State of Our Counties

How Do Tennessee’s Counties Stack Up?

Featuring more than 9,500 data points across nine issue categories, the State of Our Counties Dashboard provides local leaders, community advocates, and Tennesseans with a powerful interactive tool to better understand how their county is doing relative to their neighbors.

The State of Our Counties Dashboard, released for the first time in 2024, is an expansion of ThinkTennessee‘s mission to make data and research more accessible and actionable for Tennesseans (for the State of Our State Dashboard, which compares Tennessee to peer states, please click here). The county dashboard compiles data from dozens of sources and creates interactive visualizations, placing powerful information into the hands of Tennesseans to enrich policy conversations. Overall, 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.

Key Findings: Economic Conditions for Working Families

While the goal of the county dashboard is to create a resource for Tennesseans, we have conducted an initial analysis of the county-level data and identified three important economic trends:

  1. Nearly every county in Tennessee is experiencing strong GDP growth and low unemployment – though some counties have stronger economic indicators than others. Clay, DeKalb, Hawkins, Haywood, Moore, Polk, Rhea, and Stewart Counties showed double-digit GDP growth between 2021 and 2022. 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 and slightly higher in non-urban counties.
  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. In the average Tennessee county, median household income is $51,734. In almost all counties, 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.
  3. Tennesseans’ low incomes are exacerbated by the lack of access to affordable housing and childcare. In the majority of Tennessee counties (50 of 95), families working two full-time minimum wage jobs would not earn enough 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.

Note: For the sake of consistency, rankings are standardized such that a county ranked 1st will always be performing well relative to other counties, and a county ranked 95th will always be performing poorly relative to other counties. In a handful of metrics, we omit rankings because the metric does not necessarily indicate good or poor performance.

How to Use This Tool

Data in the county dashboard can be analyzed 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.

Compare All 95 Counties on a Single Metric

In the dropdown menu “Map Metric Category,” select a broad category from the list (ex: Infrastructure & Mobility). The map will generate the first metric within that category by default. To change a specific metric, select from the dropdown menu “Map Metric” to view data in a specific category. County labels on the map can be toggled on and off with the checkbox beneath the dropdown menus.

To download all counties’ rankings for a single metric, select the button “All Counties Summary.”

View All 104 Metrics in a Single County

To download all 104 metrics for a specific county, select the county from the dropdown menu and click the button “All Metrics.”

View Summary Analysis of a Single County

To download an overview of key metrics and demographic data for one county, select the county in the dropdown menu and click the button “County Overview.”

State of Our Counties Dashboard Webinar

On June 3, 2024, ThinkTennessee hosted a webinar to give an overview of the State of Our Counties Dashboard. In this session, presenters walked through how to use the dashboard tool and discussed how the county-level data helps highlight important trends across Tennessee, including employment growth, economic mobility, and housing affordability. Presentation slides from the webinar can be viewed here.

Notes on Methodology

Metrics were compiled using publicly available data and are current as of January 2024. Where possible, we favored U.S. government data over other sources for consistency and reliability. Additional details on research methodology can be found by clicking the button below.

The State of Our Counties Dashboard is a research product of ThinkTennessee, a nonpartisan, results-oriented research and advocacy think tank.
Research Contributors: Matthew Kenny, Policy Associate (ThinkTennessee) and Amy Gore, Policy and Research Director (ThinkTennessee)
Website Design & Development: Andrew Bell and Market Retrievers LLC

If you have questions about the data presented in this dashboard, its maps, or the methodology used in this resource, please email us at