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Data Show Stimulus Isn't Reaching the Nation's Neediest Counties and States

Several analyses of our stimulus data show that on both the county and state levels, stimulus money isn't reaching the communities that need it most.

Around this time last year, we did an analysis of stimulus data and found that despite pledges from the Obama administration that stimulus money would go to the areas hardest hit by the recession, there had been no relationship between where the money ended up and places with high unemployment and poverty rates.

A year later, that's still true, according to a report by PBS NewsHour’s Patchwork Nation. Patchwork Nation is a project that crunches demographic data and assigns counties to one of 12 community types, helping better characterize the county’s population in a way that goes beyond the red-blue binary. (Take a look at the map to see where your county falls.)

Using our up-to-date stimulus data and their groupings, Patchwork Nation found a “haphazard distribution” of funds, “not aimed specifically at places in need or places that might help jump-start the broader economy”:

Through the first-quarter of 2010, the period through which ProPublica has broken down data, five county types had unemployment rates of more than 10 percent - the wealthy Monied 'Burbs, African-American heavy Minority Central counties, the Evangelical Epicenters, the big city Industrial Metropolis counties and the small town Service Worker Centers. Of those five county types, none received more than $1,000 per capita and only one county type, the Industrial Metropolis, was in the top half of the 12 types.

Meanwhile, Tractor Country counties, which had a very low unemployment rate - less than seven percent - raked in an average of $1,282 per capita.

USA Today also published similar findings last week on the state level, showing that “states with the highest jobless rates are getting less money per person under the federal stimulus program than states with below-average unemployment.” From USA Today:

Hard-hit Florida ranks last in stimulus benefits per resident despite having the nation's fifth-highest unemployment rate. Nevada has the nation's worst unemployment — 14.2% — but ranks 46th in stimulus benefits.

By contrast, North Dakota has the nation's lowest jobless rate — 3.6% — but ranks fourth in stimulus benefits. Alaska ranks No. 1 in stimulus aid — $3,505 per person — and has a jobless rate below the 9.5% national rate.

As the Obama administration is quick to point out, the evidence suggests the stimulus overall has still softened the blow of the recession, and without it, unemployment would likely be higher than it is now.

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