This spring, Democratic state senator Eliot Shapleigh, of El Paso, distributed the second edition of “Texas on the Brink,” a pamphlet detailing how the second-largest state compares with the other 49 in education, health, crime, and other measurable areas of public life. Shapleigh writes in the introduction that Texas must “make the necessary and critical investment” in public services and warns that “our state is at a crossroads.” At least that crossroads is familiar territory: Shapleigh’s portrayal of a state government that taxes and spends at a low level is hard to dispute, but it is not exactly new. It was as true fifty years ago, when Texas was a Democratic state and “a good business climate” was the mantra of state leaders, as it is today, when Texas is a Republican state whose watchword is “economic development.” The rankings below, drawn from Shapleigh’s report, say a lot about the choices we’ve made, and they’re certain to fuel the ongoing argument over whether those choices have been wise.

50th in

Percentage of population with health insurance Source 50-1
Percentage of high school graduates age 25 and over Source 50-2
of insured low-income children Source 50-3
Average consumer credit score Source 50-4
Per capita spending on government employee wages and salaries Source 50-5
Per capita spending on government administration Source 50-6
Affordability of homeowners’ insurance Source 50-7
Affordability of residential electric bill Source 50-8

49th in

Tax revenue raised per capita Source 49-1
Per capita spending on state arts agencies Source 49-2
Total general expenditures per capita Source 49-3
Per capita spending on water quality Source 49-4
Amount of monthly Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) benefits paid Source 49-5

48th in

Per capita spending on parks and recreation Source 48-1
Mean Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) scores Source 48-2
Average spending per child on child protection Source 48-3
Percentage of workforce represented by a union Source 48-4

47th in

Amount of welfare and food-stamp benefits paid Source 47-1
Percentage of poor who receive Medicaid Source 47-2

46th in

Per capita spending on environmental protection Source 46-1
Per capita spending on mental health Source 46-2
Per capita spending on the protection of open spaces Source 46-3
Average hourly earnings Source 46-4

45th in

Per capita spending on public health Source 45-1
Number of secondary teachers with degrees in the subject they teach Source 45-2
Percentage of women ages 50–69 who received mammograms within the last two years Source 45-3
Total assets of banks, trust companies, and savings institutions Source 45-4
Home ownership rate Source 45-5

44th in

Number of pharmacists Source 44-1
Percentage of eligible voters who are registered Source 44-2

43rd in

Number of households with checking accounts Source 45-1
Income distribution equality Source 43-2
Workforce education Source 43-1

41st in

Number of dentists Source 41-1
Number of households with savings accounts Source 41-2

40th in

Rate of women ages 18–64 who receive Pap smears Source 40-1
Percentage of adults who meet recommended levels of daily physical activity Source 40-2
Number of physicians Source 40-3

39th in

State aid per pupil Source 39-1
Number of psychologists Source 39-2
Affordability of auto insurance Source 39-3

37th in

Compliance with the Supreme Court decision declaring that unjustified institutionalization of a disabled person is discrimination Source 37-1
Number of women receiving prenatal care Source 37-2

35th in

Per capita spending on police protection Source 35

33rd in

Percentage of population with access to primary care Source 33-1
Rate of firearm deaths per 100,000 people Source 33-2

32nd in

Percentage of households with Internet access Source 32-1
Per capita spending on education Source 32-2
Average teacher salaries Source 32-3

25th in

Percentage of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree Source 25

16th in

Property tax collected per person Source 16

15th in

Murder rate Source 15

12th in

Prevalence of obesity Source 12

11th in

Percentage of low-income students in public schools Source 11-1
Violent crime rate Source 11-2

9th in

Rate of infectious disease per 100,000 people Source 9-1
Unemployment rate Source 9-2
Number of alcohol-related traffic fatalities Source 9-3

7th in

Poverty rate Source 7

6th in

Percentage of two-year-olds not fully immunized Source 6

5th in

Total crime rate Source 5-1
Number of diabetes deaths per 100,000 people Source 5-2

4th in

Percentage of children living in poverty Source 4-1
Per capita consumption of energy Source 4-2

3rd in

Percentage of population that is malnourished Source 3

2nd in

Sales tax dependence Source 2-1
Percentage of population that goes hungry Source 2-2
Overall birth rate Source 2-3
Teenage birth rate Source 2-4
Amount of exposure to ozone pollution Source 2-5
Number of hazardous-chemical spills Source 2-6
Number of inmates per 100,000 people Source 2-7
Number of highway fatalities Source 2-8
Number of adults diagnosed with diabetes Source 2-8

1st in

Child population growth Source 1-1
Percentage of uninsured children Source 1-2
Percentage of home refinance loans that are sub-prime mortgage loans (generally three to four percentage points or more higher than a comparable prime market loan) Source 1-3
Amount of toxic and cancerous manufacturing emissions Source 1-4
Number of clean-water permit violations Source 1-5
Number of environmental civil rights complaints Source 1-6
Per capita consumption of electricity Source 1-7
Number of job discrimination lawsuits filed Source 1-8
Number of deaths attributed to floods Source 1-9
Number of executions Source 1-10