Friday, March 25, 2011

Odd Economic Indicators

My preferred "economist" is the cab driver. You can learn a lot about a city and a region's vitality during the journey. Another unexpected economic indicator is prostitution. I learned about this metric from a high school friend who toiled as a cabbie in Burlington, Vermont. Apparently, prostitution in Pittsburgh is way up:

Similar scenes have been playing out increasingly in Moon, according to Police Chief Leo McCarthy. Last year, his department charged 54 people with prostitution-related offenses in the township. In 2004, the department arrested just one person for the crime.

"We have airport communities like Robinson, Moon, North Fayette, Green Tree -- and there's been a big expansion in prostitution, here and in southwestern Pennsylvania, in general," McCarthy said. "I don't know if it's because of the economy or the Internet. It could be because of a lot of things."

McCarthy said Moon's proximity to the Pittsburgh International Airport, along with more than a dozen hotels located in the township, make it a prime location for suburban prostitution.

The connection between travelling businessmen and the sex trade isn't news. My Burlington buddy said that it was riders from the airport who inquired about where to go (Downtown Radisson apparently was the hot spot). But what might explain the dramatic increase in activity in Pittsburgh?

Marcellus Shale.

Energy roustabouts pouring in from Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado comprise the classic target demographic for sex services. The drilling jobs in particular continue to be filled by those from out of state. I don't think that is likely to change all that much, at least in the next few years. Keep an eye on the crime statistics for the communities around the airport.

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