Friday, September 16, 2016

Trigaux's Gloomy Observation Made Not So Gloomy

Bob Trigaux accurately observed that in a list of the top 25 metros, Tampa Bay was dead last for median income - leading him to assert that "we are poor"

Sounds nice, except you can't make an apples to apples comparison of the markets included in this report.  I speculated that two factors work to Tampa Bay's income disadvantage - retirees and cost of living.  I did a quick stat analysis to confirm utilizing US Census data at the county level (except for St. Louis which is split - used municipal data there).  I combined Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties for the Tampa Bay measures.  

15.8% of Tampa Bay's population is 65+, compared to 11.4% for the other 24 metros. A one percentage point increase in your 65+ population reduces your median income by $1,132. Normalize Tampa Bay's population to the group average, and that's an extra $5k accounted for by our comparatively larger retired population - people with minimal incomes, but also likely with reserves/savings.

Furthermore, the average cost of living for the other 24 metros is 14% above the national index. Tampa Bay? 2% below it. A one percentage point increase in cost of living relative to the index increases median income by $530, as it takes more income to get people to live in more expensive places.  Normalized, that's an additional $8,500 hit Tampa Bay takes.   

What does this mean? If Tampa Bay's age and cost of living were controlled for, our median income would be $13.5k higher - putting it at $62.4k - or 15th out of the 25 metros.  Not in the top tier, but probably not "poor".  

Oh, and for those scoring at home, 65+ population and cost of living relative to the index accounted for 74% of the variance in the median incomes of these communities.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Forbes Article and an Update

Maureen Sullivan, a Forbes contributor, recently took up the charge of questioning the (now) Pulitzer Prize winning Failure Factories Story ran by the Tampa Bay Times.  In doing so, she referred to my blog postings, and the analysis that I've posted here which questions the fairness of the Times labeling all five of these schools "failure factories" (or any of them for that matter, but I'll save that for a later post).

You can read Maureen's article here

I graciously sent Maureen a note thanking her for exploring this topic further, as well as explaining why I had left my analysis where I did.

First and foremost, I was doing the stat work in the evenings on my time off, which became increasingly challenging with family responsibilities (including raising young twin sons with my wife) and my non-profit commitments (many of which are education related).

Second, I was afraid that someone might either maliciously or ignorantly misinterpret my findings and analysis as being somehow driven by racist feelings that I don't have - which happened here unfortunately.  Education research is a hobby for me - something I'm passionate about simply because I care about public education and educators.  My primarily daily responsibility, however, is to my professional career, and the manner in which it helps me to provide for my family.  An accusation of racism, particularly when the witch hunt had reached full pitch fork and torch stage a few months ago, could have potentially caused negative career implications, regardless of how unfair they might be.  Putting my ego aside, and my family first, I stepped aside.

This being said, I've given Maureen permission to use my name.  It's clear that she understands that my goal wasn't to suggest anything ridiculous about Black children or their ability to learn, but rather to determine whether the Times had given these educators and administrators a fair shake.  My concern was, as it is today, that good teachers will be moved out of these schools, and that many of these children will lose a connection to those teachers for reasons that have nothing to do with their dedication or abilities as educators.  Unfortunately, in talking to some of the families of kids at these schools, this is precisely what is happening.

I've been working in the background on issues related to school improvement, including at risk students in these schools.  I'm glad to see the interest in my data, and hope that others will take up the charge as well and look at it from angles I haven't considered.  The truth doesn't always get you a shiny trophy, but that's OK.