Friday, September 09, 2011

Which Pittsburgh are you looking at?

It's possible that I may have contributed to a few stories not making ink.  If even partially true, it wasn't my intention. I believe there was interest in a report Brookings released today: Education, Demand, and Unemployment in Metropolitan America.  You can see a selection of those stories from around the country.  

The curious thing was that they had Pittsburgh listed in the top for their categorization of regions listed as "unfavorable Education Match; Favorable Industry Compostion".   That group was defined as having an 'overall education gap' that was a big contributor to local unemloyment.  Basically their point is that Pittsburgh is undereducated in its workforce.  Education being the broad taxonomy of high school, college, graduate school; basically years of education.  It was not talking about skills mismatch in very specific occupational categories. These regions are also described as having "unemployment rates above the national average will tend to persist until they can either boost educational attainment".

Problem is that as readers here know, the regional unemployment rate is below the national unemployment rate by a lot, and has been for what is now a historical length of time.  As for educational attainment, you can look at parts of the labor force, the younger parts, and conclude we are among the most highly educated in the nation.  If you look at the highest levels of education, those with graduate and professional degrees, I think the Pittsburgh region's younger workforce is the single most highly educated inthe nation.

So what gives? Educational attainment is typically measured across the entire labor force.  Some standard measures of educational attainment actually look at the population age 25 and over which is even broader.   Our older demographic, coupled with what was a very blue collar labor demand a generation ago means our older generations don't quite have the credentialed education of the folks finishing school today.  The younger parts of the workforce is what truly represents how we have been doing as a region in terms of supplying workers.   It's not to say the methodology was wrong in the broad report in the news today.   Pittsburgh is an outlier in the scale of change in this sense.  So for most regions it is a decent measure to look at the educational attainment broadly, but for Pittsburgh it misses some very fundamental changes that have taken place in a very recent timeframe.  So the Brookings numbers I am sure are correct, but broadly speaking are reflective of our economic legacy as much as anything else. 

If you want to see a really remarkable graph we first put out here, take a look at the shift over generations in how Pittsburgh compares in this:

1 Comments:

Anonymous DBR96A said...

I've been linking to that graph to illustrate that Pittsburgh's average educational attainment rate is simply the average of two extremes. That is a perfect linear regression with age, and it goes a long way in explaining how a population growth laggard can be an income growth leader. Many people still can't wrap their heads around this.

Friday, September 09, 2011 9:31:00 AM  

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