Friday, March 11, 2011

Unctuous (almost) Bafflegab Redux

I'm flattered.  I really am. Actually I am having a kind of inverse Sally Field moment.*  See: Elusive turnaround: Reports of a population uptick are unproven

I guess I am just lucky they just didn't label it all 'unctuous bafflegab'.  It really does kind of read much the same as Mr. Brock's sublime, if ad hominum, wordsmithing on much the same topic. Both arguments are just curious to me in that most of the folks Downtown take issue with me for being far too pessimistic all of the time. Strange little bubble that I live in it is.

Nonetheless, and generally speaking I think the media folks ought to be asking an awful lot more questions of the talking heads in this town than they do; so I do applaud the sentiment. Though, it is a slightly curious place to start at calling me out.  I think it says a lot about the persistent cognitive dissonance us long term Pittsburghers have to any less than pessimistic self-reflection on the region.  I just hope they don't start editorializing that the city Pension fund is now flush with cash (anyone note the stock market of late?)

If I have any quibble at all with it is that I tried to explain that not all population loss is the same, that the natural population decline induced by our painful history and odd demographics means something quite different from the proverbial 'young person' fleeing the region.  Over the course of the entire 2000-2010 period Pittsburgh remained solidly the only large metro region experiencing more deaths than births. I've struggled for a couple decades now with how to say this in a clear, yet uncallous, way:  Policy can't stop us from dying and it would not help if Border Guard Bob chained our seniors to their beds to keep them from departing.

Since the editorial was mostly an expression of sentiment, there isn't much counterargument. I guess the general argument is that since the top line population trend for 2000-2009 is actually worse than what you saw between 1990 and 1999 then things must be worse.  I get the logic...  for a moment.  Here is a compilation of a couple numbers that for the record are not mine.  The Gnomes at the Census Bureau compile the components of population change and here I will present what they say for the 1990's compared to the recent decade. 

Again, that data is not mine, but from the Census Bureau.  The only complex mathematical formula here is my extensive use of addition.   So if your metric is 'voting with your feet', the net migration number for the last decade is less than half the decade before.  If the last year was added in (data not available yet), I bet you the comparison would be even starker in that the net migration numbers are likely positive these days.  I could parse further and argue that if one could take out elderly migration you would see an even starker shift since retiree migration is relative consistent, and for us always a net outflow, year over year compared to the migration of younger workers.  We will skip that discussion for the sake of parsimony that is already lacking here.

For history buffs, if I were to do the same calculation for the 1980's the net migration bar would stretch down to around -230 thousand for the decade.  Then population loss would have been even worse except we still had a decent rate of natural population increase.  But things are still getting worse!!

OK,  time to breathe and move on.  SIC SEMPER NUMERO.

* No, not really, but I sure hope they have forgotten my comments on Evergrey-gate.


Anonymous MH said...

Pittsburgh remained solidly the only large metro region experiencing more deaths than births.

To be fair, the last time I was in Cleveland I wouldn't say that I was eager to die, but I would say that I was more willing to die that I was before or after being in Cleveland.

Friday, March 11, 2011 11:15:00 AM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

I'll be even more callous--even if we could stop retiree migration by chaining people to their beds, would we want to?

Of course as a general proposition, retirees can contribute a lot to an area, so I'm not saying we should be pushing them out. Indeed, I would like us to think about how to become as senior-friendly as possible.

But the specific ones who want to leave these days? I'm not going to say "good riddance", but I am not going to stand in their way either (even if I could).

Friday, March 11, 2011 11:55:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

I have been kicking around an idea that combines retirees, atypical infrastructure, and green energy to revive Pittsburgh. I've got the blog, but I haven't put anything there yet.

Friday, March 11, 2011 12:56:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...


Friday, March 11, 2011 2:22:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

yeah.. that's the better interpretation.

Friday, March 11, 2011 2:58:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

On blogspot, both "soylent" and "soylentgreen" were taken by Teh Emos.

Friday, March 11, 2011 3:38:00 PM  
Anonymous DBR96A said...

We're already friendly enough to retirees. Pennsylvania doesn't tax pensions, nor does does it place a sales tax on medicine, and the Pennsylvania Lottery still "benefits older Pennsylvanians," last I heard. The weather could literally be the only reason for retirees to leave.

Friday, March 11, 2011 6:09:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Weather and the roads. It is much harder to get around here than it is a retirement community.

Friday, March 11, 2011 7:28:00 PM  

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