reader Brett Lucas recently brought to my attention a fascinating interactive New York Times map
of “The Geography of Government Benefits,” which shows the share of income in each county that derives from government benefits (social security, medicare, medicaid, etc.). Brett also makes some interesting observations about the map. As he notes, “In the Pacific Northwest, the counties with some of the lowest percentages of government payments as defined on the map are counties with universities (i.e. Benton, County, OR; Whitman, County, WA; Latah County, ID; etc). Kind of interesting, as these are all major land grant research universities. How much other federal funding are these counties receiving?” (I have outlined these three counties in my reproduction of the map in blue.)
In general, poor counties receive the largest relative benefits, as would be expected. But there are some interesting exceptions, which are visible by comparing these two maps. The northern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula is not a wealthy area, but its intake seems out of line with its overall standing.
Bret also wonders, “how this data will play into the presidential election cycle.” I do as well.