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Old 05-01-2014, 11:11 AM
 
Location: Chicago
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Obviously some of the cities are all over the place, with strong recoveries happening in some while others are still bottoming out, but I thought that this could be interesting none the less.

Here are the cities in alphabetical order that have a metro of one million or more:
Buffalo
Cincinnati
Cleveland
Detroit
Milwaukee
Pittsburgh
St. Louis

If I've forgotten any cities, please let me know

PS: I know that Chicago sometimes gets included with the Rust Belt cities, but I left it out here since it didn't take as large of a hit as some of the cities listed, and to keep the list more interesting.

Last edited by PerseusVeil; 05-01-2014 at 12:08 PM..
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Old 05-01-2014, 07:34 PM
 
Location: Tampa - St. Louis
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Can somebody explain why Pittsburgh is always ranked so high? I never got the impression that it was doing too much better than most other rust belt cities, especially Cincinnati and St. Louis.
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Old 05-01-2014, 07:41 PM
 
Location: Cleveland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goat314 View Post
Can somebody explain why Pittsburgh is always ranked so high? I never got the impression that it was doing too much better than most other rust belt cities, especially Cincinnati and St. Louis.
Like I said, I don't know well enough to really say, I'm basing mostly on what people have said here, which I guess is disingenuous, so feel free to disregard it. Honestly, I mostly posted as a bump because I want to hear what other people have to say.
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Old 05-02-2014, 08:52 AM
 
Location: Tampa - St. Louis
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cleverfield View Post
Like I said, I don't know well enough to really say, I'm basing mostly on what people have said here, which I guess is disingenuous, so feel free to disregard it. Honestly, I mostly posted as a bump because I want to hear what other people have to say.
I'm speaking mostly from personal experience. My fiance is from Pittsburgh and she doesn't view it as being progressive at all. She is black and a native, so that may influence her perceptions. I went to Pittsburgh with her and it kind of reminded me of St. Louis, just a lot hillier with an Appalachian type vibe. I still saw a lot of rundown areas and the city gave me a depressed vibe in certain areas and a somewhat cosmopolitan vibe in others, very similar to St. Louis. My fiance actually prefers St. Louis, she always says it feels more progressive, but she is into Jazz, Neo-Soul and R&B scene, which is really easy to find in a city like St. Louis. I even heard Pittsburgh didn't have a "urban" music station for a while, which is very strange for a city that size. I personally like Pittsburgh, but I didn't see anything that would elevate it over any other rust belt city.

I will say that the old river cities like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and St. Louis have a different vibe than the Great Lakes rust belt cities. I generally think the river cities are generally more attractive, better architecture, and friendlier people. I think Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and St. Louis rebound before Cleveland, Detroit, Buffalo. There just a lot more charming cities and have better research universities and institutions, they've always been a little more diversified.
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Old 05-02-2014, 08:58 AM
 
Location: Springfield, Ohio
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Cleveland has put a lot of money into developing its downtown & university areas, but is still taking a hit in its more impoverished neighborhoods. Cincinnati I believe is recovering at a better rate (and never went as far down as Cleveland/Detroit/Buffalo). I think the cities which relied very heavily on manufacturing, and very little on other industries, will take the longest to recover and probably never to the point of their glory days.
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Old 05-02-2014, 12:15 PM
 
Location: The canyon (with my pistols and knife)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goat314 View Post
Can somebody explain why Pittsburgh is always ranked so high? I never got the impression that it was doing too much better than most other rust belt cities, especially Cincinnati and St. Louis.
What's been happening in Pittsburgh since about 2000 is a case of addition by subtraction, economically and demographically speaking.

It blows people's minds that a city and a metropolitan area can shrink but become markedly richer and more educated in the process, but that's exactly what's been happening. Between 2000 and 2010, population growth was negative, but income growth was among the strongest of all metropolitan areas with at least 1,000,000 population, and the city of Pittsburgh now has one of the most educated populations of young adults (25-44) of any major city in the United States.

It's also worth noting that children and elderly account for the entire population loss in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area between 2000 and 2010, and that the working-age population posted a slight gain. And since 2010, even though population growth has been flat, it's a case of the urban core (Allegheny County) gaining population while at least four of the six fringe counties (Armstrong, Beaver, Fayette, Westmoreland) continue to lose population.

And the real drag on population growth is not net migration, which has been positive for the better part of a decade now, but a natural decrease, or more deaths than births. This is due to two factors: One, the demographic hangover that artificially aged the metropolitan population when times really were bad in the 1980's is now resulting in a massive die-off. The elderly weren't going to get older forever. As for childbirth, educated people don't reproduce much, and the child-bearing population in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area is very highly educated. Not many births + massive die off = natural decrease.

In summary, the Pittsburgh metropolitan area has directly violated the following notions of a shrinking metropolitan area since 2000:


1. It cannot possibly be prospering.

2. Its workforce cannot possibly be growing.

3. More people have to be moving out than in.

4. There has to be "brain drain."


The fact that it violates four accepted "truths" makes people reluctant to believe what's happening even when hard data stares them in the face. And given that Pittsburgh has been one of the most ridiculed major cities in the United States for the last 100 years, you'll have to forgive those who do believe for boasting since it's been a long time coming. Two popular movies from 1983 -- Flashdance and All The Right Moves -- had storylines that taught the entire country that you had to get the hell out of western Pennsylvania in order to be somebody. Cincinnati and St. Louis never had to deal with that.

Pittsburgh is in the same boat as Cincinnati and St. Louis, but that's a big change from 25 years ago, when people seriously suggested bulldozing the city and letting it return to nature. It's the first major metropolitan area with severe downward momentum during the last three decades of the 20th Century to put the brakes on it, which is why it stands out right now, even if population growth is flat. Cincinnati and St. Louis never had to deal with the degree of downward momentum that Pittsburgh did.

As for the lack of an "urban" radio station, they had one (WAMO) until 2009, and its ratings were perfectly healthy, but it was sold to some religious group that flipped the format anyway. WAMO was resurrected in 2011, but it has to use an FM "repeater," so it can't be heard outside of Allegheny County. I'd like to see them get a stronger signal soon, especially since the Pittsburgh market had no problem supporting WAMO from 1973 through 2009. (Apparently 99.1 FM and 107.3 FM are open frequencies in the area.)

Last edited by Craziaskowboi; 05-02-2014 at 12:31 PM..
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Old 05-02-2014, 12:22 PM
 
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Even Buffalo is seeing investment and the people actually pretty nice. No urban radio issues, as it has something like 3 or 4 radio stations that are geared towards the Black/urban community and I believe all of them are Black owned. WBLK is the oldest urban radio station in the US, actually.

It also has a SUNY University Center in the University of Buffalo. I think new population estimates may shown a slight increase as well and there is some job investment in certain STEM industries. So, there is some positive momentum there and I believe in all of these cities.
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Old 05-02-2014, 02:17 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Pittsburgh has very different demographics than the other cities listed. Let me list the non-Hispanic white population of each and you'll see what I mean:

Detroit - 7.8%
Cleveland - 33.4%
Milwaukee - 37.0%
Saint Louis - 42.9%
Buffalo - 45.8%
Cincinnati - 48.1%
Pittsburgh - 64.8%

Pittsburgh is far, far whiter than any other medium-sized to large city outside of the Pacific Northwest. The black population is around a quarter, and the Latino population is largely absent. There are more Asians than Latinos in Pittsburgh now, largely due to the influence of the universities.

The history of why Pittsburgh stayed so white is complicated. If you look back to the 20s, Pittsburgh didn't have any less black people percentage wise than Detroit. But industry peaked earlier here, and there were no direct rail lines to the U.S. south, so there wasn't a big demand for black migrants.

With a smaller black population, there was also less white flight than in other rust-belt cities (although it did affect portions of the city strongly), as a result, Pittsburgh maintained more working-class white neighborhoods within the urban core than was normal. It also meant a 50% decline in population felt far "milder" in Pittsburgh as elsewhere, as instead of white families being replaced by black families of the same size or larger, the white families shrunk in size dramatically.

Fast forward to the 1980s, when the bottom fell out on steel, and things got really dire for Pittsburgh. An exodus of younger people left, but many who were old enough retired early and stayed in their homes, leading to a city full of empty nesters. And Pittsburgh's economy got bad just as Latinos moved to the U.S. in large numbers, which is why they never came here.

So, by 2000 or so, you had a city with a large number of historic, reasonably intact neighborhoods with relatively low crime. And a real-estate market which was dirt cheap because there were so many houses coming onto the market due to the death (and/or nursing home admission) of their previous owners. All that was needed was a semi-stable job market, and in bits and pieces it's come together with a combination of education, medicine, and finance. As a result the city continues to attract transplants (I was one of them) who are steadily gentrifying a wide swathe of the city (but gentrifying in a good sense for the most part, as instead of poor minorities being displaced, they're stopping neighborhoods from going into terminal decline).

I should post a caveat that I'm not saying Pittsburgh is better because it's a whiter city. I'm only saying that it suffered relatively less from the legacy of white flight and urban disinvestment than many other rust-belt cities. It's been noted elsewhere that for whatever reason, "hip" cities (DC excepted) tend to be ones with a low black population, and Pittsburgh in this sense fits into the company of places like Portland, Seattle, Boston, and Minneapolis perfectly.

Last edited by eschaton; 05-02-2014 at 02:29 PM..
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Old 05-02-2014, 02:26 PM
 
Location: First Hill, Seattle
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^Interesting stuff eschaton. I've definitely pondered Pittsburgh's somewhat strange demographics. Your analysis makes a lot sense.
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Old 05-02-2014, 02:54 PM
 
Location: The canyon (with my pistols and knife)
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Another reason the city of Pittsburgh stayed relatively intact is the topography.

Industry prefers large, flat spaces, which are scarce in western Pennsylvania. There were pockets of industry in the city near some of the river bends, but a lot of the industry had to build outside the city limits, especially up the Monongahela River Valley. As a result, when the middle class reached critical mass and had the means to move away from the factories, there wasn't as much movement out of the city of Pittsburgh because there weren't as many factories to move away from. This makes Pittsburgh different from Cleveland and Detroit, where most of the industry was in the cities, and, thus, both cities began to resemble the proverbial "hole filling into the donut" in the second half of the 20th Century. It also explains why Pittsburgh doesn't have a large cluster of established rich suburbs the way Cleveland and Detroit do, though Pittsburgh's northern suburbs are an emerging area of wealth.

Also, the difficult topography in the Pittsburgh area made suburban sprawl less economical since it escalates the cost of engineering, building and maintaining critical infrastructure. Because of this, there's been less incentive to live far away from the city, and it explains why the outermost suburbs are only 15 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, this also explains why upgrading I-376 will be expensive as hell.
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