Thursday, May 29, 2008

In Defense of Fly Over Country

Being born in Texas, one is endowed by the Creator with a certain inalienable arrogance. As a good Texan, I am required to rub it in when my state is doing better than others, thus my recent article on the housing crisis. Nevertheless, I noticed this week a couple other states doing quite well that are usually looked down upon and stereotyped as a little backwards. These two states are Oklahoma and Alabama.

Both states are doing quite well economically. The Bureau of Labor Statistics gathers data on 11 different metropolitan regions in Alabama. While the U.S., unemployment rate is currently 5.0%, the worst region in Alabama, Gadsden, is only running at 3.7%. The best, Huntsville, is coming in at 2.5%. The state as a whole has a non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.5%.

Oklahoma, is doing even better. The non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate there is a mere 3.1%. In the three metropolitan regions that the Bureau of Labor statistics gathers data on (Oklahoma City, Tulsa, and Lawton) the unemployment rate is the same at 2.9%. Texas, while doing quite well compared to the rest of nation registers an unemployment rate of 3.9%. California, on the other hand, comes in at 6.1%.

Things may be going well now for them, but what about the long term. Recently, I performed some analysis of the trends in poverty rates, state by state, over the last 20 years. The full list is here. The data I used came from the Census Department. Of the 50 states, 41 experienced a long-term decline in the poverty rate. Alabama had the 4th fastest declining rate of poverty, and Oklahoma was 9th. The best two states were the notoriously conservative Louisiana and Mississippi.

Analysis of other states is interesting as well. Even with massive immigration of uneducated peoples from Latin America, Florida, Texas, and California all registered modest declines in poverty rates, with Florida doing a little better than the other two, which had similar rates of decline. Of the states that experienced an upward trend in poverty rates, the worst, in order, were Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts.

If you are noticing any correlation to politics, so did I. Eight of the ten states that experienced the most rapid declines in poverty over the last 20 years voted for George Bush. Eight of the ten states with the worst increases or least declines over the last twenty years voted for John Kerry. How interesting that states tending to the right are better at reducing poverty than states tending to the left.

As always, tell me what you think.

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