HOUSTON (KIAH) — As the Fourth of July quickly approaches, Americans may have noticed how much their independence has been tested over the past year.
The pandemic hasn’t just kept people apart, it’s also led many to become more dependent on support from the federal government. States have received an additional $195 billion in federal COVID-19 aid this year.
Other people may be depending on personal vices such as drinking or drugs to cope with isolation and stress.
The personal-finance website WalletHub released a report this week on 2021’s Most & Least Independent States. The report gauges each state’s self-reliance despite the pandemic.
WalletHub compared all 50 states based on five sources of dependency: consumer finances, the government, the job market, international trade and personal vices.
According to the report, Utah is the most independent state, followed by Colorado and Nebraska. Utah also had the lowest percentage of adult binge drinkers.
Kansas was the least dependent on the federal government, while Wyoming had the lowest percentage of households receiving public assistance. South Dakota had the lowest percentage of adult drug users.
Louisiana was the least independent state, followed by Kentucky and Mississippi.
New Mexico was the most federally dependent, while Rhode Island had the highest percentage of households receiving public assistance.
“The federal government’s ability to tax the entire nation allows it to redistribute funds to the states in most need,” said Dr. J. Wesley Leckrone, a political science professor at Widener University. “This creates a national minimum level of services and safety net across all states and helps increase spending in states that lack tax capacity to raise their own revenue.”
Vermont had the highest percentage of adult drug users, and Wisconsin had the highest percentage of binge drinkers.
Nebraska and Utah tied for the lowest unemployment rate, while Hawaii had the highest.
Financial experts say joining the “gig” economy can reduce job dependency, but there are risks.
“The problem is that you have to hedge against risk in ways that you were previously hedged against when you worked for somebody else: because you might have been hard to replace, even during bad times they had an incentive to keep you employed and keep paying you,” said Victor Menaldo, a political science professor at the University of Washington. “Also, firms have more diversified product and service portfolios than folks who work for themselves. Those sources of security are gone once you break out on your own. So hustle, hustle, hustle.”
Over the last year, the coronavirus pandemic prompted many nationwide restrictions implemented in the interest of public safety, but with the ongoing distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, many of them have largely relaxed in recent months.
For more on the report, visit Wallethub’s website.