Nice State, Mean State

One explanation why different states think the way they do

I’ve looked for explanations why there are geographic pockets of behavior or thinking.  I’ve looked for reasons to explain why some attributes, conditions, traits, behaviors, qualities and characteristics seem to cluster in certain areas, while residents of other places tend towards the opposite.

Why do certain states reliably vote in predictable patterns?  Why is the South especially prone to violent crime?  I’ve performed regression analyses and searched for correlations between certain variables such as income, education, climate, occupations, geography, housing, recreation, cost of living and crime.

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Three Kinds of Gun Deaths

second amendment

What the numbers tell us about firearm legislation

In the wake of the terrible mass murder at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, there is a great deal of solemn intoning that Something Must Be Done.

Click to view – Firearm Deaths by State and Motive

As you listen to the discussion, it’s important to remember that there are different kinds of gun deaths and with one category, firearm laws appear to have a big effect on reducing the number of fatalities.  On the other category, the relationship is not so clear.

But back to the rhetoric.
Some politicians and experts are looking for stronger gun control laws to limit access to deadly weapons and others want increased emphasis on psychological screening, with the notion that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  A few gun advocates believe the answer is MORE guns, so that any threat is met with a hail of  gunfire from armed bystanders or guards before innocent victims are harmed.  (I’m reminded of the recent shootout in New York City where nine bystanders were injured, all by police gunfire.)

I analyzed statistics from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), focusing on the deaths from firearms during for the period of 2009-1999 (the most recent available).  I looked at the differences between firearm deaths between different states and metro areas, comparing the number of deaths with each state’s gun control legislation as scored by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

I’ve published all the data for the states and the 379 major metro areas and made it available in a spreadsheet for your download and further analysis.

Continue reading “Three Kinds of Gun Deaths”

I’m Sorry

Forbes has released a new slideshow, “America’s 20 Dirtiest Cities“, which is based mostly on data readily available on our Sperling’s BestPlaces website (www.bestplaces.net).

The Forbes list and the story is pretty straightforward; a callout of the large U.S. metro areas with the worst scores for air and water quality, plus measures of toxic releases and Superfund sites.

And It’s a fairly accurate list.  All the places named have issues, but I’ve got to say that I’m not proud of being associated with stories like this.

Stories like this focus on the negative, and have titles guaranteed to be irresistable to the casual web browser – America’s Dirtiest Cities, Miserable Cities, Worst Cities to Live, Depressing Cities, Dangerous Cities, Dying Cities, Drunkest Cities, Fattest Cities, Worst Schools, and Dumbest Cities.

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Best Cities for Veterans

veterans from the marines army air force and navy

Veterans starting the post-service phase of their lives face a unique set of opportunities and challenges.veterans from the marines army air force and navy

On the one hand, the post-9/11 G.I. Bill can help with getting a college education.  On the other hand, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that veterans between the ages of 25 and 34 have unemployment rates nearly 4 points higher than comparable civilians.

Working with USAA Insurance and Military.com, we decided to shed some light on this issue by determining the Best U.S. Cities for Veterans.

Out of 379 major U.S. metro areas, here’s the top 10:

  1. Pittsburgh, PA
  2. Phoenix, AZ
  3. Dallas, TX
  4. Cleveland, OH
  5. Atlanta, GA
  6. Warren, MI
  7. Ann Arbor, MI
  8. Cincinnati, OH
  9. Columbus, OH
  10. St. Louis, MO

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Deadly Halloween

As parents we tend to fret about children and every Halloween there are stories about hazards such as tainted candy and “stranger danger.”  These stories often prove to be overblown but the real danger on Halloween is that it is the most deadly day of the year for young pedestrians.

That’s a fact we uncovered in a research project we recently completed for State Farm insurance.  Kids have a greater chance of being fatally injured by a car on Halloween than any other day of the year, including the Fourth of July.

We analyzed more than four million records of auto fatalities in the Department of Transportation Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), ranging from 1990 to 2010.  Here’s what we found…

Halloween Was Deadliest Day of the Year for Child Pedestrian Accidents
One hundred and fifteen child pedestrian fatalities occurred on Halloween over the 21 years of our analysis. That is an average of 5.5 fatalities each year on October 31, which is more than double the average number of 2.6 fatalities for other days.

Middle of the Block Most Hazardous
Over 70% of the accidents occurred away from an intersection or crosswalk.

Continue reading “Deadly Halloween”

Best Baseball Cities

A baseball lies in a freshly fallen leaves

October!  The most special month of the year for every baseball fan.  The World Series determines the best baseball team, but did you ever wonder which place can lay claim to the best baseball city?

We wondered too, and thought about what it means to be a great baseball town.  We decided it’s more than wins and losses, attendance, and championships.  It’s where there’s a batting cage in every backyard, kids sleep with their mitts, and families spend their entire weekend at the Little League field.

We realized that every big-league ballplayer represents thousands of kids who once dreamed playing in the Big Show.

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Factual Errors in Bloom’s Attack on Iowa

I was reminded that I promised to do a follow-up to my blog post about Stephen Bloom’s article in The Atlantic, which lambasted his home state of Iowa, its residents and its way of life.  If it sounds like I’m exaggerating, read the original article here.

Mr. Bloom justifies his criticism variously as “unspeakable truths,” “opinions,” and “satire and parody.” If he seems confused about the focus of his piece, it has gotten him a lot of attention (with over 2,000 comments on the magazine’s web site, and even an interview on NBC’s Rock Center) which is perhaps what he wanted all along.  Tellingly, he is quite vocal about the responses to his article, citing a death threat, anti-Semitism, and being forced into “hiding in an undisclosed location.”

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Drive 95 miles per hour – Save 12 minutes

a highway sign in Texas showing the 85 mph speed limit

Texas will soon have the highest posted speed limit in the United States (heck, in the Western Hemisphere. Take that, Honduras.) – 85 miles per hour.

In November, Texas will open a new toll road on a heavily-used corridor between Austin and San Antonio, where the current highway (I-35) has a speed limit of 65 miles per hour. The higher speed limit is expected to appeal to drivers looking to shave some time off their drive. The new toll road will look especially attractive since the old highway’s speed limit will be reduced to 55 miles per hour. Pretty clever.

But how much time will drivers of the new toll road actually save? Not as much as you might think.

First, the new road is pretty short, only 41 miles long. Let’s assume that people will travel 10 miles per hour over each posted limit, not uncommon in Texas, and maybe even a bit conservative.

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What You Think About Iowa Is Wrong

Or so says a short film from the YouTube channel of “IowaFilmmakers”.  You may not be surprised to learn that this is a group of filmmakers in Iowa.  Their stated purpose is to “bring the world great film from a state not usually associated with filmmaking.”

They’ve made a fun film which sets the record straight about popular Iowa misperceptions.
I like it. Check it out.

(Warning – they’ve used a few naughty words to show how badass and edgy they are in Iowa. It’s nothing worse than you can hear on HBO, but you’ve been warned.)

“Coming Apart” Book Review

the cover of the book entitled "coming apart"

“Coming Apart – The State of White America 1960-2010″ by Charles Murray  focuses on the increasing divergence of upper and lower classes in the United States.  Besides the economic inequality, the two classes are actually becoming different cultures.

There, I just summarized the first half of the book, and saved you untold hours of wading through demographic minutia.  And his conclusion makes sense, but what’s the point?

In the second half we find out, when the author veers from analysis to opinion presented as fact, such as:

1)      There is “no doubt” that America could not succeed without the “founding virtues” of “industriousness, honesty, marriage, religiosity.”

and

2)      “The answer is that there are just four” (domains of happiness), “family, vocation, community, and faith.”

In the last chapter (“Alternative Futures”), we finally get to some meaty discussions such as “the American Project vs. the European Model”.  Basically, the author feels that the Europe cripples its population by robbing them of self-respect and self-actualization.

Mr. Murray’s ultimate hope is that there will be a “Civic Great Awakening” in the response to the “collapse of the moral pillars of the welfare state” and leading the change will be the “new upper class”.

In the last few paragraphs, Mr. Murray invokes the popular concept of American Exceptionalism.

“Historically, Americans have been different as a people, even peculiar, and everyone around the world has recognized it. I am thinking of qualities such as American industriousness and neighborliness discussed in earlier chapters, but also American optimism even when there doesn’t seem to be any good reason for it, our striking lack of class envy, and the assumption by most Americans that they are in in control of their own destinies. Finally, there is the most lovable of exceptional American qualities: our tradition of insisting that we are part of the middle class, even if we aren’t, and of interacting with our fellow citizens as if we were all middle class.”

Really, is he serious? Continue reading ““Coming Apart” Book Review”