published Saturday, November 12th, 2011

Rural counties lean more on Social Security as income

Follow us on Twitter for the latest breaking news
  • photo
    Trays of printed Social Security checks wait to be mailed from the U.S. Treasury's Financial Management services facility in Philadelphia. (AP File Photo/Bradley C Bower, File)

Poll
Do you rely on Social Security?

Cumberland County, Tenn., leads the state and ranks 18th among 3,105 counties in the nation when it comes to the percentage of residents’ total income that comes from Social Security.

A new study shows that about 15.9 percent of Cumberland residents’ income came from Social Security payments.

The national average for Social Security payments as a percentage of all total personal income is 5.5 percent. In Tennessee overall, it’s 6.9 percent, and in Georgia it’s 5.3 percent, records show.

Social Security payments come in three forms: old-age pensions, survivor benefits and disability benefits.

Rural economies in general depend far more on Social Security payments as a percentage of a county’s total personal income than metropolitan areas do, according to a study done by the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University and online rural news publication The Daily Yonder.

Nationally, 9.3 percent of total personal income in rural counties came from Social Security payments in 2009, almost twice the rate found in urban counties. In counties with cities of fewer than 50,000 residents, 8.2 percent of total personal income came from Social Security.

Social Security payments in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia made up 10 percent or more of most counties’ total personal income in 2009, according to the study, published by the Center for Rural Strategies and conducted for the National Academy of Social Insurance.

It’s no surprise that Cumberland County’s economy depends heavily on retiree income and Social Security, said Crossville, Tenn., Mayor J.H. Graham. In 2009, Social Security payments totaled $251.2 million in Cumberland County while the county’s total income was almost $1.6 billion, records show.

The county markets itself to retirees who want a low cost of living, low taxes and a beautiful setting, Graham said.

“Retiree recruitment in Crossville and Cumberland County has been our mainstay for over 50 years,” he said. More than 30,000 acres in Cumberland County have been dedicated to retirement developments, he said.

Rural Impacts

Roberto Gallardo, a researcher in the study, said the initial analysis provides figures that the public and lawmakers should consider in discussing proposed cuts and changes to Social Security.

The study shows Social Security payments are particularly important to rural counties and small cities because most of the money is spent in the community. Retirees “are a key reason why some communities are still viable. If this money dried up, there wouldn’t be a lot of these small towns,” Ohio State University rural economist Mark Partridge told the study’s authors.

For places like Cumberland County, where 35.3 percent of the population receives some type of Social Security payment, cuts would affect the local economy dramatically, Gallardo said.

University of Missouri economist Judith Stallmann also noted in the study that Social Security income “can be the difference between success and failure for some local businesses.”

In Crossville, Graham said retirees and their income are vital to the county’s economy.

“We have developed resort retirement areas here since 1958, including Lake Tanzi Village, Fairfield Glade, Cumberland Cove and many others,” he said.

Changes Coming

But just as more than 50 million Americans are about to get their first benefit increase in three years, Social Security could feel Congress’ budget ax.

The Associated Press reported this week that lawmakers are studying a measure that could lessen future Social Security increases, raise taxes for most families and allow policymakers gradually to cut benefits. The changes could save about $200 billion over the first decade and more afterward, according to the AP.

Fannin County, Ga.’s, human resources director, Susan Hayes, said congressional changes to Social Security could hurt retired residents and visitors alike in rural counties.

“We have a lot of tourism that comes in, and it certainly would affect the people who put a lot of money into our economy here in Fannin County,” Hayes said. Many retired residents keep summer homes in Fannin County, she said, and many of the county’s annual events attract retired visitors.

Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey said Congress should maintain Social Security where it is.

“We have built our community on retirees,” Carey said. Retirees already are feeling a pinch from the poor economy in their investments, he said, and changes to Social Security could make the situation worse.

Follow the latest news on Facebook

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

7
Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
chet123 said...

The Irony is these nuts vote republican....the very people thats trying to end it....what a joke!!!

November 12, 2011 at 8:28 a.m.
brokentoe said...

So true, chet. Plus, that kinda of sorta shoots down that inner city project dwellers stereotype that oft gets drummed into the ground, doesn't it?

November 12, 2011 at 8:38 a.m.
Beamis said...

A nation dependent on government largess and redistribution is not going to last for much longer. The promises were false when they made them and now the people of this country had better be ready when the Chinese credit card is finally maxed out.

November 12, 2011 at 8:42 a.m.
GreenKepi said...

Socialism is good until the have's run out of money too....

November 12, 2011 at 9:20 a.m.
macropetala8 said...

All SS has to do to once again become solvent is start calling in all those loans others took from it. Reagan, if we'll correctly recall, borrowed the heaviest from SS.

November 12, 2011 at 1:09 p.m.
chet123 said...

BEAMIS.....I AGREE WITH YOU ABOUT DISTRIBUTION...The Distributing from the bottom to the top for the last 30years.....Your man and hero(RON REAGAN) started that trend when he attack the Unions and the working class wages...the INCOME gap between the middle class and the rich starting at that point..what you dont understand the greatset GENERATION fought to have a middle class...the middle class was not given...also in the 90's the republican congress lead by newt gingrich sent American jobs oversea for cheap labor..Thru NAFTA(that was a selfish and treason act of betrayal)

and for your part..GREENKEPI....DONT BE SO INFERIOR...YOU TALK AS IF THE RICH AND GREEDY IS POO POOING MONEY FROM THEIR REAR END....LABORER & AMERICAN CONSUMPTION PLAYS A LARGE PART IN RICH AND GREEDY SUCCESS MY GOOD MAN....IT TAKE TEAM WORK....THE SOLVENCY OF THIS COUNTRY IS KEEP THRU THE SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF THE WORKING CLASS SACRIFICING THEIR LIVES....THE GROUNDS OF OMAHA BEACH WAS SOAKED RED WITH THEIR BLOOD TO PERSERVE THIS COUNTRY....NEVER SEEN A RICH AND GREEDY PERSON SACRIFICE A SON OR DAUGHTER FOR YOU GREENKEPI....PUT THIS THING IN PROSPECTIVE MY GOOD BUDDY.....

yOU GOT TO BE REPUBLICAN TO TALK SO STUPID....YOU HAVE BROUGHT THIS GREAT COUNTRY DOWN WITH YOUR CRAZY IDEOLOGY......AMAZING!!!! HA HA HA!!!!

November 12, 2011 at 6:05 p.m.
GreenKepi said...

Wow! chet123...got you fired up, huh? You sure can ramble...I suppose the CAP's really drive your point home? Maybe as you say...I'm "too stupid" to really understand someone as you which is so superior to a "stupid Republican". WHooo...if I told you I was a Tea Party Supporter...that would have really set you off........

November 12, 2011 at 6:43 p.m.
please login to post a comment

Other National Articles

videos »         

photos »         

e-edition »

advertisement
advertisement
400 East 11th St., Chattanooga, TN 37403
General Information (423) 756-6900
Copyright, Permissions, Terms & Conditions, Privacy Policy, Ethics policy - Copyright ©2014, Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may not be reprinted without the express written permission of Chattanooga Publishing Company, Inc.