Politics & Policy

How Innovative Is Your State?

Cork board covered in post-it notes with light bulbs drawn on them

Political scientists have long been interested in the idea of how 'innovative' different states are. In other words, which are first to try new policies and adopt new regulations, and which hang back, adopting a 'wait and see' approach? 

PPC Social Science Policy researcher Frederick Boehmke and colleague Paul Skinner are attempting to resurrect the notion that it is possible to get a big picture of the innovativeness of different states. In Which States Are Most Innovative? published in the Pew Stateline, the researchers describe building a database with "189 policies that states adopted between 1912 and 2009—ranging from seatbelt laws to licensing requirements for beauticians," together with an 'adoption rate' measure that assesses states according to the number of policies they’ve adopted at each point in history. The result can then be used to compare states in terms of innovativeness.

Among the results—California is the most innovative state while Mississippi is the least innovative. According to Boehmke, “California was always a fairly innovative state, but it has become even more so." Meanwhile, Iowa is among the states demonstrating "an increasing willingness to innovate."

Boehmke has been featured on Boston Public Radio and WNYC (both stations are members of NPR) to discuss his findings.