These Are the Most Self-Reliant States in America

The self-reliant American cowboy: A symbol of freedom and independence

The self-reliant American cowboy: a symbol of freedom and independence |

As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as independent and self-reliant. Though we live in an intertwined society, we take care of ourselves. We build our own lives, and sink or swim based on our own merits — or so we like to believe. While there are a huge number of factors that can ultimately determine if we’re successful in our chosen endeavors, we do, largely, control our own destinies. On the state level, that holds true for some states more so than others.

America’s most self-reliant states

While many states rely heavily on the federal government for funding, other states are remarkably self-reliant. There are a number of possible reasons for that — low populations, high state taxes, or just a lack of federal facilities like military bases or Indian reservations, for example. We used a report from the Tax Foundation, which used 2014 data, to see which states rely on federal funding the least.

These states receive the least amount of aid from the federal government as a percentage of their overall state budgets. Again, there are many different reasons for this, but if you’re wondering which state can be called the most self-reliant or independent, read on.

15. New Hampshire

  • Federal assistance accounts for 28.1% of New Hampshire’s general revenue.

New Hampshire’s motto is “live free or die,” which seems entirely appropriate the state’s appearance on this list. New Hampshire is small and has a relatively low population, meaning that it can be mostly self-sufficient when it comes to taxing and spending. It doesn’t, for example, have big ports, airports, or national parks, and as a result, doesn’t get as much federal funding as some bigger, more populous states.

Next: A state with independence in its genes

14. Massachusetts

Boston in the Fall

Boston, Massachusetts | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

  • Federal assistance accounts for 27.8% of Massachusetts’ general revenue.

Massachusetts may just to the south of New Hampshire, but it boasts a much larger population. It also has a major city — with some major infrastructure — that receives a lot of federal funding. Outside of Boston, though, it’s quite rural. How does the state make ends meet without a lot of federal funding? It has high state taxes which help make up the difference.

Next: A state famous for beer and cheese.

13. Wisconsin

Devils Lake State Park

Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin | Wirepec/iStock/Getty Images

  • Federal assistance accounts for 27.8% of Wisconsin’s general revenue.

Wisconsin is one of those rugged, outdoorsy states in which self-reliance is something to behold. Though it stands in contrast to the other state on our list so far — in that it’s further west and larger — Wisconsin manages to get by with a little more than a quarter of its general revenue coming from the federal government.

Next: Home of the NHL’s Devils

12. New Jersey

The skyline and Atlantic Ocean in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The skyline and the Atlantic Ocean in Atlantic City | AppalachianViews/iStock/Getty Images

  • Federal assistance accounts for 27.3% of New Jersey’s general revenue.

New Jersey is another one of those small, populous northeastern states that levies some pretty high taxes on its residents. Because of those high state and local taxes, the state is able to take less in federal funding. Still, more than a quarter of New Jersey’s general revenue is sourced from Washington D.C. — or all of America, technically.

Next: A state that’s all about self-reliance

11. Alaska

ANCHORAGE, AK - JULY 11: A truck passes a street sign named for the Bore Tide at Turnagain Arm on July 11, 2014 in Anchorage, Alaska. Alaska's most famous Bore Tide, occurs in a spot on the outside of Anchorage in the lower arm of the Cook Inlet, Turnagain Arm, where wave heights can reach 6-10 feet tall, move at 10-15 mph and the water temperature stays around 40 degrees Fahrenheit. This years Supermoon substantially increased the size of the normal wave and made it a destination for surfers.

Anchorage, Alaska | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

  • Federal assistance accounts for 26.9% of Alaska’s general revenue.

When you think of Alaska, you almost certainly think of rugged, self-sufficient people. Alaska is a tough place to live, with brutal weather and a small population. Prices are higher there, too. But Alaska makes do and manages to do it while taking a surprisingly small amount of federal funding in to balance the budget.

Next: The land of Lincoln

10. Illinois

Springfield, Illinois

The Illinois state capitol building is located in downtown Springfield. | fotoguy22/iStock/Getty Images

  • Federal assistance accounts for 26.8% of the Illinois’ general revenue.

Illinois is somewhat of an anomaly in the Midwest. It’s a blue state, for starters, and has a pretty high population thanks to Chicago, the nation’s third-largest city. As a result, it’s also a state with some hefty taxes, which in turn allows it to be more self-reliant than some of its neighbors. That’s not to say that everything’s all hunky dory in Illinois — but it does receive less from D.C. than most other states.

Next: The first state

9. Delaware

Delaware lighthouse

Cape Henlopen in Lewes, Delaware | Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images

  • Federal assistance accounts for 26.7% of Delaware’s general revenue.

Delaware may be the least surprising state on this list. It’s small, doesn’t contain any big Indian reservations or national parks, and isn’t located along an international border. It also doesn’t have any major cities — all of the aforementioned, of course, receive federal funding. Without the need, Delaware is able to skate by with relatively small chunks of money from the federal government.

Next: Our most populous and economically powerful state

8. California

Point Loma, San Diego

A hiking path at Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego | dancestrokes/iStock/Getty Images

  • Federal assistance accounts for 26% of California’s general revenue.

In contrast to Delaware, California makes a surprising landing on this list. California is a huge state and is our country’s most populous. It’s home to several major cities, national parks, and military bases. In short, there’s a lot of stuff to pay for, and the federal government covers a lot of it. But the people of California pay their dues, too — enough to pay for 74% of the state’s budgetary requirements.

Next: The state that elected Jesse “The Body” Ventura

7. Minnesota

minnesota sign

A fan holds a sign during the NFC Wild Card Playoff game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks | Jamie Squire/Getty Images

  • Federal assistance accounts for 25.5% of Minnesota’s general revenue.

You’ve probably noticed a trend: A lot of the states on this are either small in on the east coast or are in the northern Midwest. Minnesota slides right on into the pattern. Like Wisconsin, Minnesota is a northerly, rugged, self-reliant state. Seeing as how it’s mostly rural (with the exception of a couple big cities), Minnesota can largely manage its own needs.

Next: A state that experimented (and failed) with huge tax cuts

6. Kansas

kansas sign

A fan of the Kansas Jayhawks shows support | Andy Lyons/Getty Images

  • Federal assistance accounts for 25.5% of Kansas’ general revenue.

Kansas is an interesting case. We have to remember that the Tax Foundation (which authored the report our numbers are sourced from) used 2014 figure to compile its list. That was before Kansas Governor Sam Brownback slashed the state’s taxes to the bone and caused some pretty big problems. It’s unclear where Kansas stands now, but for a while there, its rural location and small population allowed it to be self-sufficient.

Next: A state that has little choice but to be self-reliant

5. Hawaii

Political map of Hawaii

Federal assistance makes up less than 25% of Hawaii’s general revenue. | Peter Hermes Furian/iStock

  • Federal assistance accounts for 24.8% of Hawaii’s general revenue.

Like Alaska, Hawaii has to be self-reliant on some level. It’s way out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, half a world away from Washington D.C. and the rest of the United States. And all told, Hawaiians have done a good job of being self-sufficient. Less than a quarter of its general revenue comes from the federal government.

Next: A Western state which prides itself on its independence.

4. Nevada

view of las vegas

The Las Vegas Strip | Ethan Miller/Getty Images for Ascaya

  • Federal assistance accounts for 24.8% of Nevada’s general revenue.

A remarkable fact about Nevada: 84.9% of the state’s land is owned by the federal government. That requires federal dollars for upkeep. Luckily, there isn’t much to keep up with. Nevada is incredibly rural, outside of a couple cities. And taxes in those cities allow the state to remain self-reliant. As a result, 24.8% of the state’s revenue is sourced in D.C.

Next: This state also has a mean “revolutionary” streak

3. Connecticut

Hartford, Connecticut skyline

Hartford, Connecticut | SeanPavonePhoto/ Getty Images Plus

  • Federal assistance accounts for 24.6% of Connecticut’s general revenue.

Hey, look — another small state in the northeast. We’ve already covered several of these, and have revealed their secrets — mostly, that they’re high-tax states that don’t have much in way of large, federal expenditures. Connecticut, like those others, fits the bill. That’s what puts it among the top three most self-reliant states.

Next: The nation’s capital city is carved out of this state.

2. Virginia

Richmond, Virginia, USA

Richmond, Virginia |

  • Federal assistance accounts for 22.8% of Virginia’s general revenue.

Though Virginia is adjacent to and is very interconnected with the District of Columbia, the state is very self-sufficient. Though there’s plenty of federal action in and around the state, Virginians largely cover their own expenses. Virginia gets 22.8% of its general revenue from the federal government, good enough for second place on the list.

Finally: America’s most self-reliant state

1. North Dakota

North Dakota

North Dakota | Andrew Burton/Getty Images

  • Federal assistance accounts for 16.8% of North Dakota’s general revenue.

The most independent state in America is North Dakota. It has all of the features we’ve discussed — a small population, it’s mostly rural, and has few national parks, reservations, and military bases — and no large cities that need federal funding. Plus, all of that oil and gas money has helped the state out in a big way.

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