The New York Times released a ranking of the hardest places to live in the United States by measuring six data points — including education, median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity — and comparing all 3,135 counties in the country together using averages of these data sets.
The map paints a bleak picture of the South, where a majority of the hardest to live places are concentrated as a large orange-highlighted area of the United States. A large chunk of North Carolina is included within the “doing worse” side of the rankings, though the Asheville metro area, including Henderson (ranked 538) and Buncombe (ranked 843) Counties, is perched on the better side of the spectrum when compared to surrounding areas.
Wake County, where Raleigh is located, is in the top 200 (163) and Orange County sits at 93.
Buncombe’s unemployment rate sits at 7.5 percent and Henderson’s at 7.3, both similar to Wake’s 7.5, but much higher than Orange County’s 6.2 percent. The median income discrepancy between the Asheville metro area ($44,206 Buncombe, and $46,503 for Henderson) and the two highest-rated counties in the state are staggering, according to the Times — Wake County’s median income is $65,826. However, they are well ahead of N.C.’s lowest-rated county: Ranked 3,089, Halifax’s median income sits at $31,614 with a shocking 13.2 percent unemployment rate.