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How happy are Idahoans, and are we good drivers? See these 10 national studies from 2023

With less than one month left in 2023, Idaho has found itself near the top of numerous ranking lists throughout the year, being featured by the likes of Forbes and WalletHub.

Some of those rankings put the Gem State in a great light, such as Idaho being one of the best states to own a vehicle, in terms of maintenance and infrastructure. But other rankings aren’t quite as flattering to Idaho’s reputation, such as poor work-life balance.

Here are the good, the bad and the ugly of Idaho’s 2023 nationwide rankings covered in the past year by McClatchy’s Northwest Service team:

Did we miss any important studies or rankings on Idaho in the last year? Tell us about it in the response form below.

The Good

Idaho is one of the best states to own a vehicle

Idaho is the best state in the northwest United States for drivers, according to a WalletHub study that considered the cost of ownership and maintenance of a car, traffic and infrastructure, safety, and access to vehicles and maintenance.

The Gem State ranked 6th in the nation for overall ownership, and the fourth-best state for the least number of car thefts.

Eagle ranked among list of ‘most envied’ suburbs in America

Idaho had just one suburb out of 175 ranked on the list of America’s “most envied suburban lifestyles,” created by moving company reviewer Moving Feedback.

Eagle was featured at 143rd. The neighborhood website Niche describes the Treasure Valley suburb as a “small-town feel with access to all the things you crave from a larger city” and “the kind of place where neighbors really get to know and care for each other.”

The Christmas Tree lighting at Heritage Park in Eagle, Idaho.
The Christmas Tree lighting at Heritage Park in Eagle, Idaho.

Idaho is one of the happiest states in the US

WalletHub also ranked the happiest states in America, despite some of the less-positive rankings later in this story.

The Gem State tied for 8th, alongside Florida. Americans clearly value mountain hikes and snowy winters as much as the palm trees and beaches of the Sunshine State. WalletHub formulated the rankings on three key dimensions: emotional and physical well-being, work environment, and community and environment.

Idaho is a top ten place to retire in America

Considering Idaho is one of the happiest states in the U.S., it’s no surprise that people should want to remain here post-retirement, either.

WalletHub considered post-retirement affordability, quality of life and health care in every state, ranking Idaho 9th. Idaho notably ranked third-best for the lowest property crime rate, which was one of the key indicators considered in the rankings.

Idaho is also a top 10 place to move to/from

Idaho often finds itself among the top states for population growth, and a study from rental company U-Haul found that Idaho ranks 10th nationwide for the net number of people moving in and out of the state.

Of course, many Idahoans find the state’s continued population growth a bad thing, especially those who live in the Treasure Valley.

But for the future growth of the Gem State and the many opportunities and jobs that it brings — such as the new Micron Technology Inc. plant planned for Boise and the Idaho National Laboratory, which employs over 5,700 researchers and support staff — we’re considering this a good thing.

The Bad

Forbes ranked Idahoans as some of the worst drivers in America

Another study may have ranked Idaho as one of the best states to drive in, but that hasn’t helped our drivers.

Forbes ranked Idahoans as the 16th-worst drivers in the nation, primarily focusing on the number of fatal car accidents and types of accidents as the primary metric. On the bright side, the Idaho Transportation Department has seen a decrease in fatal car wrecks, dropping from 271 in 2021 to 219 in 2022.

Two seperate studies found Idaho to be a dangerous state for drivers, both young and old.
Two seperate studies found Idaho to be a dangerous state for drivers, both young and old.

Idaho ranked one of the most dangerous states for young drivers

While on the topic of Idahoans not being the best drivers, a separate study from a New Orleans-based law firm found that the Gem State is one of the most dangerous states for young drivers.

From 2017 through 2021, Idaho has seen 167 fatal crashes involving people between the ages of 15 and 20, which makes up 15.6% of all fatal crashes in the state. That percentage of crashes involving those between 15 and 20 makes Idaho the second-most dangerous state in the nation for young drivers.

Idahoans have terrible work-life balance

For all that Idaho has to offer — hiking and biking trails throughout the foothills and mountains, endless camping grounds and a lively entertainment scene in Boise — you’d think Idahoans would take plenty of time to enjoy themselves.

As it turns out, Idahoans have the worst work-life balance in the country. A study using data from the 2021 American Time Use Survey found that Idahoans spend, on average, 8.85 hours working per day and just 1.98 hours on leisurely activities. That resulted in a work-to-leisure ratio of 4.47, beating Iowa for the top spot, which recorded a work-to-leisure ratio of 4.01.

The Ugly

Idaho is one of the worst states for women

Between abortions being banned in most cases in Idaho, the Idaho Supreme Court arguing that the Idaho Constitution does not provide a fundamental right to abortion, and a state representative starting the 2023 legislative session by comparing women’s reproductive healthcare to milking a cow, the Gem State hasn’t been too kind to women as of late.

So it’s not surprising that WalletHub ranked Idaho as the ninth-worst state for women to live.

Idaho ranked in the bottom half of states due to two key metrics: women’s economic and social well-being, and health care and safety. The Gem State also ranked notably low in the percentage of women-owned businesses (47th) and the median earnings for female workers (50th).

Nearly 5,000 people joined the Women’s March on Idaho in downtown Boise in 2017.
Nearly 5,000 people joined the Women’s March on Idaho in downtown Boise in 2017.

Idaho ranked in bottom 10 states for workers

In a report detailing the best states to work in, Oxfam ranked Idaho 41st out of 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Idaho’s low ranking comes from the Gem State scoring particularly low in wage policies (41st), worker protections (27th) and rights to organize (39th).