Monday, July 24, 2006

Pittsburgh unsegregated?

Worth a note is this article in the LA Times about some research commissioned by the Brookings Institution by George Galster at Wayne State University. Basically it does an analysis of income segregation across regions in the US. The story is of interest in LA becasue it is deemed to be the most segrgated large region in the country. It is of interest here because Pittsburgh comes out as one of the least segregated. Basically it says Pittsburgh has more 'neighborhoods' that are middle class, compared to other regions where people are more likely to live in separate communites: rich in rich neighborhoods, poor in poor neighborhoods.

This may seem odd given what we know about Pittsburgh, probably becasue most data on spatial segregation focuses on racial segregation. This research is all about income segregation which is something different. Why would Pittsburgh have such a low level of income segregation. I say a big factor is just the low level of growth here. Cranberry and environs not withstanding, there has not been the rate of growth here comparable to most other regions. Without that growth you do not get as many of the new developments filled with McMansions which by defintion are going to be high income households. One factoid that supports this is that Pittsburgh's residential segregation by race has remained virtually unchanged over the last 25 years.

Note also that this is all about the spatial pattern of income within a region, not about income distribution in general. One of the biggest changes in the Pittsburgh region in the last several decades has been how the overall income distribution has changed. If you look at wages going back into the 60's and 70's Pittsburgh had something extremely atypical in the US: a bimodal income distribution. Where most income distributions in the US have a big peak for the middle class, and a long tail in the upper income ranges, Pittsburgh's wage distribution had two peaks. I bet you can probably explain a lot of the dynamics within the region from the strange income distribution here. Over the last few decades one of the biggest transformations in the local labor force has been a convergence of the local wage distribution towards what is more typical across the country.


Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

There was also a NYT article, Cities Shed Middle Class, and Are Richer and Poorer for It from an associated Brookings Inst topic, Where Did They Go? The Decline of Middle-Income Neighborhoods in Metropolitan America.

I have yet to see the data for PIT on this. I wonder if this is a sign of little, if any, gentrification, which, of course, is driven by steeply rising house prices, which we don't have.

Friday, July 28, 2006 11:32:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

there is also the earlier research at UVA that had Pittsburgh high on a list of income increasing cities. PG has some stories on that. I quibbled with that. but overall, there is this belief out there that US cities are becoming like Paris in a sense, expensive inner core with less affluent being pushed out toward the inner suburbs. Certainly Manhattan is seeing this happen as it become so expensive to live there it is actually becoming less diverse. Is it happening here and if so why? I am not sure. It will be interesting to see who does actually move into all the downtown condos that will be there soon enough.

Friday, July 28, 2006 11:56:00 PM  

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