By Jason Gray
Research & Policy
The health of individuals, communities, and their local economies are tightly woven. This knowledge drives the theme for the 2016 Rural Assembly: Growing Better Together: Rural Health and Economic Development.
Here is our monthly data visualization that makes a simple case for why this intersection between health and economic development is so important. We begin with data from the 2016 County Health Rankings released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. We encourage you to go to their website to explore your own county’s data to see you your county ranks. The Foundation is widely respected for this national analysis that is updated annually.
The map below classifies the 80 rural county rankings into quartiles, meaning the counties are ranked and divided into four groups of 20. The 1st Quartile has the 20 counties with the lowest health ranking scores, the 4th Quartile has the 20 counties with the highest health ranking scores. We’ve included the 20 Urban and Regional City/Suburban counties as their own separate classification.
As we have pointed out in our past data visualizations, our most economically distressed rural counties tend to cluster into two general regions – several counties in northeastern North Carolina and several counties in the southeastern/south central sandhills area near the North Carolina/South Carolina border. As you can see, the 1st Quartile of the County Health Rankings follows this pattern and reflects many of the counties in these two regions.
What are the income patterns associated with these health rankings? In the graphs below and to the right of the map we have two different sources of income. The top graph is the U.S. Census Bureau’s Median Household Income (MHI). This builds on the MHI data we shared last month. As you can see, MHI levels are closely correlated with where a county ranks among the health quartiles.
The bottom graph displays income data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis – a research division within the United States Department of Commerce. It is insightful because per capita personal income (total county income divided by total county population) is divided into three streams:
· Per capita net earnings – earnings by place of work plus the adjustment for residence
· Personal Transfer Receipts – this includes Social Security benefits, Medicare and Medicaid, and unemployment insurance benefits
· Dividends, interest and rent – consists of personal dividend income, personal interest income, and rental income
You can select which income stream you want to see from the pull down menu just below the graph title: “2014 Personal Income Components by Health Quartiles.” By scrolling over the map, the BEA data for individual counties is also displayed.
Average per capita personal income shows some association with the health quartiles, but the connection is not as strong as with MHI. Why the slight increase in the 2nd quartile over the 3rd Quartile? We believe 2rd Quartile Counties Wayne, Duplin, Sampson, Beaufort and Wilson have per capital personal income over $35,000, but generally poorer health rankings – this nudges the quartiles income data up a bit. This is also seen in the per capita net earnings visual.
Transfer Receipts have an inverse relation to the quartiles. They are highest in the 1st quartile counties that have the worst health metrics. These counties have older populations, so there is more per capita Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid payments.
Finally, Dividends, Interest and Rent data shows that higher dollar values result generally in improved health metrics. The Dividends, Interest and Rent value for the 4th quartile counties (highest health rankings) is higher than the urban and regional city/suburban counties. Why is that? The 4th quartile rural counties attracting relatively high wealth retirees: Moore, Polk, Carteret and Dare counties, all with over $10,000 per capita in this category.
All this only hints at the complex relationship between personal health and economic well being and between community health and economic prosperity. We’ll explore this more at the 2016 Rural Assembly. Haven’t registered yet? You can do so here. We look forward to seeing you!
Link to Tableau Visuals: