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Interactive web-based dashboard provides county-level data across 104 indicators for all 95 counties

NASHVILLE – ThinkTennessee, a nonpartisan think tank based in Nashville, today announced the release of the State of Our Counties Dashboard, providing data and rankings for each of Tennessee’s 95 counties across 104 metrics.

Featuring more than 9,500 data points, the State of Our Counties Dashboard provides local leaders, community advocates, and Tennesseans with a powerful interactive and web-based tool to better understand how their county is doing relative to their neighbors. The dashboard data is organized into nine issue categories, including children, criminal justice and the courts, economy, environment and energy, education, elections and civic life, health, housing, and infrastructure and mobility.

Visitors to the county dashboard can analyze the data in a variety of ways, including comparing all 95 counties on a single metric, viewing all 104 metrics for a single county, or reading each county’s summary analysis, which features an overview of demographic data and key metrics.

“During the past several years, we’ve received hundreds of requests for more local data from policymakers and partners, and the State of Our Counties Dashboard is a response to that need,” said Erin Hafkenschiel, president of ThinkTennessee. “The county dashboard shows that there are immense opportunities for counties to collaborate, whether partnering together to find solutions to shared challenges or learning best practices from counties that have achieved success. We hope the county dashboard will facilitate new connections between local leaders and advocates, and we look forward to continuing to support their work.”

ThinkTennessee aims to make data and research more accessible and actionable. By culling data from dozens of sources and creating interactive visualizations, the county dashboard will put powerful information into the hands of Tennesseans to enrich policy conversations and decisions.

Local data helps highlight important trends across Tennessee counties, including employment growth, economic mobility, and housing affordability. For example:

    1. Nearly every county in Tennessee is experiencing strong GDP growth and low unemployment – but some counties have stronger economic indicators than others.
      • GDP growth between 2021 and 2022 varies only slightly on average, but specific counties showed double-digit growth: Clay County (27.2%), DeKalb County (11.8%), Hawkins County (11.9%), Haywood County (23.1%), Moore County (10.2%), Polk County (12.6%), Rhea County (28.0%), and Stewart County (11.4%).
      • The average Tennessee county has a 3.7% unemployment rate. However, the unemployment rate is more likely to be lower in urban counties and surrounding counties, averaging 3.4% and 3.3% respectively, while non-urban counties are more likely to experience slightly higher rates of unemployment, averaging 4.1%.
      • Employment growth varies drastically by county, ranging from -12.4% in Lake County to 76.8% in Wilson County. Urban counties average 26.3%, and counties surrounding large urban areas average 32%, while smaller metro areas average 16% and non-metro areas average only 8%.
    2. Despite these strong economic indicators, individual Tennesseans are struggling to make ends meet due to low incomes and high debt in almost every county.
      • Median household income averages $51,734 across all counties but is typically much higher in Middle Tennessee ($54, 932) and in large metro areas ($61,256). Average wages and salaries are more evenly distributed across the three grand divisions, averaging $48,422 for all counties. Large urban counties ($67,130) and surrounding counties ($52,422) have significantly higher average wages and salaries. In almost all counties, however, the average wages and salaries and/or median household income is anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 short of the average cost of living, which stands at $69,367.
      • Roughly one third (33.6%) of people in the average Tennessee county have debt in collections or are delinquent on their debt. The share of people who have medical debt in collections averages 20.2% and those with some form of auto loan debt (but not in collections) averages 29.3%.
    3. Tennesseans’ low incomes are exacerbated by the lack of access to affordable housing, childcare, among other needs.
      • In the average Tennessee county, minimum wage workers would need to work 95 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom unit, an average of 19 hours a day for a 5-day work week, or 2.4 jobs. In the majority of Tennessee counties (50 of 95), working two full-time minimum wage jobs would not allow a family to afford a two-bedroom unit at fair market rent.
      • A family with two children spends an average of 24.3% of their household income on childcare in Tennessee counties. Even in the event a household could afford such a cost, the average Tennessee county only has 9.3 childcare centers for every 1,000 children.

The county dashboard is a complement to the organization’s signature research project, the State of Our State Dashboard, which launched in 2017 and provides a snapshot of how the state of Tennessee ranks nationally on over 130 indicators across 11 categories.

ThinkTennessee will conduct a State of Our Counties Dashboard Overview webinar on Monday, June 3 at 11:30 a.m. CT to demonstrate how to use the tool, discuss some key takeaways from their initial review of the county-level data, and host a Q&A about the dashboard. This webinar is open to the public but registration is required.

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