The Minnesota Challenge
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June 04, 2010, 06:55 AM
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Audacious Epigone has a new ranking of U.S. states, this time of the percentage of young people "fit-to-serve" in the enlisted ranks of the military. It`s based on a recent report Ready, Willing, and Unable to Serve: 75 Percent of Young Adults Cannot Join the Military; Early Education across America is Needed to Ensure National Security by a bunch of retired generals and admirals.

The report lists the percentage of each state`s young people are undesirable enlistees because they: - are high school drop-outs - have a criminal record - have a health problem (typically, obesity).

Unfortunately, there`s no information available on how much these problems overlap in individuals. Audacious merely subtracts from 100% the sum of the three problems to create his state rankings, which, presumably, overstates the severity of the problem somewhat. But, it`s still pretty helpful as a ranking tool. Here are the Top Ten states with the most fit-to-serve youths:

State Eligible %
1. Vermont 59.8
2. Minnesota 59.2
3. Wisconsin 57.4
4. Iowa 57.1
5. North Dakota 55.4
6. Connecticut 53.0
7. Montana 52.7
8. Utah 52.4
9. New Hampshire 51.9
10. South Dakota 51.5
So, Daniel Patrick Moynihan`s Law of Proximity to the Canadian Border is verified once again. And here are the Bottom Ten:
42. Alaska 32.2
43. Florida 28.8
44. Alabama 27.9
45. New Mexico 23.1
46. South Carolina 22.4
47. Louisiana 21.2
48. Georgia 19.3
49. Mississippi 17.4
50. Nevada 15.9
51. District of Columbia 15.2
Among the demographically diverse Big Three States of the Future — California, Texas, and Florida — California does best at 37.2%, Texas is at 35.5% and Florida at 28.8%. Super fast growing Nevada is next to last at 15.9%, while population-stagnant Vermont is first at 59.8%.

Here`s my advice to generals based on the fit-to-serve trends implicit in these state rankings. Don`t plan on getting us into any more land wars in Asia.

(Here`s the list of per capita enlistment rates in 2003. Montana was first at 67% above the national average, Alaska second, Wyoming third, and Maine fourth. DC and Puerto Rico were last, Utah next (Mormon missionary commitments?), followed by Rhode Island and Massachusetts.)

By the way, Minnesota comes in — Big surprise! — #2 on this measure of fit-to-serve at 59.2%.  It seems to me that Minnesota almost always does well on state rankings of just about anything good.

In Lucky Jim, Kingsley Amis says, "There was no end to the ways in which nice things are nicer than nasty ones." Sociologically, we see positive correlations between most positive things: income, IQ, trust, cooperation, law-abidingness, kindness, future time orientation, health, beauty, and so forth and so on.

So, here`s The Minnesota Challenge: find a state ranking of a broad-based social good where Minnesota`s general population falls in the lower half of all states.

It has to be broad-based. It can`t be something super-elite, like Nobel Laureates resident per capita or billionaires resident per capita. And it can`t be weather-related, like Lack of Frostbite.