Sunday, August 12, 2007

Migration Matters Pittsburgh

If you are skeptical of my amateurish musings about migration, check out Chris Briem's article in the Sunday Post-Gazette. Mr. Briem is Pittsburgh's voice of reason for discussing the demographic issues the region faces. I also appreciate how Mr. Briem makes data available for a more informed public debate. Pittsburgh Today is embarking on a similar effort and hopefully more citizens will come forward with fresh ideas.

Mr. Briem and Pittsburgh Today provide a snapshot of the region, along with trends that are useful for comparison. Mr. Briem's main point is that the current anxiety about out-migration is unwarranted. The balance of migration is better than it was 20 or 30 years ago and the out-migration isn't out of line with other regions. In-migration is sorely lacking, as Mike Madison notes in his coverage of the Post-Gazette's story about international migrants coming to Pittsburgh.

This tale of the migration tape isn't news to anyone reading this blog (or Chris Briem's blog, for that matter). What I am endeavoring to do is point out opportunity, which starts with migration patterns that are unusual. Mr. Briem covers what we should expect:

It was well over a century ago that British economist Edward Ravenstein noted that most migrations were short distances, with proportionally fewer people moving longer distances. That observation could explain much the pattern of migration from Pittsburgh today.

Many are surprised to learn that our largest competitors for people are not concentrated in the fastest growing regions, but actually Philadelphia, New York and Washington, D.C.

Proximity is a key variable in modeling Pittsburgh's migration. Where are the exceptions? We should also try to control for population figuring that larger cities can more easily send people Pittsburgh's way. For example, Denver and Colorado Springs are roughly the same [long] distance from Pittsburgh. While Denver has more people than Colorado Springs, the Springs send what looks to be about double the migrants to Pittsburgh than come from Denver. In fact, little Pueblo sends about the same number of migrants to Pittsburgh as does Denver.

How can we account for these anomalies? Why is Pittsburgh so much more attractive to people living in the Colorado Springs region than those living in the Denver region? You solve that mystery and you might crack the code for increasing Pittsburgh's in-migration.

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