Thursday, March 30, 2017

Income Inequality

What's up with Twiggs County, Georgia?

In fiddling with the 2017 health data, it turns out Twiggs County is #1 in Georgia and #4 in the whole country in terms of income inequality. Hmph.

I don't know anything about Twiggs County other than what I can skim from census numbers and the magic that is its Wikipedia entry. It sits near Macon and has relatively few people, a hair over 8,000, but it scores really high in terms of income inequality.

So how is income inequality measured? You take a county's 20th percentile average income and compare it to the 80th percentile average income and generate a ratio. So for Twiggs county the 80th percentile average of salary is $79,276 and the 20th percentile average salary is $,959. The ratio, dividing the bigger by the smaller, is 7.96 or, in this case, rounded to 8.0.  In other words, it has a big gap between residents who earn the most and residents who earn the least, at least compared to the gap seen in other counties.

The national list is a mishmash of places. Below are the Top 5 U.S. counties in terms of income inequality:
  1. Radford City, Virginia
  2. New York, New York
  3. Clarke, Alabama
  4. Twiggs, Georgia
  5. Terrell, Texas
Radford is relatively small as well. I know nothing about it. NYC kinda speaks for itself, but Clarke, Alabama? It's a burb of Mobile, best I can tell. Terrell County, Texas, is tiny as well. So what can we say from these top five? There's no consistent explanation, not a one. They're not all college towns, not all major cities.

Is income inequality a bad thing? Generally yes, though there's something to be said for places with lots of different kinds of people rather than everyone being about the same -- or all above average. 

Now closer to home. Athens-Clarke County, where I live, rates pretty high in income inequality. We're #2 in the state. Below, the Georgia list and the income ratio, which is simply how many times smaller the bottom salaries are compared to the top salaries:
  1. Twiggs (8.0)
  2. Clarke (7.4)
  3. Clinch (7.0)
  4. Baldwin (6.7)
  5. Ben Hill (6.6)
  6. Bulloch (6.6)
  7. Crisp (6.5)
  8. Bibb (6.4)
  9. Dougherty (6.4)
  10. Burke (6.3)
By the way, the average for Georgia is 5.0. The Georgia county with the least income inequality has a 2.7 ratio (Chattahoochee). In the map below, darker colors signify counties with a greater income inequality ratio. Click on the map and a county to see its ratio.

Not a lot you can tell from the list of counties above. Again, there's no single consistent indicator that I can readily see. No major cities on the list except, maybe, Bibb County and Macon, otherwise income inequality isn't on the surface easy to explain. The poverty rates for these counties are high but not shockingly higher than other counties and in some instances actually lower. Glancing across a number of other indicators, nothing pops up to me to explain why these counties versus other counties lead the list. Athens-Clarke I get -- high poverty and a major university in the same place, but that doesn't really explain the other counties.


Robin Richards said...

4, 8 and 9 also have colleges and, to some extents, a transient population (GA College, Mercer/Middle GA, Albany State). 8 is mostly military folks working at nearby Robins AFB. That might explain a little bit.

Hollander said...

Yup, that does make sense.