The CATO Institute recently released its annual "Freedom in the 50 States" ranking (see interactive map below). The study attempts to analyze a variety of fiscal, regulatory and social policies of each of the 50 states to establish a "freedom index" which allows people in various states to compare their level of individual liberty and freedom.
This study ranks the American states according to how their public policies affect individual freedoms in the economic, social, and personal spheres. Updating, expanding, and improving on the three previous editions of Freedom in the 50 States, the 2015–16 edition examines state and local government intervention across a wide range of policy categories—from taxation to debt, from eminent domain laws to occupational licensing, and from drug policy to educational choice.
Oddly enough, the map loosely mirrors electoral college maps of recent Presidential elections with people in the more left-leaning Northeast and West Coast states found to have the least individual "freedom" while people living in the right-leaning Southeast and Midwest were found to have more "freedom."
Unsurprisingly, New York (ranked 50th) and California (ranked 49th) took the prize for "least free" while, in a little twist of irony, the "Live Free or Die" state of New Hampshire won the award for most "free". Guess those slogans actually do mean something after all.
Below is a detailed look at the methodology employed by the CATO Institute to calculate the rankings: