TEXAS HILL COUNTRY

July 16, 2019


For the past two weeks, my wife and I visited our youngest son and his family in Dallas, Texas.   They recently purchased several acres in the Hill Country very close to Johnson City, Texas.  Now, being from east Tennessee, I need to explain their definition of “hills” just might not be my definition of “hills”.  A hill is not always a hill but I will say this, the country is striking and extremely beautiful.  I was certainly taken back by the topography and the countryside itself.  I lost count of the number of deer we stopped for on the way to their property.  A two-lane winding road about two (2) miles from Johnson City brought us to their property.

JUST WHERE IS THE HILL COUNTRY

The Texas Hill Country is a geographic region located in the Edwards Plateau at the crossroads of West Texas, Central Texas, and South Texas.  Given its location, climate, terrain, and vegetation, the Hill Country can be considered the border between the American Southwest and Southeast.

The region is notable for its karst topography and tall rugged hills of limestone or granite. Many of the hills rise to a height of four to five hundred (400-500) feet above the surrounding plains and valleys, with Packsaddle Mountain rising to a height of eight hundred (800) feet above the Llano River in Kingsland. The Hill Country also includes the Llano Uplift and the second-largest granite dome in the United States, Enchanted Rock. The terrain throughout the region is punctuated by a thin layer of topsoil and a large number of exposed rocks and boulders, making the region very dry and prone to flash flooding.  Native vegetation in the region includes various Yucca, prickly pear, cactus, dessert spoon, and wildflowers in the Llano Uplift. The predominant trees in the region are ashe juniper and Texas live oak.

Bound on the east by the Balcones Escarpment, the Hill Country reaches into the far northern portions of San Antonio and the western portions of Austin. As a result of springs discharging water stored in the Edwards Aquifer, several cities such as Austin, San Marcos, and New Braunfels were settled at the base of the Balcones Escarpment. The region’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the United States.

The two figures below will give you some idea as to the region and cities within the Hill Country.

As you can see, the hill country is just about in the middle of the state and provides the crossroads between east / west and north/south. 

Below are some of the most prominent towns in the area that make up the Hill Country.

  • San Marcos
  • Boerne
  • New Braunfels
  • Wimberley
  • Canyon Lake/Spring Branch
  • Fredericksburg
  • Kerrville
  • Luckenbach
  • Johnson City

As you can see, small towns: no big cities: no traffic problems: no congestion.

Given below are digitals taken from their property.  You can see there is a pretty rugged landscape with rock outcroppings. 

The digital below does not do justice to the sun set.  It was simply beautiful.  After sun set, you can see thousands of stars and I mean thousands of stars.  Even though it was really hot during the daytime, when the sun goes down the heat radiates from the ground very quickly and the humidity seems to drop considerably.

Nothing runs like a Deere—John Deere that is.  My son quickly found that a push mower was not even close to the equipment needed to mow even a small portion of the property .

One thing that concerns me—maybe two things.  Number one—rattlesnakes and scorpions.  I’m also told that chiggers are “abundant” in this area.  Our youngest grandson is two years old and apparently fearless. 

As always, I’m interested in your comments.  Please feel free.


NOTE: Sources: Data used to create this ranking were collected from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, INRIX, Chmura Economics & Analytics, Indeed, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Renwood RealtyTrac, County Health Rankings, Zillow, Administrative Office of the United States Courts, TransUnion, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Council for Community and Economic Research, Gallup-Healthways, Numbeo, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Sharecare.

Stress is inevitable, at least for most people even those of us who are retired. Everyone experiences some type and level of stress over a normal day and certainly a lifetime.  Stress is not always a bad thing. Certain kinds of stress can have positive effects on a person’s well-being, at least in the right doses. According to Psychology Today, “A little bit of stress, known as ‘acute stress,’ can be exciting—it keeps us active and alert.”  Acute stress can be a motivator to get started and stop procrastination relative to your “to-do-list”.

When stress reaches an unmanageable level, however, it turns “chronic.” That’s when we become vulnerable to its damaging effects such as health problems and loss of productivity.  In the United States., stress affects more than one hundred (100)  million people. The leading causes? Money tops the list, followed by work, family and relationships. By one estimate, workplace-related stress alone costs society more than three hundred billion dollars ($300) per year.

To determine the cities where Americans cope best, WalletHub compared more than one hundred and eighty (180) cities across thirty-nine (39) key metrics. The data set ranges from average weekly work hours to debt load to divorce and suicide rates. Read on for our findings, expert insight and a full description of our methodology.

Methodology

In order to determine the most and least stressed cities in America, WalletHub compared one hundred eighty-two (182) cities — including the one hundred and fifty (150) most populated U.S. cities, plus at least two of the most populated cities in each state — across four key dimensions: 1) Work Stress, 2) Financial Stress, 3) Family Stress, and 4) Health & Safety Stress.  The sample considers only the city proper in each case and excludes cities in the surrounding metro area.

WalletHub evaluated the four dimensions using thirty-nine (39) relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a one hundred (100)-point scale, with a score of one hundred (100) representing the highest levels of stress.

Finally, they determined each city’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score and used the resulting scores to rank-order our sample.

Work Stress – Total Points: 25

  • Average Weekly Work Hours: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • Job Security: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • Traffic Congestion: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the annual hours spent in congestion per auto commuter.
  • Unemployment Rate: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • Underemployment Rate: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • Share of Households where No Adults Work: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
  • Average Commute Time (in Minutes): Half Weight (~1.47 Points)
  • Income Growth: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
    Note: “Growth” compares income levels in 2017 versus in 2016.
  • Job Satisfaction Ranking: Full Weight (~2.94 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on Indeed Job Happiness Index.

Financial Stress – Total Points: 25

  • Median Annual Household Income: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
    Note: This metric was adjusted for the cost of living.
  • Share of Households Behind on Bills in Past 12 Months: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Foreclosure Rate: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Personal-Bankruptcy Rate: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Median Debt per Median Earnings: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Median Credit Score: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Poverty Rate: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
  • Food Insecurity: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
    Note: Food Insecurity is the percentage of the population who did not have access to a reliable source of food during the past year.
  • Housing Affordability: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
    Note: This metric was calculated as follows: Housing Costs (accounts for both rental and sale prices) / Median Annual Household Income.
  • Share of Mortgage Holders with Negative Equity: Full Weight (~2.50 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the proportion of mortgage holders whose balance on mortgage is higher than the value of homes.

Family Stress – Total Points: 25

  • Separation & Divorce Rate: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
  • Share of Single Parent Households: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
  • Median Duration of Current Marriage: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
  • Strength of Social Ties: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
    Note: This metric is based on responses to Sharecare’s RealAge® Test and was used to indicate where relationships with family and friends are stronger, thus providing an upside to one’s social life and well-being.
  • Availability of Childcare Workers per Total Number of Children: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
  • Child Care Cost: Full Weight (~4.17 Points)
    Note: Monthly Cost of Preschool (or Kindergarten), Full Day, Private for 1 Child (proxy for child care cost).

Health & Safety Stress – Total Points: 25

  • Share of Adults in Fair or Poor Health: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Share of Adults Who Could Not See a Doctor Because of Cost: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Share of Adults Diagnosed with Depression: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Mental Health: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the share of adults with 14 or more mentally unhealthy days reported in the past month.
  • Suicide Rate: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Share of Insured Population: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Share of Adult Binge Drinkers: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the share of adults consuming four or more alcoholic drinks on one occasion.
  • Share of Adult Smokers: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Physical-Activity Rate: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Share of Obese Residents: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Share of Adults with Inadequate Sleep: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
    Note: This metric measures the share of adults sleeping fewer than seven hours per night.
  • Well-Being Index: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Crime Rate: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)
  • Hate-Crime Incidents per Capita: Full Weight (~1.79 Points)


RESULTS:

CONCLUSIONS:  I was very surprised to find that my city, Chattanooga was forty on the list. Bums me out a little but the conclusions are right there.  I would invite you to take a look at WalletHub to see where your city ranks.  You may be stressed out and not know it.

As always, I welcome your comments.

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