A recent study ranks Gila County third among the 15 counties in the state for most financially healthy places in Arizona.

The study by New York financial technology company SmartAsset, analyzed debt, bankruptcy, poverty and unemployment in counties across the country to find where residents were most financially healthy. According to the study, Gila County is one of the healthiest places in Arizona.

La Paz County ranked No. 1 in Arizona, followed by Yavapai County and Gila County.

“Northern Gila County has a large population of retirees, so it stands to reason we rank high with SmartAsset,” said Town of Payson Economic Development Specialist Bobby Davis.

According to a description of the methodology for the report, SmartAsset took a holistic approach, considering debt as a percent of income, bankruptcies per 1,000 people, poverty rates and unemployment rates.

The study ranks Gila County third among the 15 counties in the state in debt as a percentage of income (1.35 percent), fifth in bankruptcies (1.30 per 1,000), eighth in poverty rate (20.30 percent) and 10th in unemployment rate (6.10 percent).

To calculate debt as a percent of income, they divided debt per capita by income per capita. To calculate bankruptcies per 1,000 people, they divided total bankruptcies by the population, and multiplied that number by 1,000.

To calculate the financial health index, they weighted debt as a percent of income 25 percent, bankruptcies 40 percent, poverty rates 20 percent and unemployment rates 15 percent. They ranked the counties on each of the categories and then indexed each category. They then added those indices together and indexed that.

In the study, a financially healthy county means people there have low average debt as a percent of income, along with a low chance of being affected by personal bankruptcies, poverty or unemployment.

Gila County ranks 24th out of 3,111 counties in the country based on “the physical characteristics of a county area that enhance the location as a place to live,” according to a study by the USDA Economic Research Service published in 2015. These “natural amenities” include climate, topography and water area.

Contact the reporter at kmorris@payson.com

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