United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) County Typology Codes

Understanding the potential connections and correlations between various socioeconomic indicators gives decision makers a holistic perspective of the opportunities and challenges facing their respective regions.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) County Typology Codes

In an effort to help characterize socioeconomic diversity in the United States, the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) provides a set of typology codes that capture a range of economic and social characteristics at the county-level. ERS breaks down two broad categories of economic dependence and policy relevant themes to include six mutually exclusive categories of economic dependence and six overlapping categories of policy-relevant themes.

Categories of Economic Dependence

1. Farming – Counties where 25% or more of the county’s average annual labor and proprietors’ earnings were derived from farming, or 16% or more of jobs were in farming.

2. Mining – Counties where 13% or more of the county’s average annual labor and proprietors’ earnings were derived from mining, or 8% of more of jobs were in mining.
 

3. Manufacturing – Counties where 23% or more of the county’s average annual labor and proprietors’ earnings were derived from manufacturing, or 16% or more of jobs were in manufacturing.
 

4. Federal/State Government – Counties where 14% or more of the county’s average annual labor and proprietors’ earnings were derived from Federal/State government, or 9% or more jobs were in Federal/State government.
 

5. Recreation – Recreation counties are determined by a weighted index of three measures: 1) jobs; 2) earnings in the following: entertainment, recreation, accommodations, eating/drinking places, and real estate; 3) the share of vacant housing units intended for seasonal/occasional use. Recreation counties are those with a score more than one deviation above the mean.
 

6. Non-specialized – Counties that did not meet the economic dependence threshold for any other type.

County Policy Types

1. Low Education – Counties where 20% or more of county residents age 25-64 did not have a high school diploma or equivalent.
 

2. Low Employment – Counties where less than 65% of county residents age 25-64 were employed.

 

3. Persistent Poverty – Counties where 20% or more of county residents were considered poor.
 

4. Persistent Child Poverty – Counties where 20% or more of county related children under 18 were considered poor.
 

5. Population Loss – Counties where the number of county residents declined between the 1990 and 2000 census and also between the 2000 and 2010 census.
 

6. Retirement Destination – Counties where the number of residents age 60 and older grew by 15% or more between the 2000 and 2010 census due to net migration.

What is the Data Telling Us?

While various analyses and outcomes can be performed and derived by examining the county typology code data provided by the USDA,  the data can be aggregated to conclude that in the United States 444 counties are considered farming-dependent; 221 counties are considered mining-dependent; 501 counties are considered manufacturing-dependent; 407 counties are considered federal/state government-dependent; 333  counties are considered recreation-dependent; and 1,237 counties are considered non-specialized. Furthermore, 467 counties or  are considered to have low educational attainment levels; 906 counties are considered to be low employment counties; 353 counties are considered to have persistent poverty; 708 counties are considered to have persistent child poverty; 529 counties are considered to be population loss counties; and 442 counties are considered to be retirement destination counties.

 

Why is this Important?

When policymakers, elected officials, researchers, and public officials look to data to derive insights that may influence development of policy programs in a given area, its important that they take into consideration the range of economic and social characteristics of the region. Understanding the potential connections and correlations between various socioeconomic indicators gives decision makers a holistic perspective of the opportunities and challenges facing their respective regions. While slightly dated at the time this article was written (the last comprehensive update to the USDA data was released in 2015), the typology codes provided by the USDA can be used to help bridge the gap between social and economic characteristics of a specific or subset of counties while informing strategic policymaking and development throughout the country.

USDA Economic Research Service (2018). County Typology Codes. Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. https://data.nal.usda.gov/dataset/county-typology-codes

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