Friday, February 08, 2008

Pshrink-less P'Burgh

Well..... I should let this one pass since I am usually pretty critical of our hyper-sensitivity to rankings like this. But this one is too much fun and I have been quite surprised that no mention has been made of the lastest Forbes ranking that says Pittsburgh is 9th (out of 40) in terms of Best Cities for Couples. So I said, maybe we have gotten over our obsesession with these type of metrics, which would be a good thing. Even if this one showed us more on the positive side it would be a good sign if it was just ignored. After taking a look at the methodology for this one, I have another theory. I bet people did look at this for a story idea, but upon scrutiny couldn't quite figure out what it means, I sure am not not clear. It turns out that our relatively high ranking is all being driven by our high ranking for "affordability of first home". So its the same housing story that plays out in lots of other numbers. We were 3/40 there, which then begs the question of what we were low in to pull us down to 9th. There is the rub, we ranked 39th out of 40 in terms of counseling rank. What in the world does that mean? Since I am sure there is no real good data on who really 'needs' counseling it has to be something else. The Forbes folks created a metric for "access to marriage counseling" based on the per capita numbers of certified family counselors.... by zip code no less for the country. So if I understand it, we are considered the backwater of marriage counseling land because we have so few counselors around to help up. Of course, who knows if that supply of counselors is a consequence of a low demand for such services. Is marriage counseling a market in equilibrium? Maybe we have the same need as say San Francisco (ranked number 1), but our relative pay for counselors is so low we don't retain enough of them. Maybe we just don't have problems enough to justify more counselors. There is an implicit assumption I think that every region has the same incidence of demand for counseling, the ranking being determined solely by the supply of counselors. Man, talk about a lot of work to create a metric that is so inconclusive.

and with that, I have to say that it's just not clear reading their methodology if a high number of counselors is considered a good thing or bad thing in their rankings. It could all be the opposite from that depending on how they interpreted the data and you would have to reverse the logic for all of that.


Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

A high number of successful divorce attorneys would doubtless be bad. The return of Lisa Bennington from the public to the private sector may be a poor indicator.

Friday, February 08, 2008 1:37:00 PM  

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