Sequestration: How is your county affected?

By David Donald of the Center for Public Integrity and James Politi. Interactive graphic by Caroline Nevitt, Tom Pearson and Martin Stabe.

Map: US sequestration impact per capita

US sequestration impact per capita

Automatic US government spending cuts that took effect in March are threatening local economies across the country.

Counties that benefited from high levels of federal spending in recent years and weathered the recession better than the rest of the country could be especially hard-hit, an analysis of so-called “sequestration” by the Financial Times and the Center for Public Integrity has found.

Update, 3 October: The New Mexico county that is home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, faces the greatest per-capita impact of any county in the United States, at more than $6,000 per person. Areas with military bases, such as Christian county, Kentucky, are also particularly hard hit. Across the 388 counties in the US that have one or more military installation, the sequestration impact per capita is $312. That is nearly twice as high as in the 2,727 counties without a military installation, where the sequestration impact per capita is $171.

Use the interactive graphic below to see how the impact is distributed around the United States and how your county fares.

To examine possible local sequestration effects, the Financial Times and the Center for Public Integrity, a US-based nonprofit investigative news organisation, used county-level data from the US Census Bureau’s “Consolidated Federal Funds Report” for the 2010 fiscal year, the most recent data available. The report breaks down procurement, salaries and wages, grants and other federal spending for all counties (or county equivalents), and captures most, but not all, federal spending at the local level.

Using this raw data, we ranked counties based on the likely annual per capita impact of a 5 per cent reduction in local federal spending. The rankings assume an equal county-level effect from a 5 percent reduction across all federal spending. In fact, not all programmes were cut by 5 per cent: some suffered bigger reductions, while others were trimmed by less. Some were spared altogether.

Further analysis included a demographic and economic portrait for each county from the five-year estimates in the 2009 and 2011 American Community Survey, the most recent available. July 2013 data for unemployment comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This ACS and BLS data, along with military installation location data from the US Department of Defense were used to find commonalities among the potentially most affected counties.

Those measures included gender, age, and racial and ethnic demographics and home values, median income, owner-occupied housing, federal employment levels, unemployment, poverty levels and the Gini index for income disparities as economic variables.