County Economic Vitality

There is so much discussion of economic vitality in the state of North Dakota, and the rest of the country, that I spent significant time thinking about this over the last several months. Call it resilience, call it vitality, or strength, it is not an easy concept to define. While there is a great deal of data at the county level there are issues with data suppression for privacy concerns or just too few observations for meaningful analysis. You want to make meaningful distinctions between counties but what matters across all counties is really a puzzle.

With that in mind I took a look at population data, employment data, GDP data by county, and taxable sales and purchases to name a few. For a first pass I tried to cut a wide swath without getting into duplicative data while at the same time not getting too vague and general. I might have failed on that point in the first pass based on the map below.

There is not a great deal of variation in the different counties in this analysis. There is clearly some, and it is surprising that a big chunk of the variability is in the western third of the state. It probably speaks more to the concentration of the specific economic activity in the oil patch area, based of course on the location of good oil extraction.

Clearly I need to think about both the data and the algorithm used to make this determination. I am not sure yet about the relative weights on the different metrics. There is some serious difference between the GDP numbers and the tax figures which I find to be surprising and that should not necessarily continue over the longer time period.

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