Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Return of the Shrinking Cities Diaspora

GlobalErie links to a story about Pittsburgh's poor business climate. Actually, the author of the article, Ralph Reiland (Economics) of Robert Morris University, starts out describing the population decline of Pittsburgh:

Between 2000 and 2006, while the U. S. population was expanding by 18 million, the population of the seven-county Pittsburgh metro area dropped by 58,585. Take away the hurricane and that's the nation's largest decline in metro population -- the worst record in the country in attracting new people or keeping the ones we have.

Mr. Reiland goes on to link Pittsburgh's shrinking population to Pennsylvania's abysmal showing in the "2008 State Business Tax Climate Index." I'm no academic and I'm definitely an amateur policy analyst, but what geography training I do have helps me to notice an apples and oranges problem given the mismatch between the scales of analysis. Mr. Reiland's argument is so confused that I don't know where to begin.

Given the high state taxes, we would expect all of Pennsylvania's MSAs to be at the bottom of the net population change list. Furthermore, we would expect to see regional population growth at its most robust across the state line where taxes are not as bad. Do the net domestic migration rates of MSAs around the country correlate with state tax rates? I'll make a wild guess and say no, they don't correlate.

Mr. Reiland inadvertently describes the crux of Allegheny County's shrinking city problem:

And within this seven-county decline, Allegheny County leads the pack in driving people away, accounting for 96.4 percent of the population drop -- a net loss of 56,457 people out of the 58,585 total.

The hollowing out of cities is not the result of a negative state business tax climate. The problem cuts across a variety of state business tax structures. The answer to reversing Pittsburgh's population decline is not in Harrisburg. Now, if Mr. Reiland wants to discuss the meager job creation, that's another story.


Janko said...

I'm a Policy Analyst, and it looks like apples to oranges to me.

Let us know when you are coming back home.

Your bretheren in Ytown would all like to meet you.

Jim Russell said...

And I them.

I'm back in the Burgh for a week surrounding the Thanksgiving holiday. Wednesday day looks open, but I must be back in downtown Pittsburgh by 6pm.

The Sunday after Thanksgiving is another open day, but I must admit to being a serious professional football addict.