to 8.9 percent nationally.

Kentucky continues to be a national leader in low electricity costs to industry. As of August 2018, Kentucky’s average industrial electric price was 5.25 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared to a national average of 7.24 cents.  Only Washington state was lower at 5.23 cents.

View all the data collected on the Four Pillars for Prosperity Dashboard on the Kentucky Chamber website here.