|Commuting Patterns Across Counties|(read more)2 months ago | 0
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...
|Improving Health with Data: The 2014 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps|(read more)2 months ago | 0
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 Prevention. The health factors examine the health behavior of county residents like smoking and drug use, access and quality of clinical care, social ...
|Saving Green With Green Buildings|(read more)3 months ago | 0
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 ...
|Keeping up with 2013 County Population Trends|(read more)3 months ago | 0
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...
|Burden on County Jails Increases as California Tries to Lower Prison Population|(read more)4 months ago | 0
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 ...
|Spotlight on Transportation Funding in Oklahoma Counties|(read more)4 months ago | 0
In February 2014, NACo released a new research study The Road Ahead: County Transportation Funding and Financing, which examines county transportation (roads and bridges) funding mechanisms, challenges and solutions across the 48 states with county governments. Accompanying the study, NACo released an interactive web-based map that details information related to transportation funding for counties in each state from the share of county roads and bridges in the state to identifying the states that authorize counties to raise a local option sales tax to use for transportation. The user can also access individual two page profile for each state on how counties in that state fund transportation.
Taking a closer look at counties in one state — Oklahoma— shows the range of information available on the interactive tool and state profiles. Oklahoma counties have a significant responsibility for roads and bridges in the state — counties own 70 percent of public road miles and 59 percent of all bridges statewide. By comparison, c...
|How to Use the Road Ahead Transportation Interactive|(read more)5 months ago | 0
NACo recently released The Road Ahead: County Transportation Funding and Financing, a study assessing the role of counties in transportation (roads and bridges), funding challenges and solutions to their transportation systems. Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), the federal surface transportation funding legislation expires at the end of September 2014, with federal discussions surrounding reauthorization already started. This study and the companion products will help NACo guide discussions regarding federal transportation legislation.
Together with the study, NACo research team released the Road Ahead web-based map interactive featuring state level maps showcasing state and county transportation statistics. The web map provides access also to individual state profiles for the 43 states in which counties play a role in roads and bridges. To access the report, web interactive and state profiles, go to www.uscounties.org/county-transportation-funding/
The interactive showcases eight indicators listed in the top menu. Once the user clicks on the top level indicator, the interactive displays the respective state level data across the map. The user can access the definition for each indicator by hovering over each indicator tab. Additionally, the user ca...
|New Estimates Show Shifting US Population|(read more)5 months ago | 0
Population changes can create opportunities or challenges for governments, including county governments. The U.S. Census Bureau recently released the 2013 population estimates for states and regions, which are a good preview of the more detailed data at the county level forthcoming in March. The 2013 state population data shows continued national population growth, but with important regional differences.
Population growth varied significantly across regions and states. Overall, the U.S. population expanded by 0.7 percent between 2012 and 2013. This overall growth rate was slightly slower than the previous year, and continued a trend of declining growth rates. At the regional level, the South and West added residents at higher rates than the national average, similar with previous years. Population in the Northeastern and Midwestern regions also expanded, but at much slower rates of growth than the other regions.
Some states stood out for their rapid population growth in 2013. With an economic boom fueled by the expansion in the oil industry, North Dakota was the state with the fastest population growth in 2013, at over 3 percent. Since 2011, North Da...
|2013 in Retrospective: The Recovery of Large Counties|(read more)5 months ago | 0
As 2014 starts unfolding, the NACo research team looked into how county economies fared last year and over the recession and recovery to better understand the baselines and growth trends across the country. With this goal in mind, NACo released County Tracker 2013, a study together with a web-based map interactive that examines the recession and recovery patterns across county economies based on the analysis of annual changes in four economic indicators — economic output (GDP), jobs, unemployment rates and home prices.
2013 has been a relatively good year and the U.S. economy is improving. However, the recovery remains fragile and uneven, with high unemployment rates and employment still below pre-recession levels. Large county economies were part of this story of uneven and fragile recovery across county economies.
The 122 large county economies — the economies of counties with more than 500,000 residents — anchor the economy of their metropolitan areas and states. Only 4 percent of all the 3,069 county economies, they represent more than half of all jobs and concentrate 57 percent of county economies’ output (GDP). They have been at the core o...