Thursday, March 04, 2010

Three in one morning

Whether it is comparative crime statistics, obesity counts, traffic congestion, or a number of papers by urban economists writing about the joys of population density, most rely on metropolitan averages.

The crime, obesity and traffic reports all came my way in one morning.

I too have been guilty and metro areas are often as detailed as the data get. But many of these areas house millions of people. The NY and LA metro areas account for almost 18 and 12 million, bigger than many countries. The variances are often huge and should at least be mentioned.

To be sure, I cannot describe the LA area (where I live) as particularly obese or svelte. Traffic is heavy or amazingly light, depending on where you happen to cruise. There are plenty of areas where you never want to walk at night. The density contrasts are staggering.

I realize that some writers like to categorize whole countries as happy or unhappy. Others like to speak of the whole Earth as warming or cooling. I know, I know, "climate change" is much preferred and much more accurate.