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Posts tagged ‘Fulton County’

TIGC Covid-19 March 28 Round-Up

Random Questions and Observations on Covid-19:

  • Why are the results from Georgia and North Carolina so different?  The two states have nearly identical populations — 10.6 million for Georgia versus 10.5 million for North Carolina, according to 2019 Census Bureau estimates — but have very different Covid-19 results so far.  I’ve been watching this for a while, thinking the numbers might even out.  They haven’t.  As of today’s morning report from both states’ public health agencies, North Carolina has tested more than 50 percent more people than Georgia but found less than half as many “positives” as Georgia, and with only a fraction of the hospitalizations and deaths, as this table shows. Ga NC ComparisonThe question is why.  There are obviously a lot of variables at play, but the two states probably have a lot more in common than not.  Based on news reports I’ve read, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, a Democrat, seems to have acted earlier than his Georgia counterpart, Republican Brian Kemp — but not that much earlier.  We’re probably going to have to wait for the smoke to clear to develop a truly useful analysis of this, but these differences are worth keeping an eye on.  It’d be interesting to see the AJC and the Charlotte Observer collaborate on a tick-tock plotting state and maybe major local actions across a timeline.
  • Like Sherman, Covid-19 continues its march through Georgia.  As of today’s late-morning report from the Georgia Department of Public Health, Covid-19 has now been found in 108 of Georgia’s 159 counties.  March 28 Counties with Confirmed CasesAs this map shows, the areas that have so far avoided reporting positive tests are almost entirely rural, including a swath of sparsely populated counties through east-central and southeast Georgia and another group of counties in west Georgia that somehow haven’t yet been pulled into the orbit of the Albany hot spot.  While the bulk of the positive tests and deaths are in Metro Atlanta, the rate of infection and Covid-19 deaths is much higher in South Georgia, as the table below shows.  Indeed, if you focus on Dougherty County and its six contiguous counties, the Covid-19 infection rate and death rate are, respectively, 6.7 times and 20 times that of TIGC’s Metro Atlanta region.MARCH 28 Regional Summary
  • Using smartphones to gauge mobility in the face of Covid-19.  One of the more interesting chunks of data to surface in the Covid-19 pandemic has come from a company called Unacast.  Unacast uses location tracking data from smartphones to track how far users travel each day and aggregates that data to see what that can tell us about whether people are following the guidance of their state and local leaders and limiting their local travel.  The data seems to lag by a few days and it’s still early, but it’s still interesting.  As of today’s report, four of the five best-behaving counties in Georgia are in Metro Atlanta — Forsyth, Dawson, Cherokee and Fulton counties.  The other top-five county was Clay County, which ranked second and had slashed its “average distance traveled” by 39 percent.  Clay County sits hard on the Alabama line in southwest Georgia, on the edge of the Albany blast zone, but has yet to report a single positive Covid-19 test.  You have to wonder if everybody in that county hasn’t gone inside and shut all their doors and windows.  You can find the Unacast data here.  Scroll down until you find the U.S. map, then click on Georgia and, when that map comes up, click on your county and wait for the data to come up.  It’s a little slow and clunky, but still useful.
  • Covid-19’s economic toll may be tougher on rural Georgia than Metro Atlanta.  The great recession hit Metro Atlantans harder than their rural Georgians.  That reality showed up first in IRS data and in total personal income data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) and later in a BEA report on county-level gross domestic product.  As Covid-19 began to spread, I found myself thinking it might be tougher on rural Georgia.  If the Great Recession hit Metro Atlanta harder, it recovered faster and has since widened its economic, education and health gap with rural Georgia; rural Georgia has generally lost population and seen its local economies contract, which, I figured, left it in a weakened position to deal with a global pandemic.  Now comes Politico with a really good piece fleshing out my general concerns.  It’s worth reading.
  • While the Covid-19 data is still developing day-by-day, there are already some interesting oddities and riddles that are worth noting and wondering about:
    • College towns.  One early theory was that college towns would be hard hit, given their population of young people who still think they’re invincible.  Well, yes and no.  Clarke County, home of the University of Georgia, had 35 cases as of mid-day Saturday, just over half of the 67 reported by Carroll County, home of West Georgia College.  Those weren’t all that surprising.  The bigger riddles were Baldwin County (home of Georgia College and State University) with only two cases and Bulloch County (Georgia Southern) with a big goose-egg so far.  I haven’t found data on the number of tests given in each county, but both Baldwin and Bulloch are large enough that you’d have to think they’d conducted a fair number of tests.
    • Bartow County.  Other than Albany, Bartow County, just of I-75 north of Metro Atlanta, has emerged as the state’s second-hottest hot spot.  As of Saturday, Bartow County, with a population of about 106,000, had reported 116 cases, the sixth-most in the state, and its infection rate was second only to Dougherty County.  I am, I believe, reliably informed that the outbreak traced back to a large community gathering in Cartersville, but I haven’t found any published reporting on it and am going to hold off on the details for the time being.
    • Taliaferro County.  This tiny, impoverished county of about 1,700 people might be considered a prime target for Covid-19.  It’s located about a hundred miles east of Atlanta on I-20 and a far piece from any major healthcare facilities.  As it’s worked out so far, it’s one of only two counties on that route between Atlanta and Augusta that still hasn’t reported a positive Covid-19 test (neighboring Warren County is the other).  One likely reason is a paucity of testing in the county, but another could be an early decision by the local school superintendent, Allen Fort.  As Jim Galloway reported nearly two weeks ago, Fort didn’t wait for guidance from Governor Kemp or anybody else; he acted on his own and sent all his students home.  In doing so, he may have flattened the curve in his little county.

Stay tuned.  I’ll follow up with more early next week.

A first look at county-level GDP (with new maps and graphics)

First, a brief announcement: Trouble in God’s Country has a new toy.  I’ve known for a while that I needed some way beyond mere words to communicate all the data I’ve piled up, and recently I began looking around out here on the internet at various mapping programs.  Most of them gave me a headache.

But eventually I found my way to a web-based program called Tableau Public, and then got kickstarted in the use of the program with the help of a couple of smart young Tableau pros.  Apparently old dogs can learn new tricks.

I am, however, very much a Tableau newbie and am still figuring out how to do various things with the software.  In the post that follows, for instance, I would have liked to have been able to embed one of my new live interactive maps or charts, but I haven’t quite been able to break the code on that yet.  Instead, I’ve had to settle for using this static map and including a link, in the body of the post below, that will take you to a little interactive material at Tableau Public’s website.

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With that as preface, herewith some further notes on the widening economic divide between Metro Atlanta and the rest of Georgia:

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), a unit of the Commerce Department, last December published (to virtually no fanfare, as nearly as I can determine) the very first county-level gross domestic product (GDP) figures ever produced.  BEA billed the new data as a prototype, but still, you’d have thought it would have been a bigger deal.

A dive into the Georgia data suggests a couple of things.  First, it basically confirms that nearly two-thirds of the state’s economic muscle is concentrated in TIGC’s 12-county Metro Atlanta region.  The most recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) data available, for the 2016 tax year, puts Metro Atlanta’s share of the state’s federal taxes at 65.8 percent.  The new BEA data puts Metro Atlanta’s share of 2015 GDP at 63.8 percent – but rising fast.

The real news here is, indeed, the growth rate.  BEA’s new prototype includes data for the years 2012 through 2015.  Over that period, Georgia’s overall GDP expanded from $444.1 billion to $513.1 billion – an increase of just under $69 billion, or 15.53 percent.

But $50 billion of that growth – 72.5 percent – took place in Metro Atlanta.  As a result, Metro Atlanta’s share of GDP expanded 1.4 percentage points in just four years.  In my experience, these kinds of numbers evolve at a more glacial pace – usually hundredths of a point per year rather than tenths.  All four other regions lost a little share of GDP, as this table shows.

Georgia GDP Table

A few other nuggets:

  • Twenty-one counties saw their GDP shrink between 2012 and 2015.
    Georgia County GDP Change Map

    GDP grew in the counties in blue and contracted in the ones in orange; the darker the color, the more extreme the change.

    Tiny Baker County in southwest Georgia led this race to the bottom; its GDP cratered 29.7 percent, dropping from $97.2 million in 2012 to $68.4 million in 2015.  Not far behind was neighboring Calhoun County, where the GDP fell 17.8 percent during the same period – from $113.2 million to $93.1 million.  (You can find an interactive map showing the percentage change in GDP for each county between 2012 and 2015 here: https://tabsoft.co/303CaY0).

  • At the other end of the spectrum, it’s worth noting that four small South Georgia counties led the state in percentage growth over that same period – Telfair County (71.4%), Lanier County (47.9%), Stewart County (47.9%), and Wheeler County (42.4%). While that growth is obviously impressive and encouraging for those counties, their growth combined contributed less $300 million in new GDP to the state’s economy.  By comparison, exurban Dawson County, north of Metro Atlanta, grew by more than double that amount.
  • In December 2016, I published a TIGC post comparing all 56 counties of interior South Georgia to Gwinnett County alone and making the point that Gwinnett County outperformed South Georgia in any metric you could find – economic, educational, public health, etc. The same is true with GDP.  Gwinnett County’s 2015 GDP was $43.5 billion to South Georgia’s $34.3 billion.  In fact, the same can be said of Cobb County, DeKalb County and, of course, Fulton County.  Fulton’s 2015 GDP of $157.4 billion is, in fact, larger than the combined GDP’s of my Middle, South and Coastal Georgia regions – 106 counties altogether.
  • The BEA report breaks the GDP data into three components – “private goods-producing industries,” “private services-providing industries,” and “government and government enterprises.” One mild surprise (at least to me) was how little the government sector contributed to Metro Atlanta’s GDP and how large a part it was of the other regions’ economies.  Despite the fact that the 12-county Metro Atlanta region is home to probably a hundred local governments, Georgia state government, and the regional offices of numerous federal agencies, the government sector made up only eight percent of Metro Atlanta’s $327.3 billion GDP in 2015.  In contrast, it makes up 24.3 percent of the much smaller GDP in both Middle Georgia and Coastal Georgia, no doubt because of the military bases strung across the belly of the state and along the coast, plus the ports at Savannah and Brunswick.  South Georgia’s government share of GDP in 2015 was 20.5 percent; North Georgia’s, 13.2 percent.

This last bullet should tell you why local, state and national politicians used to go a little crazy every time there was new round of military base closings under the old Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, and why Congress basically killed it several years ago (try to imagine Middle Georgia without Robins Air Force Base).  It also underscores an observation that came into focus early in my TIGC research: communal investments are critical to building a local economy.  I have yet to find a prosperous Georgia community that doesn’t have some sort of important public institution.