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MU Report Finds Missouri Average in Health, Education, Compared to Other States

Low Missouri tobacco tax rates may correlate with high rate of smokers

June 26th, 2012

Story Contact: Nathan Hurst, 573-882-6217,

By Jerett Rion

COLUMBIA, Mo. – According to a new report released by the University of Missouri Truman School of Public Affairs, the state of Missouri has one of the highest rates of adult smokers and the lowest cigarette tax per pack in the United States. David Valentine, a research associate professor at MU, believes that the two have a correlation.

“We have quite high tobacco use and I believe that can be correlated to Missouri’s low tobacco tax,” Valentine said. “However, Missouri has always been a low-tax state and I think that most Missourians prefer it that way.”

The Truman School’s report, which compares various statistics from all 50 states and Washington D.C., reveals that while Missouri has the lowest tobacco tax in the country, the state is fairly average in most other categories. For example, Missouri ranks 35th in household income, 22nd in unemployment rate, and 22nd in the percentage of the population living in poverty.

“The report casts Missouri as an average state and I believe that most Missourians are perfectly content with that,” Valentine said. “The last few years have shown less than sterling economic conditions for the state, but the same can be said for the country as a whole. Some states are more affected by the economy than others, and Missouri is one of those. The states are all swimming together in this bad economy, and because we all swim together, Missouri could improve on any one of these measures in the upcoming years, but it wouldn’t necessarily show in the rankings because everyone may improve.”

The report shows Missouri’s fairly average economy is in line with other categories, including education and health. For example, the state ranks 16th in the percentage of population that is overweight or obese, 27th in the percentage of population without health insurance, 26th in ACT scores, 18th in high school dropout rate and 34th in the percentage of population 25 years and older with a bachelor’s degree. For Missouri to become a top-tier state, Valentine says that big changes need to be made.

“In order to not be average in any of these categories, Missouri would have to make some significant adjustments,” Valentine said. “Whether the changes are in education or health, we would have to make substantial investments in certain areas and, since Missouri is a low-tax state that doesn’t seem likely in the short term.”

The report will be sent to Missouri legislative candidates after the primaries in August. The 4th annual report by the Institute of Public Policy in the MU Truman School of Public Affairs can be found at:

Established by the University of Missouri Board of Curators in May, 2001 the creation of the Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs represented a major commitment to public affairs education, research, and public service by the University of Missouri. The mission of the Truman School is to advance the study and practice of governance in Missouri, the nation, and the world by conducting research, informing governance and public policy, educating for ethical leadership, preparing the next generation of scholars and fostering democratic discourse.