How is my county doing? Benchmarking 3,143 US counties

Could you have imagined a few years back how open data could be useful to get the insights about your county? Its changes, population, health, crime, education and many other aspects? How are other counties doing compared to yours? This article presents just such a benchmarking case study of US counties.

By Raul Valdes-Perez, OnlyBoth.

How is my county doing? Where could it do better, what’s been changing, and among similar counties, who does best? Benchmarking 3,143 U.S. counties by jobs, income, crime, health, education, faith, rent, ethnicity, geography, population, and more.

US counties

OnlyBoth has launched a County Benchmarking Engine as its newest showcase application and public service, leveraging the availability of federal as well as private-sector data on all 3,143 U.S. counties. We collected data on 104 county attributes by these topics:

Here’s an example of an “Only, both”-style insight about Bronx Countyin New York City:

Only Bronx County in NY has both as high a median rent for a 3-bedroom unit ($2,293) and as low a median household income ($33,687).

The flip side, for a 1-bedroom apartment this time, is seen in Audubon County, Iowa (population 5,773)  about 1,200 miles away:

Only Audubon County in IA has both as high a per-capita income ($30,714) and as low a median rent for a 1-bedroom unit ($474.00).

Notably, San Francisco County in CA is among the top-15 nationwide in all these 9 categories, in order of their appearance:

  1. 3rd-highest Asian population (33.0%)
  2. 10th-least male obesity (14.8%)
  3. 10th-most residents employed in services (71.8%)
  4. 8th-highest foreign-born population (35.5%)
  5. 11th-highest per-capita income ($49,986)
  6. 11th-least obesity (15.5%)
  7. 10th-biggest advantage, relative to its home state, in per-capita income (+67.1%)
  8. 12th-least female obesity (16.1%)
  9. 13th-least owner-occupied housing (36.6%)

but residents pay for it with the highest median rents in the whole country, for a 0-bedroom (studio/efficiency) unit ($2,072), a 1-bedroom unit ($2,610), and a 3-bedroom unit ($4,250).

Re-visiting New York city, let’s consider this time New York County (i.e., Manhattan). It’s doing well on many dimensions, although unsurprisingly its rents are high. But there’s a residual problem:

Of the 103 counties that have at least $75,459 in median household income, only New York County in NY has decades-long substantial child poverty.

Let’s close out on a high note. Many of the data attributes involve changes over time, so the engine benchmarks not only on characteristics during a single time period, but on changes or trends from one period to a next. Elsewhere we’ve called that space-time benchmarking. Here’s a good outcome on the populous Fairfax county in Virginia, adjacent to Washington DC:

Fairfax County in VA is one of only 3 counties that improved or maxed out on all the obesity and diabetes change metrics (there are 4 of these, and each county needs at least 3 with actual values to qualify).

Fairfax County in VA improved or maxed out on these:

change over 4 years in the prevalence of female obesity = -2.2% (from 22.5% to 20.3%)

change over 4 years in the prevalence of male obesity = -0.5% (from 20.4% to 19.9%)

change over 4 years in the prevalence of obesity = -1.4% (from 21.5% to 20.1%)

change over 9 years in the prevalence of diabetes = -0.4% (from 6.6% to 6.2%)

As we’ve seen, it’s now possible, after a few days of software configuration, to create significant economic or social value by generating numerous performance insights on thousands of benchmarked entities, and later update these insights by figuratively pushing a button to update the insights with updated data.

Try the County Benchmarking Engine yourself at

Original post. Reposted with permission.

Bio: Raul Valdes-Perez co-founded OnlyBoth with Andre Lessa in 2014 and is CEO. OnlyBoth introduced a Benchmarking Engine which enables vendors to provide comprehensive, automated benchmarking services to their end customers, using their solutions data and our artificial intelligence..