In search of America’s 51st state
The Economist decided to take a look at the next likely state of the United States, the fabled 51st state. As expected, Puerto Rico is the most likely jurisdiction to claim that title.
That a new state has not been forthcoming is not for lack of trying. The most likely bet has always been on Puerto Rico, a self-governing United States territory. The island held its first referendum on statehood in 1967, and has held three more since. The most recent, in 2012, was inconclusive (another is planned, though it is as yet unscheduled). Puerto Rico’s formidable debt crisis may bring the issue to a head: statehood would open up many new avenues to deal with its creditors.
Another contender, though less likely, is the District of Columbia (Washington, DC). As the nation’s capital, its legal status is unusual. Unlike Puerto Ricans, DC residents must pay federal taxes and get to vote for the president—as in any of the 50 states—but they share the Puerto Ricans’ lack of other privileges offered by statehood, such as voting representation in Congress. The District’s current mayor, Muriel Bowser, has taken bolder steps towards statehood in recent weeks. On March 18th, a judge ruled in her favour allowing the city to pass a budget on its own for the first time. On April 15th she revealed plans for a (non-binding) statehood referendum in November.
Since 2004, Puerto Rico is at the top of Google searches for the 51st state, followed by Washington, DC. Maybe as The Economist says, the crisis will bring this issue to the forefront. Maybe.