The New York Times constructed an interactive map of the United States that ranks the nation’s 3,135 counties on a scale that combines the percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree, median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy, and obesity. The county that ranked dead last is Clay County, Kentucky, where I started my radio career in 1982. Who’s number one? Los Alamos county, New Mexico, which is where the Los Alamos National Laboratory is.
Here are some specific comparisons: Only 7.4 percent of Clay County residents have at least a bachelor’s degree, while 63.2 percent do in Los Alamos. The median household income in Los Alamos County is $106,426, almost five times what the median Clay County household earns. In Clay County, 12.7 percent of residents are unemployed, and 11.7 percent are on disability; the corresponding figures in Los Alamos County are 3.5 percent and 0.3 percent. Los Alamos County’s obesity rate is 22.8 percent, while Clay County’s is 45.5 percent. And Los Alamos County residents live 11 years longer, on average — 82.4 years vs. 71.4 years in Clay County.
The county I live in came in 3,106th. How does yours rank? Mouseover the map at the New York Times to find out. The title may be misleading, though. It’s easy to live in a poor county when you have a job, a degree, and a healthy diet. Life can be hard in Los Alamos if you don’t.