In Case of a Recession, Here Are the States Where You Might Fare Better

Aerial landscape of Nebraska Sandhills with the Middle Loupe River at Nebraska National Forest near Halsey.
marekuliasz / Getty Images/iStockphoto

With inflation at a 40-year high, rising interest rates and soaring oil prices, talks about a potential recession are getting louder. A new report finds that if you want to survive it, you might want to move, as some states are in better condition to mitigate the effects of a recession — and they aren’t where you might expect. Most of them, it turns out, are in the Heartland.

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Merchant Maverick’s inaugural data report, The Top States Most Likely To Survive A Recession, finds that while strengths vary from state to state in the region, these states tend to have ample government reserves, favorable debt-to-income ratios, and relatively low unemployment rates. They also have experienced positive GPD growth during the Great Recession, a time when many states saw stagnant or negative GPD growth, according to the report.

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“I think there’s been a narrative that a lot of the recent glamorous economic booms have passed the Midwest by, but we may not be giving those states their due credit for resilience and sustainability,” Chris Motola, Special Projects Editor, MerchantMaverick.com, told GOBankingRates.

At the number one spot is Nebraska, and while it may not be the first state that comes to mind when discussing economic powerhouses, it is on solid footing when it comes to surviving the next recession, the report notes. It has ample government reserves (23.1%), a great debt-to-income ratio (0.62), and the lowest unemployment rate in the nation (2.3%). In addition, Nebraska weathered the Great Recession better than most other states.

Following Nebraska are North Dakota, Minnesota, Delaware, West Virginia, Oklahoma, New Jersey, Texas, Wisconsin and Illinois.

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Motola said that common denominators for that region would probably be relatively low levels of household debt and housing affordability.

An interesting finding from the report is that the West is completely absent from the top 10 states. For reasons ranging from low GDP per capita and high debt to high unemployment, the West would be vulnerable if the recession were to hit in 2022.

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Asked whether this was surprising, Motola said, “maybe less so after the past couple years, but we are talking about states that saw great benefit from tech booms, many of which are considered to have progressive economic policies. Oregon fared best of the bunch at #19 thanks to strong government reserves and unemployment coverage.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the Sunbelt accounts for 6 of the 10 most vulnerable states, including popular relocation destinations such as Arizona, Nevada and Florida.

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“Many of these are states that have had aggressive growth-oriented policies. Using Florida as an example, here’s a state that’s seen enormous growth. It’s very effective during booms, but tends to be less resilient during recessions. Florida has no state income tax, but it also has limited UI coverage, and high levels of household debt,” Motola said. “Texas is a notable outlier thanks to its relatively high GPD per capita and unemployment coverage.”

The bottom states for surviving a recession include Nevada, Arizona, Kentucky, Hawaii, New Mexico, Idaho, Maine, Arkansas, Florida and Mississippi, according to the report.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.
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