Americans take pride in their work ethic. There’s a reason, after all, that we talk about “hard-working” or “red-blooded” Americans in our political discourse. And it’s hard to deny there are millions of people out there who give it 110% all day, every day. There are, however, many people who are fine with skating by — with sitting on the sidelines, playing video games or collecting checks.
It’s hard to say just how many people are like that. But we do know America’s hardest working and most motivated tend to be clustered in certain parts of the country. A new report from CashNetUSA reveals which states, specifically, tend to most embody that American work ethic. To be more precise, the report ranks the states in terms of motivation — or, in other words, a willingness to get things done.
The CashNetUSA report used an interesting methodology to determine the rankings. It began with three factors: activation, persistence, and intensity.
“Based on the three motivation components, we set to measure them through the following categories: healthy eating by fruit and vegetable consumption, exercise, reduction and increase in obesity, feeling active and productive, number of social associations (such as golf clubs and fitness centers), hours volunteering, and startup density,” the report said. “You could argue that these pieces of data don’t individually reveal motivation levels, but when viewed all together the three major components of motivation provide a strong indication of motivation levels in a given state.”
Let’s take a look at the 15 states home to the hardest-working Americans.
15. North Carolina
North Carolina is much more than college basketball championships and Cam Newton — though those two things do give us a snippet of the state’s motivation levels relative to others. While the CashNetUSA report doesn’t place North Carolina within the top five of any of its specific categories, its overall body of work was enough to crack the top 15.
14. New Hampshire
The New England state of New Hampshire is a bit of an oddity. It plays an important role in our election process and tends to swing “red” from time to time despite being surrounded by heavily “blue” states. It’s largely rural, too, and according to this report, it’s home to many highly motivated people. Per the report, it ranked within the bottom five in terms of startup density and the top five (second place) in the states that eat the most fruits and vegetables.
13. South Dakota
South Dakota is a beautiful, albeit desolate state. It’s home to the Black Hills and Badlands, as well as Mount Rushmore. It’s also home to some of America’s hardest-working people. South Dakota is an incredibly rural place, meaning there are lots of jobs related to agriculture and resource extraction. The state ranked within the top five in activity and productivity, as well as states with the most social associations.
You don’t hear a lot about the productivity levels in Delaware. But this sleepy oceanside state on the Atlantic seaboard is evidently not so sleepy. Like North Carolina, Delaware didn’t rank within the top five of any of CashNetUSA’s specific categories. But overall, it managed to land in the No. 12 spot. A big reason? Agriculture is the state’s largest industry.
Even the blue haven of Oregon is home to some of the hardest-working red-blooded Americans. In fact, as we’ll see, the entire West Coast makes an appearance on this list. Oregon ranks 11th overall and only landed among the top five in one individual category: states that volunteer the most. Oregon’s biggest industries include resource extraction (for example, timber) and manufacturing.
The state of Virginia is an interesting demographic mix. There are rural and urban parts of the state, as well as mountainous and beachfront areas. And, of course, Virginia borders Washington, D.C., to the north and houses many federal properties and workers. All together, this makes it one productive state. It ranked within the top five for states that volunteer the most.
It might seem like Minnesota is too cold (or too hot, depending on the time of year) to get anything done. But it’s clearly not true, as the CashNetUSA report places Minnesota within the top 10 for most motivated states. It only landed in the top five in one of the specific categories: states that feel active and productive. But it’s more than just a feeling up in the North Star State.
We commonly associate Vermont with flannels, beer, and bicycles — maybe even maple syrup and lake monsters. But the folks in Vermont are a hard-working bunch and as motivated as almost any other state in the country. Vermont’s high placement mostly came down to health-related factors, such as obesity rates and the frequency of which its residents eat fruits and vegetables.
The state of Utah is a budding powerhouse. Although it’s largely rural, cities, such as Salt Lake City and Provo, are attracting businesses and entrepreneurs like few others in the country. People in Utah volunteer more than any other state in the nation, and it ranks third overall in startup density. It’s not all 127 Hours natural horror going on out west — and Utah proves it.
Staying in the West, California takes the sixth spot on the CashNetUSA report. California is an economic powerhouse. It’s actually one of the largest economies in the world, not just among the 50 states. That means for every beach bum there is an entrepreneur hard at work. Although the state didn’t crack the top five in any specific category, California’s overall profile was enough to propel it up the rankings.
Just up the coast from California, Washington has managed to make enough of a case to land in the top five. Washington, like some other states, has an interesting mix of industries. There are giant tech companies in the West, huge agricultural operations in the East, and everyone else in between. Washington ranked high for the percentage of people eating produce and in positive deltas in obesity rates.
Life in Alaska is different, for lack of a better word. Everything — including grocery shopping and starting a business — requires more effort. Because of that, Alaska ranks very high in terms of motivation and productivity. On the CashNetUSA report, Alaska scored high among states that volunteer the most. But you’d have to chalk up the rural, rugged nature of Alaskans for their overall high ranking.
There’s a common theme among the remaining states on the list: They’re all rural, rugged, and out west. Alaska was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Wyoming is next, and it’s the most sparsely populated and rural state in the country. That means the folks in Wyoming need to work hard — harder than most — to make things work. The Cowboy attitude evidently never died.
Bordering Wyoming to the north, Montana takes second place on the CashNetUSA report. Montana is, in many ways, very similar to Wyoming. It does, however, have a handful of sizable population centers. On the report, Montana scored high in several categories, including those related to health and social associations. Like in Wyoming, the cowboy DIY attitude persists in Montana …
Productivity and motivation levels are a mile high out in Colorado. The Centennial State is, according to the CashNetUSA report, home to the country’s hardest-working people. “What’s interesting is that Colorado never reached No. 1 in any of the categories,” the report said. “They were however in the top 10 71% of the time, demonstrating the importance of viewing motivation using multiple factors.”