Smart SpendingSmart Spending

How are people faring in your neck of the woods?

Interactive map shows how much your state and county are suffering in the recession.

By Karen Datko Mar 24, 2010 4:57PM

The Great Recession has undoubtedly taken its toll, but how close to home is the pain? You can track it in your county and state with the Economic Stress Index prepared by The Associated Press.


“The thing is fascinating,” said our pal “vh” at Funny about Money, who recently discovered this tool. “As bad off as things are in Michigan, what with the struggles of the automotive industry, things generally are far worse in California. The Imperial Valley has an unemployment rate of 27.7%!”


We love poring over statistical snapshots like this, and not all trace misery. For instance,, a partner site of MSN Money, has released a spending report for all of 2009, including the 25 top-spending cities (Austin, Texas, is tops!), the bottom five cities, and spending info in all 50 states. This stuff is fun. Want to know how much people spend to go out to eat, or how much they’re spending on clothes and shoes, or utilities? It’s all there at Bundle.


The AP interactive map is all about misery. The overall Stress Index ranges from 0 to 100, with 100 being the worst possible scenario. (For how it’s calculated, read here.)


To explain how it works, I looked up the Montana county where I live. It had an overall Stress Index of 5.24 for December, up from 3.83 in October 2007. That’s based on (October 2007 figures are in parentheses):

  • Unemployment rate: 4.9% (3.4%).
  • Foreclosure rate: 0.05% (0.03%).
  • Bankruptcy rate: 0.30% (0.42%).

Numbers like those are yet another reason I’m happy to be living far from the madding crowd. Let’s take a look at some other locations. Here’s Miami-Dade County, Fla.:

  • Stress Index: 16.38 (7.33).
  • Unemployment rate: 11.3% (4.9%).
  • Foreclosure rate: 4.57% (2.10%).
  • Bankruptcy rate: 1.21% (0.47%).

Dade is doing better than Wexford County, Mich. Look at these numbers:

An examination of misery would not seem complete without looking at hard-hit Riverside County, Calif.:

  • Stress Index: 21.66 (10.34).
  • Unemployment rate: 14.3% (6.5%).
  • Foreclosure rate: 6.21% (3.51%).
  • Bankruptcy rate: 2.53% (0.62%).

But then there’s Lyon County in Nevada, where the numbers for everything other than bankruptcy are worse than those in Clark County, home of Las Vegas:

  • Stress Index: 24.93% (7.78%).
  • Unemployment rate: 16.5% (6.1%).
  • Foreclosure rate: 8.25% (1.06%).
  • Bankruptcy rate: 2.02% (0.74%).

The AP map also lets you check for changes month to month.

Our friends at Wise Bread pointed readers to an index about food, nutrition, poverty and health -- the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Your Food Environment Atlas. Phil Brewer wrote:


"The tool gives you county-level maps on topics like:

  • How many low-income households have no grocery store within one mile?
  • Is whole grain much more expensive than refined grain?
  • How many farmers markets are there?
  • What's the poverty rate?
  • Which counties are losing population?
  • What percentage of adults is obese?"

Plus, you can find out about food taxes, food prices, restaurant availability, and an assortment of other interesting facts. As Phil observed, if you’re planning to move, this is yet another good source of information.


Check out your county and state, and see how they compare with others. Let us know if you found these tools to be useful or even eye-opening.


Related reading:

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.