County rates well in report

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 12, 2005

We’re blessed.

If you don’t believe so, just glance through the 2005 Community Counts book, recently released by Region 2020.

The 98-page book is a report card for 12 central Alabama counties, including Shelby. Statistical junkies will enjoy thumbing through the pages, to learn more about our region.

Fortunately for Shelby County, there’s more good news than bad news.

&uot;Obviously, there are some success stories in Shelby County,&uot; Region 2020 spokesperson Tabitha Lacy said.

The percentage of people living below the poverty level is 6.3 percent. That is half the national average and nearly 10 percentage points below the state average.

The teen pregnancy rate, which often correlates with poverty, is below the national average – a rarity for Alabama counties.

Violent crime is also rare. In fact, the county’s average is only one-fourth of the state average. The homicide death rate is one-seventh of the state average.

Death rates from major illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease, are below the national average. While the infant mortality rate is not the lowest in the 12-county area (Chilton and Etowah counties fare better), it is better than the state and national average.

Civic duty is important. Ninety-three percent of those 18 and over are registered to vote. Eighty percent of registered voters voted in the last presidential election. (Since this is a Republican county, I’m sure President Bush would send his regards.)

Not surprisingly, the unemployment rate is well below the state and national averages. Most individuals who want a job can easily find one – even if they have to travel across the border to Jefferson County.

Quite honestly, life is good here. There are reasons for concern, though.

A little more than 2,700 children in Shelby County live in poverty. While that is relatively small compared to most counties, it still is too high.

Nearly 1,000 older residents (65 and older) also live in poverty. There’s a good chance many of those seniors choose between medicine or food on a daily basis.

Twenty-two percent of the county residents are obese. That’s slightly above the national average.

On a lighter note, average commute time for those heading to work is 28.6 minutes, compared to the national average of 25.5 minutes. Lengthy commute times can harm air and water quality. Besides, Shelby County’s air quality is not exactly the best in the world.

Long commute times can also result in lower workplace productivity.

Nearly 90 percent of workers, age 16 and older, also drive alone to work. Only 9 percent carpool, and 1 percent use public transportation.

Here are some other Shelby tidbits:

* Thirty-six percent of residents are classified as rural residents. That is less than the state average but nearly double the national average.

* Shelby County spends $6,467 per public school student. That is $400 higher than the state average, but $1,000 lower than the national average.

* The county’s average annual percentage change in personal income from 1969 to 2002 was 10 percent. That exceeds both state and national averages.

* United Way contributions per capita is only $3.59 – ninth lowest in the 12-county area. In contrast, the amount for Jefferson County is $43.10.

That statistic is highly deceiving, though. Many Shelby County residents contribute through their Jefferson County employers, so the numbers will obviously be skewed.

It’s also interesting to note Shelby is one of the least diverse counties in the area. Nearly 91 percent of residents are white, according to the report.

There’s more statistical data on the area available at Hopefully community leaders and &uot;Average Joe&uot; residents can use the information to build upon our strengths and improve our deficiencies.

Patrick Johnston is a staff writer at the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at