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?


Blogger Dean Jackson said...

Building a "single's scene", or strongly enabling it from a city-planning level... would be one of the most positive things the city could do for recruiting bright young people. We have *tons* of them in the universities, but we lose much if not most of that talent the year after they graduate, and a big part of that *is* that we're a not-great place to be for a single person in their 20's.

Sunday, December 16, 2012 9:51:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Building a "single's scene", or strongly enabling it from a city-planning level..

"The URA expects that every man will shake his booty."

Sunday, December 16, 2012 8:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Monday Morning Niggle said...

So did you know that three paragraphs in the post start with the word "so", and the two preceding posts also start with the word "so"? So what, you might ask? So this

Just trying to help.

Monday, December 17, 2012 9:28:00 AM  
Anonymous DBR96A said...

Pittsburgh ranked #1 on the list of U.S. cities with the most rapidly-aging reputations.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 2:33:00 PM  
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