Monday, September 20, 2004

People and Places

"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." So goes the old joke.

Now, researchers at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, in their Update on Urban Hardship, find that, in the years 1970-2000, St. Louis showed the most improved Intercity Hardship Index Score while Los Angeles' ranking declined the most.

Theirs is an index that combines six attributes: unemployment, dependency, education, income level, crowded housing, and poverty (see the report for precise definitions).

Trouble is that the place-prosperity vs. people-prosperity distinction highlights the fact that, over time, it is best to consider the fortunes and misfortunes of real people, rather than places (or quintiles, or deciles or such).

And to compare places, it is best to look at where people and capital are choosing to move. Those rankings never match the ones revealed in the study. That is the insight of the old joke.