Monday, April 17, 2006

Mind the Income Gap

If you believe the Post Gazette, the City of Pittsburgh's per capita income is better off in relation to its suburbs than other cities' relation to their suburbs. Confused? I am. Here's an excerpt:

University of Virginia professors William Lucy and David Phillips, co-authors of the recent book "Tomorrow's Cities, Tomorrow's Suburbs," say their analysis of 22 cities' census data for per capita income shows that most made gains early this decade, relative to their suburbs. They suggest that income data can be a better indicator of a city's appeal than population changes, a category in which Pittsburgh regularly ranks among the worst in the country.

In 2004, city-dwellers' income in 22 places analyzed was 89 percent of what residents of their regions earned, compared to 86 percent in 2000. In Pittsburgh's case, their data suggested city residents averaged 91 percent as much income as residents of the region overall, up from 90 percent.

That would mean if the average resident of the seven-county Pittsburgh region earned $50,000 in 2004, the average city-dweller made $45,500. It has long been typical for people outside of cities to be more affluent than those inside, but the gap between them fluctuates and is of interest to professors Lucy and Phillips.

Pittsburgh's strength, they note, is it has a smaller gap between city and suburban incomes than is typical of cities in the Northeast and Midwest, plus a stability in that proportion throughout censuses and slight improvement in narrowing the differences. Philadelphia, Detroit, Dallas and Houston are among cities the Virginia study showed as trending negatively, with widening income gaps.
Now, at this point, you're probably asking yourself, "Self, is The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat unmoved by these statistics?"

Well he is, for three reasons:

(1) Per capita. Bill Gates walks into Pittsburgh and the per capita income of the City of Pittsburgh skyrockets, although it's probably insignificant in terms of policy. A higher median income than the surrounding environs would mean (ha!) more.

(2) Remember, Pittsburgh's suburbs are not just Cranberry and Robinson, but Duquesne and McKeesport as well. I don't have the statistics in front of me, but I'm guessing that Pittsburgh out performs a lot of the rust belt, Mon Valley suburbs no matter what. Ergo, the gap between the City and the Suburbs should be smaller.

(3) The City is still on the wrong side of the gap; 2nd place is still the first loser. We may be doing "better" than other cities, but that says more about the state of City/Suburbs relationships in this Country. That, ultimately, is a bad thing in my opinion.

But then again, I'm cranky today.

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