Monday, December 31, 2012

Pittsburgh left outlawed on New Year's Eve

Of note is this use the the same census dot density map mentioned yesterday, but note the Cleveburgh call out on drunk driving in this from Atlantic Cities: The Geography of Drunk Driving


Sunday, December 30, 2012

RLOD: I see Cleveburgh

Cool census dot map made by Brandon Martin-Anderson. Interactive:

Speaking of Ohio, in 2013 their minimum wage is rising to what will be an 8% premia over Pennsylvania's. Seems like it might make for a natural experiment in the impact of the minimum wage.  Oh wait, that study has been done.

and yet another Ohio mystery.  Why is natural gas still cheaper for consumers in Cleveland than here.  I want my direct pipe connection to that Marcellus Shale gas. 


Saturday, December 29, 2012

College is dead, long live college

Just passing this on.  I know everyone is on board with the meme that too many folks are going to college; that we overeducating folks at great expense.  Funny that the labor market does not quite agree with that assessment.  Some parsing of recent Census data by the folks at Bizjournals (parent of the PBT) is this: Earnings widen between college and high school-only grads

Funny that. 

For Pennsylvania their table shows the median annual income by educational attainment to be:

High school graduate - $28,425
Bachelor's Degree - $48,563
Graduate or Professional Degree - $65,047


Friday, December 28, 2012

That 70s Economy

So I get feedback on this meme a lot.  Earlier in the week mentioned in passing that the 1970s was not the period when manufacturing hit its miasma across Southwestern Pennsylvania.  There endures a certain mythos that the Steelers played all of their Superbowl seasons with armies (not just Franco's) of unemployed workers cheering for them. The stats just do not match with what actually happened.  Granted there are even books written to the contrary, but go look at the dates.  When the jobs really went away, the fans were cheering for Cliff Stoudt (link added for the yung'uns).

I will admit to a small bit of cherry picking in this, but here is manufacturing employment across the 10 counties of Southwestern Pennsylvania between 1971 and 1979.  I think it's fair to get past a bit of a bump resulting from the Vietnam War and what was generally considered an overheating economy at the end of the very end of the 1960s.  This is what you get for employment that pretty much covers the regular seasons leading to the first 4 Steeler Superbowls. (Superbowl XIV was all of January 20, 1980)

So if you think there was some big and obvious trend down over this period, I don't see it.  I would almost argue that manufacturing employment for the region in the 70s was less volatile than most any decade before.  There was tremendous volatility in manufacturing employment in the region over almost every previous decade. The 70s were pretty stable here in comparison. All the more remarkable when you consider the economic tumult in the national economy during the 1970s.  Stagflation anyone?

In fact manufacturing employment here was trending up near the last 4 years of that graph.  Which may hint at the disconnect.  Some of that trend was the Volkwagen plant starting up.  So diversification in a sense and basic steel itself was not growing for sure.   Only for Pittsburgh would a shift from an automobile dependent steel industry to the automobile industry itself be considered diversification.   'Diversification' we paid a pretty penny for mind you.

If you are still unconvinced that the public,along with the powers that be, t thought manufacturing was strong, and would continue to be the mainstay of the region's economy....  Check out these headlines from the middle of that period.  Sept 1974: Area Economy Reported Strong.  Or better yet from January 1975: Steel is Pittsburgh's Hedge on Recession.  That the sun appears larger just before sunset is also an illusion.


Thursday, December 27, 2012

Help still wanted

Some may have read the article today in the PG on women in Pittsburgh's labor force.   It references a report we did some years ago on gender wage differences in the Pittsburgh region. Note the story today does not mention the third author Susan Hansen as well for the record.   No matter how you parse it, I have been saying for some time (page 3 of this* for example) that the trend in female labor force participation is one of the keys to understanding economic transformation in Pittsburgh. 

So how bad was it for women working in Pittsburgh in the past.  Earlier in the week I quoted a sentence from a 1946 study that said Pittsburgh would.... "slowly decline unless new industries employing women and those engaged in the production of consumer goods are attracted to the area."

Think about that date for a minute.  1946 was not a period when there was a lot of thought given to gender issues in the labor force.  The women who had entered the workforce to fill crucial shortages during the war were being laid off en masse as men returned from service.  Things must have been acutely different here for that thought to even come to mind.  Labor force participation for women, particularly married women and even more so married women with children were all far below what was typical elsewhere in the nation and would remain so for decades to come.

But play forward several decades.  So much that the media went to court to keep segregating job ads by gender long after most of the country has ceased the practice.  In Pittsburgh Press Co. v. Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations (1973), the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a local ordinance that prohibited publishing job advertisements that sorted positions into "Help Wanted: Male" and "Help Wanted: Female."  Think about it.  1973 is not the stone age, yet the Pittsburgh Press at the time was willing to spend money to appeal the ruling against them all the way to the supreme court to advertise some jobs for women and others for men. Only in the last couple of years would they even concede the minimal disclaimer I pasted in the image above.... and I will bet you that was only put into print on the advice of their attorneys. 

Plenty of folks working today had entered the labor force by then.   Was the training and education system here set up for women to compete with men?  It was worse than that.  It was well into the 20th century that a lot of large employers in the Pittsburgh region would not as policy employ married women with children. 

* Note also the sentence of population trends for the region turning positive in 10-15 years. That was early in 2002, which means my forecasts were really from 2001.   I think we may have hit that window pretty closely.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It's raining tweets

National Weather Service in Pittsburgh is on Twitter.  Good stuff:


Monday, December 24, 2012

Does Santa have a GTFS feed?

First off, sic semper diaspora.  There would be no Santa Tracker if not for Bessemer, Lawrence County native, Westminster College alum, and retired Air Force Colonel Harry Shoup.

But yes, many know that because of some sort of spat between NORAD and Google, there is now the tracker being run by Google as well.  What happens if Santa and anti-Santa collide while crisscrossing the globe?  

Actually my real question is:  Does Santa have a GTFS feed?


Sunday, December 23, 2012

The real article worth reading in the PG today

So yes, you may think I would most want to self reference this piece in the PG today:  For Pittsburgh a future not reliant on steel was unthinkable ... and unavoidable

But no, the more important thing to read is on the "Next Page" and the idea of bringing rapid transit to Cranberry. See: Go North. Light Rail.   Who would've thunk that? Crazy idea bringing transit to the fastest growing part of the region and all. 

Of course, this has been a theme here in the past.  I mentioned the idea of "Rapid transit to Cranberry" even this last just in October in: Pod or Bust for me.  (or as far back as 2008 in: G20 Thoughts and More).  Seriously, the idea is self-evident except I suppose to those who want to see transit wither into oblivion. 

Oh.. yes.  I know.  Silly to divert resources even thinking about something that will never happen when there are so many other pressing transit issues in town. Must be why the bureaucracies supported Maglev for so long. Something the public knew full well was never going to happen.  Support, mind you, that lasted right up until the virtually undeniable end that only came early this year.

You know..  we really do maintain a certain economic motif here. 

and just for the record. For those who continue to read ink these days, I have absolutely nothing to do with the placement of advertisements near my piece today on the inside page.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Retro news

I get confused.  Why is this news now in December?  PG: Pittsburgh properties reassessed higher than those in suburbs.  Note in their graphic of the latest iteration of county numbers it is also true that only part of Trafford is in Allegheny County.

Anyways.....  I am pretty sure we knew the patterns or property value changes within the county literally a year ago if not before. See here from January: Anger, Angst, Assessment.

and again, for those Allegheny County public officials (including school districts, municipalities, and the county itself) looking for advice on setting revenue-neutral tax rates.  I refer you to Professor Strauss' calculations, or at the very least his methodology. I am sure someone will at some point go back and compare what tax rates are finally set to this type of benchmark.  His data, that has also been up there some time, is also a big data point that there is nothing new in any of this. 


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Pennsylvania population migration

New population estimates out today for Pennsylvania. 



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Growing Pains in the Suburbs

From 1951, A remarkable Pittsburgh Press series on growth and change within Allegheny County.

Each worth reading in itself and ever more interesting now as history. The question is, what would a comparable series like this cover today?

1              May 7    Growing Pains in the Suburbs  - "flash towns shoot up on good roads"    

3              May 8    Penn Township  - ".. with plenty of jobs available, high school students are dropping out"             

4              May 9    Churchill Patton Plum - "virtually a golfing heaven"       

5              May 10 White Oak  - "one of the major ailments is that old debbil politics"          

6              May 11 West Mifflin - "Homestead loses most"  also "Transportation bugaboo"    

7              May 12 Pleasant Hills   - "Rural area and borough still feud"

8              May 13 Baldwin and Whitehall   - "Township officials missed the zero hour for filing their annexation petition..."

9              May 14 Bethel Borough               

10           May 15 Green Tree and Scott    

11           May 16 Mount Lebanon              

12           May 17 Reserve Shaler Hampton             

13           May 18 Dorseyville Middle Road              

14           May 19 North Hills Ross Richland              

15           May 20 Moon Robinson Kennedy          

16           May 21 Metropolitan Area Needs Master Plan  


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Remembering the "Worst Place for Singles"

Missed this from Joel Kotkin on Forbes the other day: Aging America: The Cities That Are Graying The Fastest

Of course: Pittsburgh is #1, and of course the interpretation of what it means for Pittsburgh's future is almost backwards.   "are graying" is the present continuous yes?  For Pittsburgh it would all be correct if described in the past imperfect.  If there has ever been a need to rephrase the standard disclaimer of stock guessers: "past performance is not an indicator of future success"... or however it might go in context. Remember, in economics we teach marginal analysis is what most often matters.  So what is changing now explains far more than the average. 

So city or region?  Let's do the city just because it is a little more stark.  The picture of changing demographics for the city of Pittsburgh looks like this:

So sometime after 1990 I figure is when demographic trends for the city of Pittsburgh really flipped. 
For the region the transition is a bit different.  For the county the turn was not as dramatic, but the trend certainoy changed over the following decade... We are still talking over a decade in the past at this point. If the trends in that graphic continue unabated, what does it imply about how Pittsburgh compares to the nation today on the even of 2013?

Yet the nation is going to continue that elderly drift for quite some time.  Across the nation as the baby boom ages, a lot of places are getting older pretty fast.  Virtually all regions are getting older faster than Pittsburgh.  Among states Pennsylvania as a whole is projected to have the slowest increase (as a percentage) in the elderly population over the next quarter century.  Pittsburgh itself will rank even more to that same extreme in comparable benchmarking among regions. By that I mean the Pittsburgh region's projected increase in the elder population is lower than the state's. 

So I would parse the actual headline for this some years ago... but now a bakers dozen years ago: We're getting younger every year.    But note that I have utterly failed at changing the semantics of how Pittsburgh is described to this day it seems.  It is ironic in a sense that the recent headline comes from Forbes.  Joel's commentary stands on it's own for the most part, but Forbes has long made news of it's out of its general rankings.  One of the most notorious for Pittsburgh was when it ranked us the single worst place for singles in 2002.  Some remember that. I can't find the original reporting, but it is really funny to read that 2003 version in Forbes when we did a ditto, you should check it out.

I recall feeling a bit of guilt over it all.  I get such random media calls and I had a message from someone at Forbes in 2002 before that article came out.  Something kept me from getting back to them.   I aways thought that if I had talked to them I might have blunted the message. Probably not true, but still.  When that particular Forbes article came out in 2002 it sparked a vertiable explosion of the classic Pittsburgh Angst over what it all meant.  Yet, by so many trends had already inflected at the time, we just didn't know it. Seriously, the flip in the region's younger cohort migration extends back toward the early part of that decade, but nobody would have believed it at the time.

How about this concluding paragraph from the 2003 Forbes article:
Pittsburghers have a Zen-like self-satisfaction that Williamsburg types will never achieve, no matter how long their rat tail, how well-groomed their handlebar mustache or how crusty their Astoria Auto Body baseball cap.

Well.. nuff said eh?


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Data Phoenix

So last week I passed on some punditry out there on the potential demise of some widely used migration statistics compiled by the IRS.   At the time it was pretty clear that the program was ending, with a suggestion to use ACS based migration data compiled directly from the Census Bureau. 

The IRS web site I referenced in that post has been changed in the last day.  Whether this reflects an actual change in plan, or just a big misunderstanding I can't say.  Now their site has this header which is quite different from what was there last week:

State and county migration statistics will continue to be produced and posted on this site. Statistics for 1990 through 2010 are currently available. Statistics for 2011 will be posted as soon as they are completed. In addition, work is underway at IRS and the Bureau of the Census to develop additional migration statistics that take advantage of improved data that have recently become available.

So now the meta story becomes interesting. Was the migration data ever really going away?   The reverb on that is still continuing.  Historically the data came out early in the fall, but has been coming later in recent years. 

The ironic thing in the end is that the original punditry all came from those who think interstate migration is impacted by differences in marginal tax rates between states.  If that was true it would clearly show up most among the wealthiest and most mobile households.  There is little evidence that is true from any causal standpoint. 


Marmalade on toast

So I am not sure why this is not of greater notice here... but per the LA Times: American, US Airways may merge to form giant airline.  US Airways still has the most departures out of Pittsburgh, though trails Southwest by a fair bit in terms of number of passengers.  Seriously, over the last year year Southwest carried 36% more passengers out of PIT than did US Airways.  I should look up what that ratio was before they cut the flights to Philadelphia.

What it means?  Nominally there is not much overlap between US Airways and American flights out of PIT.  Just one American flight to New York City is all I see that overlaps directly with US Airways right now.  Of course, there could be all sorts of secondary impacts as the potentially combined airline adjusts its flights down the road. 

Remember Pittsburgh Pins Hope on Airport

The toast you ask... gotta read to the end of that last link.


Friday, December 14, 2012


Percent of Pittsburgh region workers in science, engineering and computer professional occupations who are Black or African American alone.   Source: Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Tabulation based on the American Community Survey 5-year (2006-2010) estimates. 


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Number of the day: 44.6%

2011 poverty rate for the population age 5-17 in the Duquesne City School District.

Via data released yesterday from the Census Bureau's Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Number of the day: -7%

So if you are under the impression that the loss of flights at the airport is slow...  the number of scheduled flights departing PIT for the 12 months ending in August is down 7.03% from the year prior.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

'Data driven' requires data

UPDATE...   hold the electrons.  The IRS site has been changed and now has this header.

State and county migration statistics will continue to be produced and posted on this site. Statistics for 1990 through 2010 are currently available. Statistics for 2011 will be posted as soon as they are completed. In addition, work is underway at IRS and the Bureau of the Census to develop additional migration statistics that take advantage of improved data that have recently become available.

This is really for the true data nerds out there, but worth a look.

To begin, the National Review Online has a short oped of sorts: An Embarrassing Metric Disappears.  The punch line is that migration data made available by the IRS, data used by a lot of us over a long time, may no longer be distributed.

I actually don't agree that the migration data in question is embarrassing, or at least not in the way implied.  Americans move, and they move a lot.  The thread of thought that taxes in themselves determine where people move nationally is not really supported by a lot of research. Take for example the big reversal in trend in migration into Pittsburgh in recent years.  Have any tax rates across the Pittsburgh region dropped over that time to explain that?  The logic just does not work with the data. 

Nonetheless, it does appear that the data is going away.

Which means that data we have used a long time to study trends in the region may be no more.  The last complete parse I have of this IRS migration data for the Pittsburgh region is online here fyi. Without that data, that version of the report may be the last ever.  Colleagues long before me have been doing similar work with IRS data analyzing trends in the Pittsburgh since the 1980s.  So this is a big change. Back in the day, compiling the data even with the IRS' help was a bit painful and beyond what the average public could do. They have made the data easier to use of late and via the governments initiative, the national file of IRS migration data has empowered a whole host of data driven info-products.  It may have been one of the bigger data enablers to come from in my opinion.  But no more?

The message there on the IRS site points us all to migration data compiled by the Census Bureau... much of which is from the sample based ACS.  While useful, it really is far more limited data that will be harder to draw conclusions from.   Alas, I was going to use the data that should have just been coming out with migration through 2011 to count how many folks have been moving from Texas and Oklahoma to Bradford County in Pennsylvania. I guess we will never really know for sure. 


Monday, December 10, 2012

Red Dawn on the Mon

A few weeks ago the PG Digs Tumblr account ran a photo from their archives of military airplanes over Pittsburgh circa 1951. They asked if anyone knew what the photo could have been for?

The date they reference does not work out quite right for this theory, but the context of the photo sure seems to look like it went with Operation Comet which took place in Western Pennsylvania between 1949 and 1950. Whether that is the photo's actual provenance I can't say. 

Operation Comet was a large exercise of Army and National Guard troops in a scenario where Soviet paratroopers invaded from the north of Pittsburgh. In the exercise the Air Force at one point 'bombs' the Emsworth Dam to slow the progress of the invaders. All while key communications were provided by local Ham radio (Young'uns: that would be the Twitter of the day) operators and flocks of carrier pigeons. Not joking about the carrier pigeons. Also, part of the exercise included preparations in case Pittsburgh was hit with an atomic weapon.  I just bet it all partially inspired Troan's remarkable series that came in 1951.

Read more about the exercise in this 1949 edition of the Antiaircraft Journal (see p. 33...  p. 34 gets into the carrier pigeons). Professional reading for some. Lest anyone think this was all just some fictitious war game....  in 1952 the first antiaircraft batteries would deploy to 12 sites around Pittsburgh. 

I honestly only now am realizing there has been a remake of the movie Red Dawn playing in the theaters of late.  Who knew?   Apparently the plot of the current movie has us being invaded by North Koreans.  Really?!  I know the news can sometimes make it seem like it is always the very worst of times, but does anything of late really compare to the routine fears of 50 years ago.  Duck and cover!


Sunday, December 09, 2012

We like it.......

... we really like it!

For the curious, the images last week were from:


Thursday, December 06, 2012

The butterfly and the tulip

If you doubt the world is flat, there is now clearly a direct link between the economic Ch'i of both Canonsburg and Rajasthan:

Wall Street Journal this morning: For Guar Gum, a Bubble Goes Pop

Followed up this evening on Marketplace: How fracking affects a bean grown in India


Where is Bill Burns in this?

For my media friends.  Again from 1963 and the idealized version of 60's era media in town. You know Bill Burns actually has his own Wikipedia page? Who knew?


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Trees? Flowers? Such bizarre things?

So look at the names. Who are still tenants of those buildings?  Note this is before the Steel Building was constructed, so that anthropomorphism is US Steel's headquarters from earlier.


Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The once and future... SKYBUS

The future was so clear in 1963.  Cinderalla City, bucket seats and 2 minute wait times.....


It would be at least another decade before the vision began to float as well. 


Monday, December 03, 2012


So I have a slew of these I'll put up this week.  Cool, but...

I don't think the image of Downtown flooding from the Allegheny was intentional. At the end of the week I'll post the source.  Circa 1963.


Sunday, December 02, 2012

Where are you Joe Cosetti?

Jim O covers the  current lay of the land in the upcoming mayoral race for the City of Pittsburgh. I know everyone thinks every election cycle is the most contentious ever; a perspective that  is as wrong as it is repeated. In Pittsburgh we are all separated by no more than 2 degrees.  There are a few folks we all know who are 1 degree people.  There are above them the zero degree folks who impact us all. 

On that note take a moment and read the Wikipedia entry for the late mayor Richard Caliguiri. There is an immense amount of history written in, and even more between the lines of, the brief narrative there.  Worth a read.  Note that in the general election when he was elected to his first full term of office, it was by far the most contentious race the city had seen in a long time (or since?)  The endorsed Democratic Party candidate Tom Foerster lost to Caligiuri who was running as an independent after having failed to get the ACDC endorsement.  

But that is just the beginning.  the winning margin between Foerester and Caliguiri (just 4%) was more than doubled by the minimal 9% of the vote for the endorsed Republican party candidate, Joe Cosetti.  Votes for Joe arguably could have decided the race,  but Joe had not been a Republican for long.  He was actually Mayor Pete Flaherty's Treasurer for years until just before the filing deadline for primary race when he switched party's and ran for mayor.  He was actually tossed off the Republican primary ballot by a successful challenge of his petition signatures by the only other Republican running, Jerry Cook.  Cook's qualification for running was owning a small luncheonette on Strawberry Way Downtown.  But Cosetti ran a write-in campaign on the primary Republican ballot and actually won.   Cosetti, as an aside, had once been the top economist for the Jones and Laughlin Corporation, and then went on to be a Federal Judge in town after his mayoral loss.  His appointment as judge came as a bankruptcy judge in 1980 which was before bankruptcy judges were appointed by the president (were appointed locally).  A local panel of US district judges nominated Cosetti for the bench.  Later on it would change to where bankruptcy judges were appointed more like district judges by the President.
Caliguiri himself was an unlikely independent candidate having received the Democratic Party's committee endorsement over Pete Flaherty when in 1973 when he first ran for office. More suprising, Caliguiri also received the endorsement over Flaherty when Flaherty ran for his second term as an incumbent.  Think how rare it is in town here for an incumbent major office holder to not get the ACDC endorsement??
So Caliguiri no doubt has strong party ties having once received the party committee endorsement over an incumbent mayor.   Cosetti was the point guy for much of popular Democratic mayor Pete Flaherty's administration and Foerester goes without saying was a career party loyalist who was an Allegheny County Commissioner for decades. So the 3 way race at the time was a form of political fratricide among 3 lifelong D's that remains far more contentious than anything since.  Arguably it shapes local politics to this day, and certainly confuses the roles of committee, party and electorate.  
So yes, this would be all ancient and forgotten political history in most places.  But remember my statistic, there are typically 8 voters in city primaries over the age of 65 for every voter who casts a ballot under age 30 (not under 20... under 30).  So the large majority of voters in May will at least remember all of this in some form.  Or to put it another way, many will have voted for Flaherty of Caliguiri in 1977 and likely still have strong opinions on that race to this day.  Don't believe me? Go ask one of your older neighbors and prove me wrong.

and if you think the Romney campaign misunderstood election data, they at least were a bit more accurate than this... and remember the ad is talking about a virtually lifelong D: