SOURCE & METHODOLOGY
Distressed Designation and County Economic Status Classification System, FY 2007 – FY 2021
The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) uses an index-based county economic classification system to identify and monitor the economic status of Appalachian counties. The system involves the creation of a national index of county economic status through a comparison of each county's averages for three economic indicators—three-year average unemployment rate, per capita market income, and poverty rate—with national averages. The resulting values are summed and averaged to create a composite index value for each county. Each county in the nation is then ranked, based on its composite index value, with higher values indicating higher levels of distress.
County Economic Levels
Each Appalachian county is classified into one of five economic status designations, based on its position in the national ranking.
ARC County Economic Status Designation by National Index Value Rank
County Economic Indicators
Three–Year Average Unemployment Rate
Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Local Area Unemployment Statistics. https://www.bls.gov/lau/home.htm
Per Capita Market Income
Note: The Bureau of Economic Analysis accelerated the release schedule of its income data in the year between ARC's FY 2014 and FY 2015 county economic status designations, which allowed ARC to increase the currency of the income indicator by two years, instead of by one year.
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis, Local Area Personal Income. https://www.bea.gov/data/income-saving/personal-income-county-metro-and-other-areas/
Note: Five-year poverty estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey were first used in the fiscal year 2012 county economic status designations. The decennial census no longer produces poverty data. A five-year estimate provides the most reliable and comparable data for all U.S. counties, particularly those with small populations. A new five-year poverty estimate will be incorporated into the county designations each fiscal year.
Source for Fiscal Years 2012–2021: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/acs/
Source for Fiscal Years 2007–2011: U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Census of Population and Housing 2000 Summary File 3. https://www.census.gov/topics/income-poverty/poverty.html
ARC computes new county economic levels each fiscal year based on the most current data available at the beginning of the calendar year of computation. The time series used for each economic indicator and fiscal year is listed in the table below.
Note: The number of U.S. counties was reduced by one, for a total of 3,112 in FY 2021, due to a Census Bureau poverty data collection error in Rio Arriba County, NM. The number of U.S. counties increased from 3,110 in FY 2016 to 3,113 in FY 2017 due to geographic changes in the three federal source databases (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, and U.S. Census Bureau).