It’s Hard To Raise A Family Today In Georgia. How About In Cobb County?

A drawing of a family planting trees

By John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

We all know it’s hard to raise a family, but in some states like Georgia, it’s even harder. The state can be found in the bottom ten for statistics in family friendliness, like much of the Southeast and Southwest. But are things different in Cobb County? How could the Peach State and Northwest Atlanta do better to catch up with the rest of the country?

WalletHub recently conducted a survey of the 50 states on a number of factors that would make a place more family-friendly, from median annual family income to housing affordability to the unemployment rate, according to Adam McCann. But there’s more to it than money.

“It’s crucial to consider economic factors when deciding where to raise a family, like the job market, average income and housing costs,” adds WalletHub Analyst Cassandra Happe. “It’s also important to look beyond dollars and cents, as things like low-quality schools, a bad healthcare system, natural disasters, or a high crime rate can turn the already-stressful process of parenting into a nightmare.”

Advertisement

Looking at the numbers, it’s a nightmare for the Southeast United States. Georgia is 40th, just below North Carolina (37th), but ahead of South Carolina (42nd), Louisiana (45th), Arkansas (46th), Alabama (47th), West Virginia (48th), and Mississippi (49th). Only one Southern state (Virginia at 19th) can be found in the top 25. The Southwest is the only area on par with those rankings, while the Northeast, Midwest and Northwest are faring far better in the family survey.

Though WalletHub didn’t score counties in the study, I looked at how Cobb County is doing by families, at least on some comparable measures in the U.S. Census Bureau databases. And Cobb County is vastly outperforming Georgia and the rest of the country on a far better total retail sales per capita, a much stronger median household income, and lower poverty rates. civilian labor force percentage, etc.

And for those who think lower Southern scores are due to race and demographics, that’s not the case with Cobb County. The white alone, not Hispanic or Latino, population percentage is below Georgia’s and the United States’ average. The African-American population is more than double that of the United States. And an American Community Survey shows not only are the poverty rates falling for Cobb County residents, but the white poverty level of 7.4% is only slightly below that of African-Americans (10.8%), a gap far smaller on poverty rates than for Georgia and the rest of the United States, both of which are in the double-digits for percentage point gaps in poverty.

Cobb County outdoes the Georgia average for high school graduates and is sizably better at attracting college graduates as well, something very important in today’s global economy where what you know matters increasingly more than it did years ago (according to Census Bureau data). It could help Cobb County stay ahead of the curve for decades to come.

If there’s an area where Cobb County and Georgia don’t measure up well, it’s in health coverage. More than 13 percent of Georgians, and Cobb County residents, lack health insurance, far higher than the national rate of 9.3%. That’s also one big factor that pulls Georgia down from a ranking in the 20s and 30s to the 40s. Perhaps Cobb County legislators and their Georgia counterparts might want to give serious consideration to ending party politics and expand Medicaid coverage beyond workers if they want to go from being a good place to live to even greater. After all, as UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden noted, “the enemy of great is good.” With such reforms, the gap between Cobb County success and the rest of the country will grow, making Northwest Atlanta the place to be, especially for a family.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.

Advertisement