Into the discussion of whether sprawl leads to economic growth or economic growth leads to sprawl comes an interesting article by Alan Flippen in The Upshot, a blog published in the New York Times. He and Annie Lowrey ranked counties on 6 measures of education, income, unemployment, and health. They posted a wonderful interactive map on the Times webpage. It shows all the counties in the country. You mouse over them, and their ranking pops up, along with data on the 6 measures. (Find the map here.)
A county that is doing well would be one that is healthy, educated, and has a good economy. One that is struggling has poor health, low education, and a poor economy.
As you look at Missouri on their map, it is clear that taken as a whole, the state would not fare well–most of the state’s counties are struggling, only a few are doing well. There are states that are doing much, much better, but there are also states doing considerably worse – almost the entire South, plus Appalachia.
In Missouri, most of the southern part of the state is seen as struggling, while metropolitan regions and the far Northwest of the state are doing well. While this would appear on the surface to be related to the discussion of sprawl, I really think it is more of an urban-rural dichotomy. Urban centers tend to do better on measures of health, education, and the economy. There is also a north-south split in Missouri, with the struggling counties centered on the Ozarks. This may have something to do with the difference in topography: relatively flat, fertile farmland in the North, and rocky, mountainous land in the South.
This article appeared after I wrote the two preceding articles, but before they went live on the blog. It is strange how often something like that happens. It isn’t a government report or a study in a reviewed journal, so take everything it says with a grain of salt. Still, it is interesting and you might want to check it out.
Flippin, Alan. June 26, 2014. “Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the United States?” The Upshot Blog in The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/26/upshot/where-are-the-hardest-places-to-live-in-the-us.html?ref=us.