Last year, a study from WalletHub suggested that the United States is spending over half a trillion dollars on research and development, which helps it rank fourth on the Global Innovation Index. But which states are most responsible for this incredible amount of STEM research?
For technologists, this is a vital question, especially if they’re seeking to move to a state with a lower cost of living that nonetheless offers a ton of opportunity. The Bay Area, for example, might offer the chance to work at companies like Google where salaries are sky-high (especially for software engineers), but the cost of living is often insane.
Taking a closer look at the 50 states and District of Columbia, WalletHub made some discoveries about where the innovation comes from. It considered two categories: ‘human capital’ (graduates and professionals), and the ‘innovation environment’ (companies and jobs). The weighted numbers returned a ‘state innovation index’ score, which is how the list was ultimately decided.
Massachusetts leads the pack with a score of 73.04, which is 4.5 points higher than second-place Maryland (68.53). Washington, D.C., and California round out the top five with scores of 67.69, 66.09, and 65.37, respectively. Georgia ranked 20th, despite the presence of the burgeoning tech hub of Atlanta.
Here’s WalletHub’s top-ten most innovative states:
What this shows is that one city doesn’t necessarily make or break a state’s tech culture. A previous WalletHub study showed Seattle was the best metro area for STEM jobs, but Washington is third on this latest list. Boston ranked second; Massachusetts first.
Further down the list we see some interesting anomalies. Pittsburgh ranks third on WalletHub’s best metro list, but we don’t see Pennsylvania until 26th on the state ranking. The same can be said for Maryland: it ranks second, but doesn’t pop up on the metro list until Baltimore’s 55th ranking.
Some of these findings are easily explained away. East Coast density means there’s plenty of reason Maryland and the District of Columbia would score similarly, for instance. Massachusetts houses both Boston and Springfield, which appear on the metro list.
Other areas aren’t so clear. Oregon is tenth, but its top city is 29th place Portland. Oregon’s other large cities like Bend or Salem don’t show up at all. California is buoyed by several top cities, many of which feed into the ‘Silicon Valley’ geography. Always keep in mind that salary isn’t necessarily everything when debating whether to move to a new place; cost of living is a huge deal, along with density of STEM jobs.