Thursday, November 18, 2010

Demographically Sorting Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is shrinking. Pittsburgh is grey (old and damned with a lousy climate). Pittsburgh is tolerant:

In the long term, these immigrants or their children may become local economic stars. In the short term, tension is mounting. Mr Frey found that many of the new magnet states attract immigrants unlikely to speak English or to have completed school. Voters in such communities may view immigration rather differently than do those in San Francisco or Pittsburgh, hubs for skilled, foreign-born workers.

Unequivocally, immigration has been very, very good to Pittsburgh. It's also hard to notice and hasn't done much for the regional demography. Like domestic migration, Pittsburgh tends to attract the few and the very well educated. So does San Francisco, but that city is also an established gateway community for the foreign-born. The Bay Area sports quality and quantity immigration.

Yet Frey (or the Economist) lumps Pittsburgh in with San Francisco. Why?

The answer to that question is long and complicated. Regarding the above article, boil it down to improving educational attainment. Smart cities are weathering the recession well and the politics are less contentious. (So says Brookings) For Pittsburgh, immigration and domestic migration serve to improve the overall skill level of the workforce. Like Google, Pittsburgh is hoarding the best and the brightest.

In aggregate, Pittsburgh is a migration loser. In population, Pittsburgh is a loser. The analysis offered complicates (correctly) that picture. Magnet states are experiencing increasing political instability, which can frustrate recovery efforts. Pittsburgh is relatively demographically stable and therefore ironically tolerant.

I won't get into democracy diffusion theory and demographics. Suffice to say that Grey Pittsburgh was an asset during the turmoil of the recent election. Pittsburgh is ahead of the curve. WAY ahead of the curve.

Net inmigration (domestic or foreign born) is not necessarily a good thing. Those ticking off such numbers did a disservice to their community. I fail to see how one could think otherwise. We obsess population like we do the closing of the Dow Jones. People vote with their feet. End of story.

Where people go isn't a referendum on place. That's a bogus analysis of migration. That's Richard Florida. We can and should do better. Just say no to stopping brain drain. Just say no to resisting immigration.

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