County Index Highlights

The county level Index has been created to further understand the disparities that exist in prosperity across the U.S., in particular within the 829 counties of the eight selected states: California, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Montana, Oklahoma, New York and Texas. These states were carefully selected to capture the full demographic and geographic variety, and also because they exhibit different levels of state prosperity.


California (26th) is the most improved state over the past decade. It has increased the amount of its financial reserves and has a more balanced budget, leading to a 27-rank rise in Economic Quality. California’s counties exhibit the highest degree of variation in prosperity of the eight selected states, and one of the largest disparities between its most prosperous county, San Mateo, and its least prosperous, Trinity.


Colorado ranks 10th in overall prosperity. The state attracts high amounts of investment, has limited regulation and consequently ranks 5th on Business Environment. There is strong political accountability and the state also ranks 5th on Governance. Over 80% of Colorado’s 64 counties rank in the top quartile. The counties in the southern region are weaker than those around the Denver metropolitan area and the resort towns in the state’s west-central area.


Georgia’s (38th) strength lies in its economy, ranking 11th for Open Economies, but it has a weak performance on Empowered People (35th) and Inclusive Societies (48th). It has some of the highest rates of business start-ups and new entrepreneurs in the country and consequently ranks 11th in Economic Quality. With good communication and transport infrastructure, it ranks 15th on Market Access and Infrastructure, and 36% of its counties rank in the top quartile for this pillar.


Iowa (14th) performs well across all pillars apart from Business Environment (41st), due to high regulation and lack of investment, and Natural Environment (41st), due to high levels of emissions and poor-quality forest, land, and soil. The state has low levels of crime and ranks 10th for Safety and Security and 11th for Social Capital. Iowa’s prosperity is relatively homogeneous across its counties and nearly 85% of Iowa’s 99 counties rank in the top quartile.


Montana ranks 32nd for prosperity. Trust in institutions is weak, but residents are actively involved in society, and relationships with family, friends, and others are strong. This results in the state ranking 10th for Social Capital and 55 counties in the state rank in the top quartile of the County Index for Social Capital. This strength is not shared elsewhere — the state has poor communications and transport infrastructure, and just 21% of Montana’s counties rank in the top quartile.


New York’s (9th) strong performance, with nearly 60% of counties in the 1st quartile for prosperity, is driven by its economy. It attracts the highest amount of venture capital and FDI of any state and ranks 1st on Financing Ecosystems. Internet accessibility and speed are also good, providing support to the significant number of business start-ups in the state. The stagnation in Governance (40th) and weak Social Capital (40th) is holding back increased prosperity.


Oklahoma (48th) ranks poorly across Empowered People (47th) and Inclusive Societies (49th). The state ranks 25th for Economic Quality, its strongest pillar, due principally to high rates of business start-ups and entrepreneurships. Prosperity within Oklahoma is clustered around the metropolitan areas of Oklahoma City and Tulsa as well as the Panhandle. The state’s weakest pillar is Natural Environment, for which 92% of its counties rank in the bottom quartile.


Texas (36th) exhibits a stark contrast between the levels of economic wellbeing compared with institutional and social wellbeing. Its high-value exports and ability to attract new business start-ups into the state mean it ranks 2nd for Economic Quality. However, education outcomes are weak at most stages of the education system; pre-K enrollment rates are low at just 42%, test scores at grade 8 have declined since 2010, and only 84% of adults have a high-school diploma — higher than only California.

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