Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Socio-Economic Profile of Wyoming, Part 1

Remember the first ENDOW report? It claimed to present a socio-economic profile of Wyoming. It did not amount to much - you can read it here and my response in part 1, part 2 and part 3 - but it has been used profusely by tax-and-spenders to advocate more economic development spending.

Since the ideas in the ENDOW package are still alive, it might be a good idea for us fiscal conservatives to provide our own socio-economic assessment of our state. Let us start today with some basic facts and figures about living conditions around Wyoming. 

To begin with, all the numbers we look at today are at the county level, almost always covering all Wyoming counties. Today we are only looking at 2016 data, but we will stretch it out in time as we move forward. 

The source of the data is the Census Bureau's excellent American Community Survey. This database gets better for every year, and the best part is that they continue to keep it at the raw data level; it is easy to use it for analytical purposes.  

Today's installment is a bit telegraphic in nature, reporting a few sets of data that will constitute the starting point of our socio-economic assessment. There will be more analytical content as we move forward. 

First out is a glance at the employment situation around the state. Having a job is a necessary - but obviously not sufficient - condition for successful self determination.

We often hear that we have a low unemployment rate here in Wyoming. That is true, but the reason is, generally, that those who lose their jobs here go find somewhere else to live and work. Nevertheless, here are the unemployment rates by county, again for 2016: 

Table 1

Unemployment rate
Washakie 7.4%
Fremont 7.3%
Goshen 6.9%
Uinta 6.4%
Lincoln 5.6%
Laramie 5.4%
Converse 5.3%
Sweetwater 5.1%
Natrona 4.9%
Campbell 4.7%
Albany 4.6%
Johnson 4.5%
Crook 4.4%
Carbon 4.1%
Platte 3.9%
Park 3.8%
Sheridan 3.8%
Weston 3.6%
Hot Springs 3.5%
Big Horn 3.3%
Sublette 2.8%
Teton 2.1%
Niobrara 0.5%

The Niobrara number is pretty interesting, given that they also have the highest support rate in the state; the support rate shows how many people a working man or woman has to support in addition to him- or herself. If the rate is 100, it means you only support yourself:

Support rate
Niobrara 191
Goshen 182
Weston 177
Platte 176
Big Horn 175
Washakie 174
Hot Springs 171
Fremont 169
Sheridan 166
Carbon 161
Uinta 161
Crook 160
Park 159
Laramie 157
Johnson 156
Lincoln 155
Albany 154
Converse 152
Natrona 152
Sweetwater 145
Sublette 142
Campbell 139
Teton 131

The support rate does not say very much in isolation, but it will be a useful tool as we move further into this socio-economic profiling of our state. 

In a public-policy conversation, the first and foremost goal is - again - to promote self determination across the board. This means establishing favorable conditions for employment and job creation, but also to gradually minimize people's dependency on government handouts. Therefore, our next stop is the ratio between non-retirement benefits and work-based earnings. Behold Table 2, where the columns farthest to the right report the same benefits ratio, but sorted from highest to lowest:

Table 2; no numbers available for Niobrara, Sublette and Teton

Non-ret benefits Work earnings Benefits ratio Benefits ratio
Albany $108,873,432 $763,861,260 $0.14   Hot Springs  $0.31
Big Horn $47,161,479 $196,360,448 $0.24 Goshen $0.27
Campbell $107,125,401 $1,378,497,890 $0.08 Big Horn $0.24
Carbon $43,895,428 $360,922,368 $0.12 Sheridan $0.24
Converse $52,962,558 $344,431,794 $0.15 Washakie $0.24
Crook $29,773,883 $195,880,196 $0.15 Park $0.22
Fremont $172,942,450 $785,434,880 $0.22 Fremont $0.22
Goshen $65,311,620 $241,029,980 $0.27 Weston $0.21
Hot Springs $30,406,315 $98,955,850 $0.31 Laramie $0.20
Johnson $41,013,768 $208,277,600 $0.20 Johnson $0.20
Laramie $438,826,787 $2,178,654,856 $0.20 Platte $0.19
Lincoln $71,473,436 $441,285,544 $0.16 Lincoln $0.16
Natrona $283,872,849 $1,961,945,808 $0.14 Converse $0.15
Park $140,837,679 $637,617,610 $0.22 Crook $0.15
Platte $37,859,593 $203,001,792 $0.19 Uinta $0.15
Sheridan $153,138,032 $650,245,435 $0.24 Natrona $0.14
Sweetwater $122,927,339 $1,146,775,788 $0.11 Albany $0.14
Uinta $61,526,899 $417,659,240 $0.15 Carbon $0.12
Washakie $38,442,474 $163,505,550 $0.24 Sweetwater $0.11
Weston $34,512,653 $165,933,726 $0.21 Campbell $0.08

The benefits ratio is not a ratio on how large a part of a household's total income comes from taxpayers. It is, rather, a measurement of the distribution of work-based income and tax-paid income. The higher the ratio, the more dependent a county is on taxpayers to make it through the week.

There is another aspect to this: how many household receive non-retirement benefits (cash assistance, food stamps and Supplementary Security Income)?

Benefit recipients
Niobrara 16.5%
Natrona 15.9%
Platte 15.9%
Converse 15.8%
Fremont 15.2%
Uinta 14.9%
Goshen 14.7%
Washakie 14.4%
Laramie 13.4%
Hot Springs 11.5%
Weston 11.5%
Big Horn 10.9%
Park 10.6%
Carbon 10.2%
Johnson 10.1%
Sheridan 8.8%
Albany 8.2%
Campbell 7.8%
Sweetwater 7.5%
Lincoln 6.0%
Crook 4.8%
Sublette 3.7%
Teton 2.4%

In coming installments of this article series we will look at how these numbers change over time. We are also going to compare dependency on benefits with distribution of income and poverty rates. 

See you all back here tomorrow.

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