February 04, 2006
Who 'You Callin' "Frou-Frou"? The Fuzzy Math of Matthew Yglesias, Part I
Posted by Nicholas Beaudrot of Electoral Math
Matthew Yglesias has thrown down the gauntlet with a David Brooks-esque dismissal of the Seahawks, [UPDATE: Oliver Willis earns himself a reeducation followed by CBS], so I think to defend the honor of my current home city and its football team, I'm obliged to pick it up. I'd like to play a little guessing game. I'm going to describe two American cities and their suburbs, and you try and guess what they are [employment data courtesy of the BLS]:
The metro area of City A employs 10.9% of its workers in manufacturing, 8900 of them in metal production. Its largest employer is a manufacturer of durable goods. 80% of the people who live there are white. 10.3% of its workforce is employed in the "education, health, and social services" sector, 6.3% in "professional services", and 6.7% in "financial activities".
The metro area of City B employs 9.1% of its workers in manufacturing, 14,600 of them in metal production. Its largest employer is a medical center attached to a major state university. 90% of the people who live there are white. 18.3% of its work force is employed in the "education, health, and social services" sector, 5.5% in "professional services" and 6.1% in "financial activities".
They look pretty similar. If anything, City B is the more white-collar town, with a few more professional-class workers moving towards the education and health care industries instead of working in real estate agencies or insurance. But in press coverage one of these cities is constantly referred to as the lunch-bucket, working-man's (and woman's) middle America, while the other is by reputation chock full o' wine-and-cheese costal liberals. Which is which?
At this point, the ruse is probably obvious. City A is Seattle, where the largest employer is Boeing, while City B is Pittsburgh, where the largest employer is ... wait for it ... University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (second largest? The University itself. Third largest? Mellon Financial Corp]. US Steel provides a whopping 1800 jobs in the area; Carnegie Mellon University has twice as many workers on its payroll. There are roughly 5000 mining related jobs in the region compared to less than one thousand in Seattle.
That's it. Less than ten thousand jobs in metals production [the metalworking jobs in Seattle are in aluminum, if you're curious] and five thousand jobs in mining represents the difference in blue collar work between the two cities. Pittsburgh's image rests on its legacy as the center of the once-vibrant steel trade and coal mining in the region, which is, to say the least, less vibrant than it once was.
On exactly one measure does Pittsburgh out-blue-collar Seattle, though it's a big one: education. 38% of Seattle metro residents hold a bachelor's degree or higher, and only 54% have an education level of "some college, no degree" or lower. In Pittsburgh, those figures are 27% and 65%, respectively. Nonetheless, Matt's been in a self-correcting mood lately so perhaps when the weekend is over he'll use his much larger microphone to point out that yes, we're not all a bunch of Volvo-driving, latte-sipping, eyebrow-piercing, whatevers. Then maybe he can mention his experience to the San Jose Mercury News.
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What do you think most of those employees are doing at Pittsburgh hospitals and universities? That's right, they're cooking, cleaning, mowing the grass, plowing and shoveling the snow, running the power plants, washing the linens, etc. And getting paid a whole lot less than they would have been paid in the steel industry. Go Steelers!
Posted by: Donna Dallas | Feb 4, 2006 11:36:05 AM
Hospitals need nurses. Lots of nurses. Universities need professors, and professors need or want administrative assistants (what's more, total college enrollment at UW+SU+SPU is about the same as CMU+Pitt) and researchers. All of these jobs count as "professional" or "office" work, and most pay decent wages, especially when you can jump ship to banks or lawfirms and make more money there. Buildings need to be cleaned no matter who's occupying them.
Since university employment is roughly equivalent, the question remains: why are education & health care workers a larger part of Pittsburgh's workforce? Unless UPMC could become vastly more "efficient" by firing large numbers of its service level workers, I'm inclined to think that UPMC delivers significantly more heath care services than the hospital chains in Seattle. Either because it happens to be a hub for various specialties, or because Pennsylvania has an older population than Washington. There's nothing wrong with that, it just means that US Steel isn't the only company driving Pittsburgh's economy.
In my mind, the case for giving the Steelers more working class cred is due to the outlying areas of Eastern Ohio, northern Pennsylvania, Western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. But if we're playing that game, Seattle scores Tacoma, which has an education profile that looks more like Pittsburgh than Seattle.
Nonetheless, go 'Hawks!
Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Feb 4, 2006 1:36:43 PM
Go Seahawks! (Great post, by the way)
Plus, it is the NFL for crying out loud. All the players are pampered beyond anything we could possibly understand. Pampered way beyond blue-collar, that's for sure. To think that these players are somehow in touch with or representative of a city is off-base.
That said, I had a tough time deciding between the Seahawks and the Steelers because they are both terrific teams. But I'm going with the Seahawks because their record helped me win my fantasy league!
Posted by: Pepper | Feb 4, 2006 1:43:18 PM
we are city A, with better weed. Seattle
Posted by: gus | Feb 4, 2006 9:40:09 PM
When will you stoopid liberals ever learn to quit trying to bring facts and logic to a discussion, especially to a rant, especially one where BigPharm-a-LimBaugh has weighed in and made the official Talking Points Pronouncement?
Murkins don't care about numbers and statistics and all that pointy-headed elitist hot air...they care about the best-sounding story! And "one of these cities is the lunch-bucket, working-man's (and woman's) middle America, while the other is chock full o' wine-and-cheese costal liberals" is the best-sounding story.
They got it out there faster, with more talking heads and more corporate media support. Game over.
Sa-a-a-d, but true.
Better luck next time.
Posted by: freq flag | Feb 5, 2006 11:02:03 PM
What an odd argument. I love living here in Pittsburgh, but I promise you that the city leaders would be ecstatic to see it labelled a frou-frou, Volvo-driving, latte-sipping, white-collar town. (Maybe not so much with the eyebrow piercing.) They've been trying for years, unsuccesfully, to shed the region's decaying steel town "hell with the lid off" image.
The implication that its blue collar history makes Pittsburgh conservative is also false. The suburbs are a moving target, but Pittsburgh is solidly Democratic; the city hasn't had a Republican mayor since 1936. Unfortunately, one-party rule smells just as bad no matter who's in charge.
Posted by: Christina | Feb 6, 2006 12:16:15 PM
I like Pittsburgh very much, mostly because we can afford to live comfortably here even if I'm not working. We have a house that's paid off, something that would be impossible at our age in Seattle. Due to the housing bust that followed the steel industry collapse in the '80s, Pittsburgh is about the cheapest metro area in the country to live in.
Pittsburgh has some high tech jobs, and most of the university/hospital jobs pay pretty well. There are a lost of service-industry jobs attached to the universities/hospitals, but maybe not quite as many as an earlier poster would have you think.
When I lived here in the '70s, there were plenty of independent hospitals. But, by the time I moved back in '93, there was one big hospital system (UPMC), one medium system (Allegheny General) and a few small (Children/Mercy). Most, but not all, of the research dollars go to UPMC (the hospital that brought you the Salk vaccine and liver transplants, among other things).
I do love Seattle, and if I had megabucks, it's a city I might move to. I love being near the ocean (we're over 350 miles away from the ocean in Pittsburgh) and the mountains (the Alleghenies are paltry compared to the Rockies).
Posted by: Laurie Mann | Feb 8, 2006 3:59:34 PM
Nice defense, Nicholas. Being a transplanted Idaho guy, after 16 years here, I can readily say the whole "Seattle is a chi-chi town" schtick is a steaming pile. Boeing is just the tip of the iceberg.
Let's not forget the dockworkers, who are a significant presence on the local employment scene. And fishing is still a big employer here too. In the regional scene, logging is still a presence.
Just how frou-fucking-frou is that?
Posted by: David Neiwert | Feb 12, 2006 3:09:13 PM
Posted by: judy | Oct 1, 2007 5:20:40 AM
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