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Commuting Patterns Across Counties


Understanding commuting patterns — or the journey from home to work — is important for counties in planning transportation projects and economic development efforts.  The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data from 2008 – 2012, shows variation in the ways workers travel to work in counties across the country.

Although the automobile was still the dominant mode of transport for commuters nationwide, there is variation in the numbers of people commuting to work by automobile across regions of the U.S. and across small, medium and large size counties.  Compared to other modes of transport including public transportation, walking, biking, taxicab or motorcycle — driving to work in an automobile has the largest share of workers nationwide, with 86 percent of workers in this category.  However, there is variation in the share of workers that drive to work across regions of the U.S.  In the northeast only 74 percent of workers drive to work, while in the South slightly over 90 percent of workers drive an automobile to work.  In examining the data at the county level, large counties—those wi...

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4 months ago | 0

Improving Health with Data: The 2014 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps


The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation just released the annual County Health Rankings & Roadmap for 2014 that puts counties and the health of their residents center stage.  The annual rankings are part of a program launched in 2010 to show how counties are doing and where they can improve on health.  This year, the measurement tool has six new indicators and an interactive map for easier exploration of the data.

The 2014 County Health Rankings assessment tool includes 34 different ranked measures that influence the health of Americans, such as smoking, high school graduation rates, employment, obesity and access to exercise.  The rankings are based on measurements of two components: 29 health factors, elements that influence health; and five health outcomes, showing the results of health behavior.  These measures come mostly from public sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Health Statistics and other units of the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionThe health factors examine the health behavior of county residents like smoking and drug use, access and quality of clinical care, social ...

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4 months ago | 0

Saving Green With Green Buildings

Green building.jpg

Earth Day on April 22 was a reminder of all things that can go green — including energy, air quality, transportation, water quality, land use, purchasing and recycling.  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ENERGY STAR program — a voluntary program that helps businesses, government entities and individuals — works towards saving money for its participants through energy efficiency.  Many people may recognize the ENERGY STAR label on electronics and appliances, but the program is not only for computers and refrigerators — commercial buildings and industrial plants can also get an ENERGY STAR certification.  ENERGY STAR certified buildings and plants are located in counties across the country, and additionally, many county governments have taken steps to reduce the energy consumption of their buildings, certify them and save money on energy and water use.

The EPA has a straightforward process for gaining an ENERGY STAR certification for buildings.  The first step is to use the Portfolio Manager, which is free software that tracks and reports a building’s water and energy use.  Once the user enters the characteristics of the building in the ...

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5 months ago | 0

Keeping up with 2013 County Population Trends


Last month, the U.S. Census Bureau released the 2013 county population estimates, allowing a closer look at population changes on a local level.  NACo’s previous analysis of 2013 state and regional trends revealed that U.S. population continued to grow between 2012 and 2013 overall, but at a slightly slower rate than in the previous year. Population expansion at the county level shows wider variation within state or regional trends, often driven by the local economic climate.   

The population slowdown happened in almost half of all the counties across the country.  More than half of counties in 14 states – including Alaska, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania – experienced slower population growth in 2013 than in the previous year.  Alaska had the largest share of boroughs undergoing a population slowdown, with 16 out of the total 19 witnessing a deceleration.

But counties saw population expansion in 2013 and at the lower end of growth rates, stabilization.

Consistent with regional findings, many of the fastest growing counties were counties in the South and Midwest.  Most often, these are small counties (with less than 50,000 reside...

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5 months ago | 0

Burden on County Jails Increases as California Tries to Lower Prison Population

California jail population increased in 2012 as the implementation of the public safety realignment process forced reductions in prison population.  On February 10th this year, a three-judge panel approved California's proposal to extend their deadline for the reduction of prison populations to 2016.  This is the final deadline extension from an original court order in 2009 that sought to improve health and mental health care services for inmates by reducing California’s prison population to 137.5 percent of statewide capacity.  Unfortunately for counties, this public safety realignment that began in 2011 in California and similar decisions to reduce prison population across the United States may mean more inmates in county jails.


Local jails represent an important component of the correctional system in any state.  According to the 2012 Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data, California jails house over 78,000 individuals, almost 4 in 10 incarcerated individuals in the state.  This is more than 10 percent of all the local jails’ inmates in the United States.  Generally, jails house individuals who are awaiting trial or who are serving short sentences, while prisons ...

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6 months ago | 0