Friday, May 20, 2011

Pittsburgh Fountain Of Youth*

Pittsburgh continues to be the exception to the rule taking hold of most of the United States. The Post-Gazette with the "news":

While Pittsburgh's median age dropped by more than two full years in a decade, the median age rose in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Minneapolis, among other comparably sized cities for which data were released.

The story is only remarkable relative to other regions. Feel free to poke holes in the headline. Then consider the narrative of the host state:

Pennsylvania is showing its gray in Census figures being released Thursday, with the median age of residents having inched past 40 as the first baby boomers approach retirement age.

Counties in rural northern Pennsylvania, as well as areas in western parts of the state once teeming with steel mills and coal mines were among the oldest in the commonwealth, according to the statistics from the 2010 head count providing fresh evidence of a long-developing trend.

Also factoring in is the maturation of the massive baby boom generation, the oldest of whom turn 65 this year. Plus, the percentage of Pennsylvania homes with children dipped to 29.9, down from 32.6 percent in 2000.

The consequences are broad in Pennsylvania. While leaders try to reverse the "brain drain" of young, educated residents to warmer or more lucrative locales, state lawmakers mull balancing the needs of a population living longer while trying to cut into a massive budget deficit.

Pennsylvania is dying. Pittsburgh isn't. The Rust Belt is dying. Pittsburgh isn't. Yet the cries of "brain drain" and "shrinking city" persist. The numbers can't possibly be true. It's a trick, a quirk of rising student enrollments. The asterisk remains.


Scott said...

Here are the issues I believe come to mind when prospective migrants think of Rust Belt cities:

-High taxation
-Potential labor problems
-Organized crime influence
-Insular business/social community
-Decrepit infrastructure
-Racial issues

That's not to say that cities throughout the US don't have problems, but these are the commonly perceived issues.

Scott said...

Living in the Portland, OR area; I can assure readers that the city of Portland has problems with:
-city government not business-friendly
-insular business and social community
-decrepit infrastructure

In many ways, I believe that Portland is coasting on its reputation. Many cities in the US have more extensive mass transit systems, for example.

Jim Russell said...


I think of migration in terms of risk assessment. You go where you know. If people know anything about Rust Belt cities, it tends to be negative. Bad stories from Detroit whitewash an entire megaregion. There be dragons and sea serpents. It's a load of crap, but it affects relocation decisions.