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Our view: For N.D., credit where credit is due

Herald editorial board

Now here's some news we can all get behind: North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota all rank among the best places for quality of life, according to a recently released study by U.S. News & World Report.

Among the chief factors considered when determining the ranking was "social environment," including social support and community engagement. It's no surprise then that rural states rank the highest. After North Dakota came Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Hampshire and South Dakota.

Each of the top 10 states in the survey has a mostly rural population and also more space to stretch out. Most important, though, are the relationships that can be found up here in farm and ranch country. In the U.S. News & World Report story about the rankings, Georgetown University sociology professor Sarah Stiles said "the number one indicator of success in life and having a fulfilling, satisfying life is the quality of your relationships."

She also noted how states that fared well in the survey include "agrarian community organization where they depend on each other." That makes sense to anyone who lives in North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota.

U.S. News & World Report reached out to Gov. Doug Burgum for comment. He told the magazine that North Dakota is a place where people can "be part of the community and make a difference." The magazine noted North Dakota's high voter participation as proof. For instance, in the 2016 presidential election, 56 percent of residents voted.

North Dakota ranked No. 3 overall in "social environment." The magazine wrote that "North Dakota and Minnesota are the most effective at promoting their citizens' well-being by providing both a healthy environment and a sense of social connectedness."

And at the same time, North Dakota ranked No. 2 nationwide in "natural environment." U.S. News & World Report said that in order to have high quality of life, a person must be in good physical health, a factor that is greatly impacted by environment. Exposure to air pollution reduces the possibility of good health, it said.

Yet North Dakota, despite its growth in the energy sector, still has good air quality, according to the report. The states with the best air quality generally are flat, according to the report, and that bodes well for the environment, since flat terrain allows potential pollution to easily move out of the state.

The Herald ran the story about the U.S. News & World Report rankings in the USA Today section of our Sunday edition. USA Today writes those headlines, and this one unfortunately read: "California ranks last in quality of life in new report." That's a pessimistic headline if we ever saw one, and quite contrary to the USA Today rule—once rigorously enforced by the late founder Al Neuharth—against "journalism of despair."

The headline should have read: "North Dakota No. 1 in national ranking."

It's nice when North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota get national credit for being great place to live, even if we knew it all along.

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