Race to the top

Bill Theobald, writing in the Tennessean, gives the state of the state.
Tennessee trails majority of states in many areas
Here's a report card of how Tennessee rates at the beginning of a new Congress:

Income. Median family income for Tennessee in 2009 was $52,910 compared with $62,363 nationwide. In addition, 12.2 percent of families in the state were below the poverty line in 2009, compared with 9.9 percent nationwide.

Jobs.The November unemployment rate in Tennessee was 9.4 percent, slightly better than the national rate of 9.8 percent. Rates varied across the state, with the Knoxville area at 7.5 percent, metropolitan Nashville at 8.5 percent, Jackson at 9.6 percent and Clarksville at 10 percent.

The economy. Tennessee ranked 41st in economic growth in 2009. The state's gross domestic product (the sum of all goods and services produced) declined 3.1 percent from the previous year.

Health. A third of Tennesseans were obese in 2009, ranking the state third behind Mississippi and Louisiana. Twenty-two percent of adults smoked, putting the state in the top 10. Sixty-nine percent of state residents said they had participated in physical activity sometime in the last month. The national average was 76 percent.

The state had the sixth-highest rate of teen births in 2008. And 31.5 percent of Tennessee residents 65 or older reported that all of their natural teeth have been extracted, ranking the state second behind West Virginia.

Education. Tennessee's fourth- and eighth-graders scored at about the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading tests in 2009. Still, 37 percent of fourth-graders and 27 percent of eighth-graders were rated "below basic."

Tennesseans also trail the country in graduation rates, with about 82 percent having earned at least a high school degree compared with 85 percent nationwide. Twenty-two percent of state residents have earned at least a bachelor's degree, compared with 27.5 percent across the country.

Other grim figures include the state's fourth-place rating in violent crimes per 100,000 residents (based on data submitted by state and local law enforcement agencies) and its 15th-place ranking in 2008 for traffic fatalities per 100 million miles driven.

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