2021 United States Prosperity Index

Our updated and expanded Index shows that the U.S. is well-positioned to rebuild strongly post-pandemic but needs to address long-term issues impacting prosperity as well as the effects of Covid.

A report for the American Dream Prosperity Index programme by Shaun Flanagan

Published 21 Jul 2021

The 2021 U.S. Prosperity Index measures prosperity at a state and county level

Prosperity is much more than mere wealth or economic growth. True prosperity is when all people have the opportunity to thrive. A nation is prosperous when it has effective institutions, an open economy, and empowered people who are healthy and educated.

The U.S. continues to be one of the most prosperous nations globally and is well positioned to prosper in the future. Businesses have good access to capital from domestic and international sources, and there are strong property rights and protections in place for investors. The business environment actively supports start-ups, promotes competition and expansion, and encourages innovation and ideation.

In addition to its many strengths, however, the country faces some significant challenges that are holding it back from performing even more strongly on the global stage. In particular, the U.S. ranks 66th globally for safety and security and 59th for health. These weaknesses, which are experienced across many parts of the country, are acting as a brake on further progress.

In 2019, with the generous support of The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, we published the inaugural United States Prosperity Index, measuring prosperity across its institutional, economic, and social dimensions for all the different states. In 2020, with additional support from The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Walton Family Foundation, we updated the state level Index and published a brand-new, in-depth analysis of prosperity across 829 counties in eight selected states (California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Montana, New York, Oklahoma, and Texas). In 2021 we expanded the county level Index to include 367 counties from four additional states (Florida, Kentucky, Minnesota, and Nebraska).

The state and county Indexes have been developed as practical tools to help identify what specific actions need to be taken to strengthen the pathways from poverty to prosperity across the U.S. Our ambition is that federal, state, and county leaders, policymakers, investors, business leaders, and philanthropists will use the Indexes to help set their agendas for growth and development, and that others will use it to hold them to account.


  • The United States is one of the most prosperous countries in the world, ranking 18th out of 167 nations. It has a particularly strong and open economy, ranking 4th in the world for both enterprise conditions and market access and infrastructure.

  • Prosperity is distributed unevenly across the country, with disparities at state and county level and among different groups of society. Massachusetts continues to be the strongest-performing state and Mississippi the weakest.

  • U.S. prosperity had been rising continuously for more than a decade, as a result of long-term improvements across many areas including increased productivity and competitiveness, a more educated adult population, reductions in smoking and drinking, and lower levels of property crime.

  • Prosperity weakened between 2020 and 2021 as COVID-19 impacted many aspects of U.S. society. The direct and indirect impacts of the pandemic resulted in many aspects of prosperity deteriorating over the past year and further consequences are still to be felt, but the number of new business applications has been the highest on record, signaling hope for a strong post-pandemic recovery.

  • Even prior to COVID-19, there were some significant challenges acting as a brake on U.S. prosperity, including an increase in mass shootings, rising obesity and mental health issues, and people interacting less with neighbors.

To find out more, download the report or visit the United States Prosperity Index website: usprosperity.net



2021 United States Prosperity Index:

The 2021 U.S. Prosperity Index measures prosperity at a state and county level

By Shaun Flanagan

Jul 2021

Download the reportPDF