About the Fourth Edition

This 2016 edition of Freedom in the 50 States presents a completely revised and updated ranking of the American states based on how their policies promote freedom in the fiscal, regulatory, and personal realms.

This edition again improves upon the methodology for weighting and combining state and local policies in order to create a comprehensive index. Authors William Ruger and Jason Sorens introduce many new policy variables suggested by readers. More than 230 policy variables and their sources are now available to the public on a new website for the study. Scholars, policymakers, and concerned citizens can assign new weights to every policy and create customized indices of freedom, or download the data for their own analyses.

In the 2016 edition, the authors have updated their findings to:

  • Improve estimates of the “freedom value” of each policy (the estimated dollar value of each freedom affected to those who enjoy it);
  • Provide the most up-to-date freedom index yet, including scores as of December 31, 2014;
  • Include citizen choice among local governments as an important factor modifying the freedom value of more locally based taxation;
  • Significantly expand policies affecting business and personal freedom, including new variables for occupational licensing, tort liability climate, land-use regulation, entry and price regulation, alcohol laws, and civil asset forfeiture;
  • Analyze how the policies driving income growth and interstate migration have changed pre– and post–Great Recession.

In addition to providing the latest rankings for year-end 2014, the 2016 edition provides biennial data on economic and personal freedom and their components back to 2006, plus scores for 2000 for long-range comparisons.

Now published by the Cato Institute and accompanied by demographic and economic data on each state, Freedom in the 50 States is an essential desk reference for anyone interested in state policy and in advancing a better understanding of a free society.

The Fourth Edition will be amended periodically to update data that was provisional at the end of 2014 or to correct errors. Readers may contact the authors to suggest changes to the database.

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