Population Change in the 1990s and 2000s:
“The whites who live in Scranton are disproportionately stupid low-class whites”. So said blogger Half-Sigma, citing “Wikipedia”. Commenter Joe Walker wrote: “the younger, better educated whites [have probably] moved [from Scranton] to places like New York City”. This does seem an attractive theory to explain the trends seen here (albeit able to easily devolve into Chicken-or-Egg-ism). But is it true? [Note: The post “Most- and Least-Educated U.S. Metro Areas” was inspired by his comments.]
Scranton vs. Boise: Uneducated Backwater vs. Ivory-Tower Utopia?
Q. Does Scranton Metro have a very-low share of college graduates while Boise Metro has a high share of graduates, as Half-Sigma claimed?
A. It depends on age-bracket. Among young adults, no. Among older adults, yes.
Here are the numbers:
Percent Holding a College Degree, 2008, By Age and Locality
|Age-Range||USA||Scranton Metro||Scranton City||Boise Metro||Boise City|
Among young-adults, Scranton-Metro is better-educated than Boise Metro.
Half-Sigma’s theory, that “stupid” Scranton loses droves of its smart youth, is wrong.
In more depth: Half-Sigma’s Wikipedia-scholarship is weak on two grounds:
1.) Uneducated Retirees, So What? A lesson in statistical distortion. “Scranton has a low share of college graduates”. Well, technically yes: But if you break it down by age bracket, it is clear that this only applies to the older Scrantonites. Among young-adults, Scranton Metro is more educated than Boise Metro. Boise Metro is ranked #72 in percentage of young-adults holding a degree among the USA’s 100 largest metros. Scranton Metro would rank #58, if it were big enough to be on the list. (You can check the numbers for any metro area here, by clicking “change geography” at the left). Young-adults are the most mobile, they are the ones who drive population increase or decrease. So we will have to look elsewhere than “Scranton is a moron’s haven” to explain its ongoing population decline.
2.) Core-City vs. Metro Area: The metropolitan-area is the entity of economic-significance today, not the core-city. “Scranton” may refer to a jurisdiction with 72,000 residents (Scranton City), or to a metropolitan area with 549,000 people (Scranton Metro, colloquially “Wyoming Valley”). Boise is the same: 205,000 in Boise City versus 600,000 in Boise Metro. As you can see in the above chart, Scranton’s Core-City is a bit depressed, but its Metro is not — when it comes to young-adults — in terms of education.
Measuring by core-city alone opens one up to wild distortions of reality: One would wonder what kind of stupid backwater Washington-DC was for the three or four decades that the District lost population. Washington-DC proper has 650,000 residents; DC Metro has 5.5-million and is actually the second-most-educated of the 100 largest metro areas in the USA.
All the same, Boise’s Core-City is better off than Scranton’s. Boise’s most-economically-valuable (educated) elements live in its core-city. The outerlying areas in Boise Metro drag it down. The Scranton region is the precise opposite. Why these two cities have opposite patterns in this way would be an interesting thing to investigate. It probably has to do with Boise being a new city, never developing a “depressed inner-city”. I believe people naturally want density and not sprawl, but various social trends in the USA prevent this. Except in certain cases, like the Pacific Northwest, and — it seems — Boise. (But I repeat myself?).
Prediction: As Scranton Metro’s young-adults have all-but caught up to the USA’s average in college-degree attainment, Scranton-Metro will stop losing population in the coming years.
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Perhaps the better educated elderly Scrantonites retire to Florida, while the poorer ones can’t afford to go.
That could be.
But why would older people still of working-age in Scranton have such low educational attainment?
What’s the economic base in Scranton? If it’s coal or steel, there’s been a huge fall off of employment in those fields. In Pittsburgh, the older folk tend to be blue collar, while the younger folk tend to work in health care or education or corporate management. Maybe Scranton is kind of like Pittsburgh.
And that difference, in generational employment patterns, suggests that the “Rust Belt” may finally stop shrinking one of these days. Census 2010 will tell us in a few weeks.
Scranton is a new city by east-coast standards. It got a post-office only in 1849…after 17,000 other post offices were up and running in the USA by that time) . Without coal it would never have existed.
If it’s coal or steel, there’s been a huge fall off of employment in those fields.
Reminds me of this:
And we’re living here in Allentown.
But the restlessness was handed down
And it’s getting very hard to staaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay
aaaaaaah aaahhhhh ooooooooh ooooooh ohhhhhhh.
Well we’re waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found
For the promises our teachers gave
If we worked hard
If we behaved.
So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never really helped us at all
No they never taught us what was real
Iron or coke,
And we’re waiting here in Allentown.
But they’ve taken all the coal from the ground
And the union people crawled awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay
aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah aaaaaaaaaaah aaaaaah.
What is that from?
FWIW: Allentown, Penn., for whatever reason, has not been in population decline in recent times. It gained 0.6% population in the 2000s. [Pennsylvania as a whole: +1.3%]
Two new factors that have come to my attention:
City-Data tells us that crime rates in Scranton city and Boise city from 1999-2009 have been identical. [284.5 and 283.7, respectively. USA: ~319]. Both are very white cities. (88.6% vs. 84.6% White non-Hisp., resp.)
The Mormon Church lays claim to 34% of Boise-ites, with the rest mostly being Protestants. The Roman-Catholic Church lays claim to most Scrantonites.