Thursday, November 19, 2009

Recovery Pittsburgh

I'm locked out of my other blog while Blogger assesses whether or not I'm a spambot. I've become accustomed to posting twice-a-day and I have the itch to write. I'll circle back to Pittsburgh and how its coping with the Great Recession:

To form our list, we ranked the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas--geographic entities that the U.S. Office of Management and Budget defines and uses in collecting statistics--in five categories: unemployment rate, GMP (a measure of the size of a city's economy), foreclosures, home prices and sales rates.

We ranked September unemployment rates (the most recent available by metro) using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the percentage of a metro's homes in foreclosure with September data provided by RealtyTrac; and the change in GMP between the first and second quarter of 2009 from the Brookings Institution's MetroMonitor. We also included the second-quarter 2009 year-over-year change in Freddie Mac's ( FRE - news - people ) Conventional Mortgage Home Price Index--a measure of housing price inflation--and the average days on the market for properties currently on sale (to measure sales rates), using data from We then averaged the scores for each measure to arrive at an overall ranking.

While there is no foolproof method for resisting recession, a common thread in thriving cities is an economy fed by multiple industries. Former Northeastern industrial hubs like Pittsburgh, and Rochester, N.Y., while they may not seem the likeliest models of economic health, have been able to supplement industrial sector decline with a boost from public-sector jobs that have pumped up the economy even as the private sector declined. They land in the fourth and seventh spot on our list, respectively.

The emerging theme is one of resilience, as opposed to the latest boomtown infatuation. Sustainable Pittsburgh is a great place to raise a family. Don't worry about bubbles popping or the other shoe dropping. What you see is what you get.

The humility grabbing a hold of the United States would seem to suit Pittsburgh, the economic tortoise outlasting the hare in Charlotte. Stranger for me is the pattern of recovery. The region of my youth (Appalachian Rust Belt) is, relatively speaking, thriving. This is the non-Midwestern part of America's manufacturing heartland.

I know that, all across the Midwest, good people are worrying about the same issues. They need help in thinking about these issues and where they fit into the Midwestern reality. If Midwesterners who are paid to think don't do this thinking, then it won't get done.

How might we rethink geographic regions in terms of globalization? Regions are dynamic, not static. Throw out the boundaries that no longer serve a purpose. Economic backwaters are easily defined. The Midwest has defied definition because of the heterogeneity. The migration from the rural South to the industrial North transformed both landscapes.

Regional studies is more anthropology than sociology. We're obsessing artifacts of a great civilization in decline. That's the definition of "Southern studies". Midwestern studies is yesterday's news.

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