Monday, March 30, 2009

Update: Pittsburgh Migration Tales

Thanks to Brian Kelsey, of Civic Analytics, for pointing me towards William Frey's migration update. The Brookings article links to an interview with Frey on C-Span. The host had some graphics that looked to be part of a Brookings report, which I found here. There is a section on talent migration and Pittsburgh merits mention:

Finally, areas in the long-declining manufacturing regions surrounding the Great Lakes, such as Pittsburgh, continue to experience difficulty in attracting many and retaining many college graduates (Figure 6-1). Their rates of educational attainment continue to rise due to aging of their populations, but many are seeking to re-invent themselves and their economies more deliberately by retaining their “homegrown” college graduates, and attracting both high- and low-skilled immigrants.

Brookings profiles the "Highest Level of Educational Attainment, Population Age 25 and Over" for Charlotte, Phoenix, and Pittsburgh. What's unique about Pittsburgh is that the numbers of people with a high school diploma or less are shrinking, while the numbers of people with college degrees are growing. Phoenix is seeing growth in all educational attainment categories, while Charlotte is remarkable because it "experienced gains in college graduates but declines in adults without high school educations." Contrasting Pittsburgh and Charlotte, Pittsburgh is shrinking the number of less educated more rapidly than Charlotte. On the other hand, Charlotte is growing it pool of college educated at a faster rate than Pittsburgh. Slice it any way you want, Pittsburgh's talent profile is improving.

Turning back to the Frey article, there is a slideshow Slide #3 looks at of metropolitan domestic migration migration (2000-2008) for a representative sample of Rust Belt cities: Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, and Providence. All four cities are now shrinking at a slower rate than just a few years ago (the nadir). Cleveland is the clear loser, hovering between losing 15,000-20,000 people per year over the eight-year period. Pittsburgh is dramatically trending towards growing again, at least in terms of domestic migration. Interestingly, Buffalo isn't far behind. Providence looks to be in for a lengthy decline, though not quite as bad as Cleveland.

New Geography's Joel Kotkin wondered aloud to me via e-mail why Pittsburgh was beginning to positively deviate from its Rust Belt cohort. A story on Cleveland Public Radio might help explain the divirging fortunes of Cleveland and Pittsburgh. I also remained convinced that Pittsburgh started successfully investing in human capital earlier than other shrinking cities and the region is now reaping the dividends. Thirdly, I think Pittsburgh continues to benefit from deep connectivity with Washington, DC. Via the Creative Class blog, DC is thriving and the economic productivity of capital cities around the world are on the rise:

Similar trends are brewing in North American government towns. Last year, home building nose-dived throughout Canada—except in Ottawa, where industry is scant and one in five workers draws a government paycheck. In the Canadian capital the resale price for condos jumped nearly 12 percent in 2008 and 5.7 percent for single-family homes. No wonder, given that federal employees enjoy a 41 percent wage premium over private-sector workers. As Toronto Star columnist Jim Travers wrote recently, "Hard times arrive here in mink slippers."

Ditto Washington, where 28 percent of the District's paychecks are cut by the various layers of the federal bureaucracy. While the private sector has shed 4.6 million jobs since December 2007, when the economic contraction began, the federal government has hired 200,000 workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The new administration will likely create another 400,000 temporary jobs and 180,000 permanent ones. No wonder D.C., without a factory in sight, was the nation's second-fastest-growing job market (after Alaska) in 2008.

A resilient DC is good for a resilient Pittsburgh. Perhaps even more telling is that DC's great job market is failing to undermine Pittsburgh's recent migration trends towards growth. That's astounding given the churn of talent between the two regions.

Update: Obama tabbed Yinzer Ed Montgomery to be the director of Recovery for Auto Communities and Workers. Just another example of Burgh-DC connectivity.

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