Thursday, June 25, 2015

'New' data and Pittsburgh's Hispanic populations

So here is a funny thing. I know many are excited by the headline that the Hispanic population locally is going up. See this version in the Trib: Hispanic migration to Western Pennsylvania double national rate

You know, the equally true headline could be "Growth in Pittsburgh's Hispanic population is slowing"

That's right. The news in the numbers just out are not actually new in any form. The annual growth rate of, for example Allegheny County's Hispanic Population has been coming in at 4 or more percent for many years... at least according to the data being reported on today. Don't believe me.. here is the data behind the headline today except not limited to just the most recent year: Here is the annual growth rate in Allegheny County's Hispanic population since 2010:

Allegheny County Hispanic Population 2010-2014:

Change over previous year
2014 23,377 921 4.1%
2013 22,456 1,046 4.9%
2012 21,410 1,134 5.6%
2011 20,276 1,074 5.6%
2010 19,202

Source: Census Bureau Population Estimates


So seriously, the latest data show a clear slowing in the growth rate. That darn 2nd derivative.  The positive trend here is actually nothing new.  But if you wonder how that fits into the larger story that the Hispanic population in Pittsburgh is extremely small, realize that the size of that population is so low that even if the local growth rate exceeds the national growth rate by several percentage points, it still will take decades to really catch up to what is a national average. and that assumes there is no more slowing of the trend locally. 

To a large degree, the nation as a whole is so much more Hispanic than Pittsburgh that as normal migration flows continue, just the normal churn of population will increase the Hispanic population locally.  It does not really mean Pittsburgh is changing as much as the nation has changed so much more and since the region is not completely an island, a reversion to the mean is a bit inevitable. The real question is why it is not happening faster than it is.

It also does not imply that we have become a magnet for recent international immigrants.. the headline is about the Hispanic population which is not the same thing. Those two groups get conflated in Pittsburgh to a degree they just don't elsewhere.  The latest data on international immigration, which is in the same census dataset as referenced above, gives us this benchmarking of the 2013-2014 net international migration for Pittsburgh compared to other metro areas:

So Pittsburgh is decidedly last... and if you dispute that then you must also not believe the numbers above.  Both are from the same Census Bureau estimates data for 2014. Go figure.


Someone strongly suggested to me that this all is big news because the higher rate of growth in the region's Hispanic population is still a recent break in trend.. that around 2008 or so this all changed.  Turns out no. Below is the annual percentage change for Allegheny County's Hispanic population going back to 2000-2001. Throw a trendline on that data and then re-read the current headlines. The growth rate seeming generating headlines this year (and curiously never before in the past in my memory) is actually the lowest rate for any year in that period with only one exception between 2004-5. The most interesting thing in all of this is that this is a news story at all.  But again, the new data brings me back to the efforts here going back to 2001 specifically focused on bringing more of the Hispanic population to Pittsburgh.

Actually the 2007-2008 timeline is when total net migration into Pittsburgh turned positive, but that it is something else.


Anonymous MH said...


Thursday, June 25, 2015 10:57:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Friday, June 26, 2015 2:44:00 AM  
Anonymous DBR96A said...

Quite frankly, I don't give a shit about the size of the Hispanic population in the Pittsburgh area anymore. Everybody's talking about Asian immigration now anyway, and Pittsburgh is in a better position to capitalize on it. Furthermore, I bet nearly all the new immigrants in the Pittsburgh area are in Allegheny County, because the other six metropolitan counties have little or nothing to offer their existing residents, let alone any new ones. Allegheny County is functionally its own metropolitan area of 1.2M people inside a greater metropolitan area of 2.4M. The outer counties do nothing but wash out the genuinely interesting changes happening in the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.

Friday, June 26, 2015 2:44:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It all comes down to jobs and economic opportunity. This would not be written in an article nor an issue if there was truly robust job growth going on in the Pittsburgh metro area. People from everywhere including hispanics would be flocking to the region. The city of pittsburgh is approaching 80 years of population loss (looking at the annexation and growth of city limits to pad population losses in the 40's and 50's), while Allegheny County is approaching 60 years of population loss. That was a good 20-40 years before the steel collapse of the 80s. Even the Pet food company is relocating to Orrville, OH. That doesn't say much for the confidence these businesses have in the Pittsburgh economy. If there was a future they would invest.

Regional leaders need to focus on the real problems plaguing economic growth. However, I do not know how much they can change. The region needs to consolidate and cut duplication on all levels, however that is nearly impossible without the commonwealth's support. As the commonwealth has ridiculous rules governing cities townships and boroughs. Governmental fragmentation and duplication is an expensive tax mess and a jobs killer. The next thing is a better infrastructure and roads system. However this seems impossible as well due to the fact the tax revenue is not there to fix infrastructure and the natural geography will forever hinder the possibility of a good highway and roads system. Finally, the air quality needs fixed for good. Nobody wants to move to an area with high cancer rates due to pollution. If Pittsburgh can somehow manage to change those things it will grow and change. I hate to be pessimistic but It would literally take a miracle for all of those things to happen.

I guess we will continue to see articles of little hispanic growth, population decline, aging workforce and decline as well as infrastructure decline.

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