Feeling a little economically distressed? It could be your zip code.
A recent study found that “place matters” when it comes to economic stability, and the more time a person spends living in an economically distressed area, the less likely they are to achieve economic success over their lifetime.
The study was conduced by the Economic Innovation Group, an ideas laboratory and advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.
If you go to their website, you’ll find a Distressed Community Index that measures the economic well-being of communities across the United States by zip code. The index takes into account things like number of high school diplomas, housing vacancy rates, adult unemployment rates, poverty rates and median income ratios. It covers 99 percent of the U.S. population and includes all zip codes and counties with more than 500 people, as well as nearly 800 cities with more than 50,000 people.
I’m a sucker for interactive maps. So I checked out the website and found some interesting facts about the Chattahoochee Valley.
In both Muscogee and Russell counties, the economic distress levels are pretty high — 75.1 and 88.9, respectively. That compares to an economic distress score of only 16.5 in Harris County. Big difference.
But not all zip codes are faring badly, according to the index. If you’re in Muscogee County, living in the 31909 zip code, for example, the distress score in your neighborhood is only 20.3. In that zip code, only 6 percent of the adults didn’t have a high school diploma, the housing vacancy rate was 6 percent, and the poverty rate was 9 percent.
But if your zip code is 31901 or 31903, the distress scores were 98.7 and 98.4, respectively. In the 31901 zip code, 27 percent of adults didn’t have a high school diploma, there was a 14 percent housing vacancy rate, and the poverty rate was 52 percent.
In the 31903 zip code, 29 percent of adults didn’t have a high school diploma, and there was a 17 percent housing vacancy rate and 40 percent poverty rate.
In Russell County, the distress scores were 81.9 in zip code 36867, 71.2 in 36869, and 38.1 in 36870.
None of this is surprising, I’m sure, to the people living in poverty-stricken neighborhoods every day. But it does suggest a widening gap between the haves and the have-nots in our community.
“The American Dream is predicated on the idea that anyone from any place or background can climb to the highest rungs of the economic ladder,” according to the report. “But there is a growing body of evidence that the more time an individual spends living in a distress community — especially at childhood — the worse that individual’s lifetime chances of achieving economic stability or success. And not all poor neighborhoods are alike; some offer vastly better chances of economic mobility than others.”
It takes much more than changing zip codes to improve a person’s economic situation, obviously, but the information is pretty revealing.
If you want to know how your neighborhood is faring economically, just visit the EIG website and check out their interactive map.