Monday, July 22, 2013

The Bell Curve and its discontents

I think I will just meta-quote via Jim Russell and the NewYork Times on some great research in income mobility.  Here is Jim's highlighting of the shout out to Pittsburgh:

Yet the parts of this country with the highest mobility rates — like Pittsburgh, Seattle and Salt Lake City — have rates roughly as high as those in Denmark and Norway, two countries at the top of the international mobility rankings. In areas like Atlanta and Memphis, by comparison, upward mobility appears to be substantially lower than in any other rich country, Mr. Chetty said.

The original research out of Berkeley and Harvard is at:

This all is far more interesting than is obvious though it is a big deal unto itself . Throughout Pittsburgh's manufacturing-centered economy the income distribution here was anomalous compared to most of the rest of the nation.  Most of the nation had a relatively bell-shaped income distribution (albeit with a long upper tail) defined by a large number of households near the middle.  One could argue America is defined by that big middle class as it were.  What folks don't realize, and what I attribute a lot of our lingering pathologies to, is that Pittsburgh and just a few other regions did not have a big bulge of incomes near the middle.  We actually had a bimodal income distribution which means there were two big humps.  One concentration of relatively higher incomes and one big concentration of lower incomes.  Makes for a very different dynamic and it persisted as long as manufacturing remained the crux of the local economy.


Anonymous BrianTH said...

Yet another mapped measure which seems to have a significant border inside the "Rust Belt" approximately where the Appalachians end (so between us and Cleveland). So we are 10.3%, Cleveland is 5.2%, Detroit 5.1%, Columbus 5.1%, and so on. Philly is middling at 7.7%, but far closer to us are NYC at 9.7% and Washington at 9.5%.

So forget Cleveburgh, or even Pittsland. Pittington, or Washburgh if you insist, is where it's at.

Monday, July 22, 2013 2:09:00 PM  
Anonymous BrianTH said...

By the way, Pittsburgh was actually #1 on the list of chances of ending in the Top Fifth if you were raised in the Top Fifth (so we are high by rags-to-riches, but even higher by riches-to-riches). Again, other cities with a similar pattern include NYC and DC.

Monday, July 22, 2013 2:18:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed, BrianTH. Pittsington is the true emerging megapolitan unit... not the Pittsburgh-Youngstown-Cleveland corridor... the western two thirds representing a rotting husk of economic yesteryear.

Monday, July 22, 2013 2:59:00 PM  

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