Even with power outages, Connecticut’s quality of life tops most other states’

Fed up with unprecedented mass power outages, one on the heels of another?

How about last winter’s record-setting snowfall? And don’t forget last summer’s $1.5 billion state tax hike?

Then again, Connecticut generally has a temperate climate, high incomes and quality health care, and ready access to recreational and cultural amenities.

But before the debate heats up, University of Connecticut economists say they can prove statistically that the quality of life here remains better than just about anywhere else.

The latest issue of The Connecticut Economy, the university’s quarterly economic journal, was released Monday featuring a new statistical model that evaluates states using more than two dozen criteria.

“There’s more to life than the weather, and most people would agree that ‘quality of life’ extends beyond wealth or income, encompassing the quality of one’s natural and man-made environments,” wrote economist Steven P. Lanza, publisher of the journal. “By those standards, life in the Nutmeg State is good indeed.”

Economists evaluated a wide range of economic, social, educational, environmental, public safety, transportation and entertainment-related statistics. Using a “factor analysis” method, economists contrasted 26 factors –everything from rainfall to standardized test scores, violent crime to divorces, household income to quality roads — determining how much each factor affects the other, and ultimately shapes the overall quality of life.

Much of the study hinged on weighing the positive and negative factors that directly related to each other.

For example, Connecticut has a high population density in relation to other states, but it also fares well in terms of libraries and restaurants per capita.

Taxes and the overall cost of living is high here, but Connecticut also has strong health coverage, a correspondingly high average life expectancy and strong schools. But the situation is not homogenous statewide, with poverty-stricken urban centers suffering from extremely high unemployment, struggling schools and higher crime rates.

The analysis carries more value than simply offering bragging-rights ammunition in a “who’s best” argument. “Most economists believe that the best way to create an environment conducive to growth is to get the fundamentals right,” Lanza said. “Quality of life is a key consideration, both for individuals and families and for big, job-rich companies — or rather their CEOs and managers — that states like Connecticut are eager to attract.”

Lanza noted that one-third of the country’s income and 18 percent of its advanced degree holders live within a 200-mile radius of Hartford.

The study found that states in the Northeast ranked particularly high in terms of assets, such as high household income, strong health care and education systems, and many cultural and recreational amenities.

When it came to the smallest levels of liabilities — crime, poverty, pollution — states in the Midwest did particularly well.

So where does Connecticut rank overall? Lanza said the model isn’t an exact science, and some personal choice still comes into play.

For those who weigh assets and liabilities equally, Connecticut ranks fifth. North Dakota, the lowest-liability state in the nation, finished on top, following by Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

Not surprisingly, for those who want their state as problem-free as possible, an analysis that placed double-emphasis on low liabilities ranked North Dakota first, while Connecticut’s standing fell to 14.

But for those who give greater weight to a state’s positive features, its amenities, job opportunities and educational system, Connecticut fares best. When assets are given double the weight of liabilities, the Nutmeg State finishes second overall, just behind Massachusetts.

“However you slice it,” Lanza added, “Connecticut offers a premier quality of life.”