Journalism in the Public Interest

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

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.

What is the relationship between these findings and state politics where much of the squabbling about where funds go is done—something as much as Obama would, he can’t do much about and where partisan bickering plays a huge role. Republicans are well known not to care about poorest or hardest hit sections of populations. That isn’t their base. Please do better analysis.

Hi i am joey from California. Basically i am a programmer working for a web designing company. I sure that the money management by obama can bring in some positive results<a >positive searches</a> and online reputation.


Obama can do a lot at the state level by ensuring that every senator and congress-person make damn sure that money handed over in their districts is used in economy building, job creating, life changing ways.  Just maybe not allowing the treasury to simply hand over the money without first knowing where it is going might help too.  Is it too much to ask to use the stimulus money for what it was intended for instead of to pay back the unions and lobbyists that helped you into office?

As far as your comment about Republicans being well known for not caring about the poorest or hardest hit…where is your analysis to back that up?  You more or less point yourself out to be an Obama sympathizer…aren’t you getting tired of the kool-aid by now?

? Nice map, clever names, colors are a little hard for the slightly colorblind to differentiate—a complaint I have raised many times to purveyors of swell maps online, with little effect—but where’s the data?

BTW, it ain’t sexy or glamorous but a scale of 12 grays is easier for everyone to view.

This data shows the well-connected are the ones who come out the best when central planning and control are in place. 

How is it Davidson County TN comes out way on top (the seat of State Government) when the counties with much higher unemployment rates are near the bottom?

Its because money is taken from the People and ‘spread around’ by politicians.

The stimulus may be reaching the states but what the states are doing with it would make you want to shake your head and throw your hands in the air. We have what they call the FEC or Full employment here in Missouri and they use the money to put you in internship programs at H&R Block where the tax payer gets to pay your wages through WIA funding and H&R Block gets free labor but when the Internship is over (usually after two and a half months) H&R Block keeps them on for another month and a half and then lets them go, on paper, that was a successful employment. its not just H&R Block, other companies take the employees on until the funding runs out then offers to hire them at a much less rate of pay and they refuse but, because they refused, the FEC was successful in your employment, theres also the guy that is the in between man for training and the FEC. He will set up classes with a few nurses at the college, to train people referred by the FEC to become CNA’s, now CNA’s in Mo. do not need to be certified but the FEC will pay up to $3,000 to get each person a certificate to say they are CNA qualified, hwen they find out what a CNA does in the nursing home they walk away from the job al together and the tax payer paid $3000 for three weeks of training that will most likely never be used again. and there is trhe stimulus at work here in KC

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