Of the 82 counties in Mississippi, Lamar County has placed first in financial health, according to a recent study by a New York financial technology company.
The study, which was conducted by SmartAsset – which specializes in home buying and refinance, retirement, taxes, banking and credit cards – took into account debt, bankruptcy, poverty and unemployment rates in counties across America to determine financial healthiness. In Mississippi, Lamar County garnered the top spot, followed by Calhoun, Newton, Jones, Clarke, Pearl River, Hancock, Smith, Neshoba and Tishomingo counties.
“(The ranking) doesn’t surprise me, with two major universities, a major army base and our school system,” Lamar County Administrator Jody Waits said. “And all the local businesses are actively involved in the county.”
Smart Asset’s study considered debt as a percent of income, bankruptcies per 1,000 people, poverty rates and unemployment rates. To calculate debt as a percent of income, the study divided debt per capita by income per capita, while bankruptcies per 1,000 people were calculated by dividing total bankruptcies by the population and multiplying that number by 1,000.
The Financial Health Index was calculated by weighing debt as a percent of income 25 percent, bankruptcies 40 percent, poverty rates 20 percent and unemployment rates 15 percent. The counties were ranked on each of the categories and then each category was indexed before those indices were added together and indexed.
Using those metrics, Lamar County received 1.27 percent debt percent as income, 2.15 bankruptcy rate, 12.60 percent poverty rate and 3.80 unemployment rate, for a 71.50 overall Financial Health Index. Calhoun County followed close behind that with a 71.50 Financial Health Index.
“(The study) certainly reflects the people I know who seem to be managing their money well and doing well,” Waits said. “Then of course, you can look around and see that we have quite a bit of financial institutions, and that also speaks to that fact.”