American Dream Case Study – Florida versus North Carolina

Ed Burghard“Florida – The Perfect Climate For Business.”

(Perfect Climate For Business website)

“North Carolina – Thrive.”

(Thrive in NC website)


Case Study

This is one in a series of case studies to illustrate how you can use the 2012 American Dream State Ranking Report data to identify the comparative strengths and weaknesses of your state for use in a SWOT analysis.

Analysis Approach

I compare the two states based on the 35 dimensions captured in the 2012 American Dream State Ranking Report.  In this analysis, an advantage is defined as equal to or greater than an index of 105 for a specific dimension score.  A disadvantage is defined as equal to or less than an index of 95 for a specific dimension score.

Identified Points Of Difference

FL versus NC 10x7


Click on the image to make it larger.

Additional Perspective

The ADCI data reflect the outlook of people living in each state.  Reasons why people responded as they did cannot be determined from these data.  However, understanding the why behind the what is important to being able to define strategies that can better enable people living in your state to achieve the American Dream.

To that end, I did a Google search to find some clues to shed light on the why.  This is not intended to be a complete, nor balanced comparison between the two states.  It is simply intended to suggest there may be an underlying reason why people living in each state responded as they did.  The next step for local economic development professionals would be to conduct market research with people living in their state to better understand the true drivers of why they are feeling the way they do.  The research could be qualitative, quantitative or a combination of both.

Google Search Findings

Florida is rated more tax-friendly for retirees than North Carolina

Kiplinger rates Florida tax-friendly and North Carolina as mixed.

Florida is less expensive than North Carolina for home buyers

Florida is a state in US with a population of 12,937,920. The median household income is $41,292.  North Carolina is a state in US with a population of 6,628,636. The median household income is $40,739.

The unemployment rate is lower in Florida than North Carolina

Florida’s unemployment rate is 8.0% versus 9.2% in North Carolina.

North Carolina has a poverty rate by household income of 13.1%, Florida has a rate of 11.1%

North Carolina is ranked as the 4th laziest state in the Nation

Lifestyles and environments vary greatly across the state—from the Research Triangle to the beaches of the Outer Banks—but overall, North Carolina is not a particularly active place. In a survey by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), more than one-fourth of respondents in North Carolina had not exercised in the past month, and the state ranks 10th nationwide for obesity.  While there are certainly leisure activities available in North Carolina, it doesn’t appear people living there take advantage of them.

Florida is ranked #2 in tourism dollars.

With its expansive coastline and favorable winter weather, it’s not surprising that Florida comes in second on the list of states earning the most tourism dollars, grossing $70.5 billion. Disneyworld and its surrounding theme parks, Key West and Miami are just some of the many tourist attractions luring visitors from around the world.  Given the wide variety of options, it isn’t hard to see why Florida would have an edge in leisure activities.


Remember, the American Dream Composite Index™ is a measure of sentiment.  It reveals what people living in a state do, strive for, work for, wish for, and ultimately hope for as they assume multiple roles, including but not limited to, consumers, parents, children, students, employees, employers, parishioners, voters, etc.

The survey conducted by Xavier University contains 139 statements pertaining to various aspects of the American Dream.  Responses comprise the 35 dimensions that ultimately make-up the ADCI.  The survey instrument has been statistically validated.

The ADCI data reveal HOW people living in a state feel about their personal well-being and environment.  However, the data do not explain WHY people feel the way they do.  The ADCI allows economic developers to better understand opportunities for improving their state’s ability to enable the American Dream.  It also helps them identify potential competitive advantages and vulnerabilities versus other states.

Interpret the survey data as “This is the way people living in my state feel about their ability to achieve their definition of the American Dream”.


The intent behind sharing the study results is to raise important questions that are beyond the scope of these data to answer.  The kind of questions that, when answered, will provide you insight into which barriers to achieving the American Dream you should be working to remove.

I have no doubt some economic development professionals will be dissatisfied with their state’s rank.  This is totally understandable.  I am actually not thrilled with where my state  ended up in the ranking.

But, please don’t ignore the ranking.  Instead, use it to encourage local work in answering the WHY question.  Why do people living in your state feel the way they do?  Answering this question will provide valuable insights to use in your state’s economic development strategic planning process.

So, which states offer their residents the greatest chance of living the American Dream to the fullest, and which states are lagging behind?

To view the complete set of State rankings based on the ADCI and five explanatory sub-indexes, simply click this button

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For additional information on the ADCI click HERE.

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18 Comments so far

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  2. Mark Borden

    February 25, 2013

    I grew up in South Florida and it has a ton of advantages to living there if you like Hurricane Season, really hot summers, bugs and high crime rate

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  5. Bill Garrison

    November 27, 2013

    Actually the population of Florida is 19,300,000, not 12,600,00.
    As a nearly 40 year resident of Florida, I like the analysis, though as an economic development professional, I can tell you competing with North Carolina is a lot more difficult than the analysis may suggest.
    I think we all fall victim to the “grass is greener” in the other state syndrome when we compare our communities.
    Thank you.

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