County most dependent in nation

— If Essex County residents didn’t receive their monthly payments from the Social Security Administration, 9.3 percent of total personal income in the county would be lost, a total of $116,101,339 in 2009.

Essex County is more dependent on Social Security payments than is the rest of the country. Nationally, 5.5 percent of total personal income in 2009 came from Social Security payments. In New York, 4.8 percent of all income comes from these payments.

In Essex County, 8,930 people receive some form of Social Security payment, either an old age pension, a survivor benefit or a disability check, according to the Social Security Administration and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Social Security beneficiaries represent 23.7 percent of the total county population.

In rural counties such as Essex and counties with smaller cities, Social Security payments constitute a much larger chunk of the local economy than in urban areas. A greater percentage of people in rural America receive these payments than in urban counties, and so rural counties have higher average payments per resident.

“In many rural places, Social Security is a very critical element of the local economic base,” said Peter Nelson, a geographer at Middlebury College in Vermont. “It’s less important to a place like Los Angeles because there is so much additional economic activity going on there.”

Total Social Security payments in Essex County amounted to $3,081 per person in 2009. The national average was $2,199 per person, and in New York it was $2,264.

Social Security payments in Essex County have been changing as a proportion of total income. These payments amounted to 6.3 percent of total income in 1970, 9.4 percent in 1980, 7.7 percent in 1990, 8.1 percent in 2000 and 9.3 percent in 2009.

Social Security payments are particularly important to rural counties and small cities because the money is largely spent in the community. “The seniors who get these payments are primarily going to spend their money locally,” said Mark Partridge, a rural economist at Ohio State University. “And they 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.”

The Daily Yonder denpubs@denpubs.com

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