Social and Economic Factors

The Richland County Quality of Life Assessment places a significant focus on the social determinants of health as major factors in determining the ability of an individual or community to be healthy. County Health Rankings indicates a population’s health is shaped 10% by the physical environment, 20% by clinical health care, 30% by health behaviors, and 40% by social and economic factors. These social and economic factors are the largest driver of health outcomes, and strongly influence health behavior. Education level, employment, income, family and social support, and community safety are all important components of the social determinants of health.

CASPER door-to-door assessment participants identified jobs and economy, education, and domestic and neighborhood safety as the most important factors for a healthy community.

When asked to identify whether a list of issues were not a problem, a problem, or unsure, respondents largely identified the availability of affordable child or after school care, the availability of affordable housing, child abuse/neglect, and domestic, dating or sexual violence as problems in Richland County.

Income, Employment and Education

According to data from County Health Rankings, Richland County has consistently maintained an unemployment rate lower than that of both Montana and the US between 2003 and 2016. 2016 saw an increase in unemployment to match the US level, but returned in 2017 to 3.8%, again below both Montana and the US.

Many attribute the lower unemployment rates and higher median income in Richland County to oil production activity in the Bakken Shale Formation, spanning from Southern Canada, Eastern Montana, and Western North Dakota. A largely agricultural community, non-farm employment grew approximately 33% in Richland County from 2010 to 2014, attributed by the Montana Business Quarterly to oil production activity. With this "oil boom" brought increases in the service industry, growing the traditionally low-paying accommodations industry by 80% in Richland County. Averages wages in the accommodations industry in Richland County grew 108% during this time. The Montana Business Quarterly concludes that similar increases in both jobs and wages were found for construction, professional services, and other industries, and overall, employment opportunities and wage growth improved in most sectors of the economy.

Beginning in early 2015, oil production waned, and non-farm employment in Richland County declined approximately 16%.

The most common industries by number of employees in Richland County are retail trade; mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction; construction; transportation and warehousing, and health care and social assistance.

The median household income in Richland County was $63,300 in 2017, compared to $53,300 in Montana overall. According to County Health Rankings, median household income is a well-recognized indicator of income and poverty, which can compromise both physical and mental health. The percentage of children living in poverty has remained lower than both Montana and the US for more than a decade. In 2017, the percentage of children in poverty was 11%, compared to 16% in Montana and 18% in the US. Only 25% of Richland County students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch, compared to 45% in Montana.

Richland County has a 90% high school graduation rate, compared to 86% in Montana, though significantly fewer people in Richland County attend college compared to Montana overall.

Community Safety

CASPER respondents identified  domestic and neighborhood safety as one of the most important factors to a healthy community. Respondents also identified that they felt child abuse/neglect, and domestic, dating or sexual violence were problems in Richland County.

Interactive charts summarize crime data in Richland County for the years 2015 through 2017. Crimes for both juveniles and adults have remained relatively steady or decreased overall.

The rate of partner/family member assault, also referred to as domestic or dating violence, has decreased between 2015 and 2017 from 5.87 per 1000 people in 2015 to 3.90 per 1000 people in 2017, according to the Montana Incident-Based Reporting System. The 2017 rate of domestic violence crimes in Richland County is comparable to many other Montana counties.

Community Resiliency

"Community Health Resilience (CHR) is the ability of a community to use its assets to strengthen public health and healthcare systems and to improve the community’s physical, behavioral, and social health to withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity."


Community resiliency is a measure of the sustained ability of a community to withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity. A resilient community is socially connected, has accessible health systems, promote individual and community physical, emotional and social health to strengthen their communities for daily and extreme challenges.

Community members reported the extent to which they agree about community connectivity in the chart to the right.

The overall vulnerability of an area is an index measurement of the ability of an area to prepare for and respond to emergency events. The degree to which a community exhibits certain social conditions, such as poverty, low vehicle access, and crowded households, may affect that community's ability to prevent suffering and financial loss in the event of a disaster. The vulnerability index ranges from 0 to 1, with higher values indicating greater vulnerability.

Despite its relative isolation and frontier landscape, Richland County far surpasses Montana overall in social associations, and is in line with top US performers. Social associations are a measure of membership associations, including civic organizations, clubs and religious and political organizations. Strong social support networks have been identified as predictors of healthy behaviors, suggesting that individuals with a strong social network are more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices. It has been shown that people living in areas of high social trust are less likely to rate their health status as fair or poor.