Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Which Pittsburgh is that?

I am pretty sure that in most newsrooms across the country, journalists do not write the headlines that go with their stories. I point that out because I know that over at the Trib Brian B. did an awful amount of good work crunching some recent data just put out by the census. But here is the thing. His work was all focused on data for the City of Pittsburgh. Yet the headline for his work says: "Jobs, pay drive women away from the region" (emphasis added). Implying that city specific numbers tell the tale for the region as a whole rarely makes much sense and in this case confounds many issues.

But Brian B. did accurately relay my own incredulity over some of the findings that pop from the data, even if you overlook the confusing geography. No coverage of the local numbers really gets into the more curious factoid from the census data released. By one census estimate, the population of the city of Pittsburgh has dropped from 334K people in 2000 to 312K in 2006. This new data out says the city population in 2006 is closer to 297K. I just don't have time to type out the explanation for why different departments at the census get two pretty different numbers for what should be the same statistic. Either way, it's a big drop in population that has a lot of implications for the future of the city, but if the drop really is closer to 2% a year vice ~1% a year... well, draw your own conclusions. Again, this is all talking about the CITY, not the region. If I were to guess, some of the odd gender specific trends that pop from the Trib's analysis is somehow tied to the discrepancy in the city population stats and the disproportionate college population in the city. It would take a lot of work to parse that out though.
To balance this out, it is interesting to look at the PG's version of the same data: Pittsburgh's Favorite Color Should Be Gray. Of course, from that headline who knows if someone expects a fashion article. Since the PG didn't parse the data as much as the Trib did, there is less to comment on.. although I will point out again the confusing nature of the region's education statistics. In the PG version it says:
"The share of local residents who have completed higher education, 27.1 percent with bachelor's degrees and 10.0 percent with a master's or higher, is slightly above national averages. " (again emphasis added).
The thing with that is just the big impact our age demographic has on educational attainment stats for the region. Because we have more of an older generation that did not typically go to graduate school, college, or even finish high school at rates comparable to today... our education stats appear lower than they ought to. If you look at the educational attainment just of younger working age people, or almost any specific age cohort, we rank much higher in any benchmarking exercise. Most educational attainment stats are looking at the population age 25 and older, thus lumping together young and old age cohorts. Our comparison to the nation, or a ranking with other regions really reflects our concentration of elderly as much as anything else.


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