Friday, January 29, 2010

Who's Really Surrounded by Reality? (economic)

Now, here's part 2 of how far suburban Milwaukee is out of step with the rest of Wisconsin.

I was inspired to look into this when the Brookings Institute sent out a report on the increasing amount of poverty being seen in suburban America. The Journal-Sentinel covered the release with a decent article, and included Milwaukee area data as part of it. It may surprise some that over 47,000 people in Milwaukee's suburbs live in poverty (especially Sykesists who think that poverty and a lack of opportunity are for those "other people in the messed-up city"), but those rates are still dwarfed the City of Milwaukee's rates, where nearly 1 in 4 deal with poverty.

Now, Wisconsin does have low poverty rates in general, in no small part due to its progressive tradition of strong public education, high access to health care, and general respect for quality of life. In 2008, the U.S. Census estimated Wisconsin's poverty rate at 10.7%

Now let's take a look at that 10.7% rate and compare it to the JS story that gave the rates of poverty in Scott Walker Country.

suburban Milwaukee County: 6.5% (61% of state rate)
Washington County: 4.3% (40% of state rate)
Waukesha County: 3.9% (36% of state rate)
Ozaukee County: 3.6% (34% of state rate)

But that can't be much differnt than rich, latte-sipping Madison, as well as the stats for the equally wacky Dane County.

Dane County 10.9% (101.9% of state rate)
Madison 17.3% (162% of state rate)

So while Madison is significantly above the state rate at 62% higher, it's still not much different than having poverty rates 60-66% below the state average, like what you see in Wauzaukington County. And Madison's rates are skewed higher by the disproportionate amount of students that live there. Since their incomes are lower, it runs the poverty rate higher than what the standards of living would indicate.

In fact, if you look at the Wisconsin city rates of poverty , Wauzaukington County communities stand out even more for being unusual. Out of the largest communities in Wisconsin, the ones with the 6 lowest poverty levels are in Wauzaukington County.

Mequon 1.7%
Menomonee Falls 2.4%
Brookfield 2.5%
New Berlin 2.5%
Franklin 3.1%
Muskego 3.3%

Of course, when you charge an admission fee to get into these towns in the form of specialized zoning and overpriced homes, it's not surprising that you can keep the poor people out.

One more stat to go along these lines. Check out what the median (half above, half below) household made in income in 2008 for these towns, then compare it to the crazies on the Isthmus, as well as the state's largest city.

Milwaukee $37,331
Madison $53,516 (2.7% above the state median)
Dane County $61,441 (17.9% above the state median)
Washington County $63,332 (21.6% above the state median)
Ozaukee County $69,376 (33.2% above the state median)
Waukesha County $75,372 (44.7%! above the state median)

So to review, the City of Madison is far from outside of reality, and in fact has a mixture of poverty and income that comes closest to what is seen in the rest of Wisconsin. Wauzaukington County is every bit out of step when it comes to income as the City of Milwaukee...and the City of Milwaukee has that lower level in no small part to Wauzaukington County's policies and flight from reality.

What becomes laughable (well, would be laughable if radio stations and political discourse weren't overrun by these folks) is that it's the WAUZAUKINGTON COUNTY folks who dare to run their mouths with all the answers about what ails low-income folks in Wisconsin. Like they have any clue how people in low-income communities deal with life on a day-to-day basis. But somehow, that little tidbit doesn't keep them from talking about it. Some Madison people are certainly Pollyannish about the world (which pisses me off probably more than the angry-man radio listeners, because it keeps Madison from acting like the large city it now is), but I can bet at least a few of them have actually seen poverty and maybe have studied some of the research about how to help people out of it. You think a Wauzaukingtonian knows about these studies or poverty's reality, or that they even care? Heck, poor people make them "uncomfortable", and so they try not to deal with it, or denigrate these others, to make their barely above-average lives seem accomplished.

Fortunately, lots of people like me that grew up in the burbs got older, went to college, learned from others, perhaps worked with and taught others less fortunate than us, and realized that we were pretty fortunate to have had the supportive and relatively affluent upbringing we had. Who I feel bad for (well, sorta) are the people who spend their whole lives thinking Wauzaukington County is the normal, and that others are the ones who don't get it. No wonder these people hold such absurd political views, because they've never stepped outside of their comfortable little bubble where everything's taken care of for them. It's up to us to puncture that bubble, because we've seen how suburban "ownership society" works in the real world, and it's a disaster.

So Madtown, hold your head up high, and keep telling Sykes-World about reality's liberal bias. Because it's likely that a Madisonian like you lives your life more in line with the average Wisconsinite than the suburb boys that get all the air time representing "the Silent Majority".

Who's Really Surrounded by Reality? (voting)

One of my bigger complaints I hear from angry-man radio and similarly clueless folks is some kind of knock-off of the Lee Sherman Dreyfus line about Madison being "____ miles surrounded by reality." It's often done to discount the quality of life and thought coming out of the state capital and home of the state's flagship university, and indirectly is used to justify the way of life of "normal, salt-of-the-earth" Wisconsinites (Sarah Palin might call them part of the "real Wisconsin"). Well, the Sykes and Belling backers that are most likely to give that line may want to check themselves, because suburb boys like them aren't in line with the real Wisconsin either.

So let's look at the results of the 2008 presidential election. Since Madtown's filled with crazy hippies and arrogant Prius drivers, I bet they're going to be a crazy outlier compared to the decent-living folks that live just outside of Milwaukee. Right? (we'll leave out 3rd party votes for this arrangement, as they were around 1% of the total vote in the state- a bit more in Madtown).

City of Madison 2008 presidential election
Obama 112,411- 80.8%
McCain 26,639 19.2% (Obama +61.6%)

Not surprisingly, it's heavily Dem. So let's now take out Madison and see how the rest of the state went.

Obama- 1,565,010 55.9%
McCain 1,235,754 44.1 (Obama +11.8%)

So Madison was +49.8% heavier for Obama than the rest of Wisconsin. Yeah, that seems to on the heavy side for one candidate. I'll bet the Milwaukee suburbs fit in with reality more, as the following data will show.

Ozaukee County
McCain 32,172 (61.0%)
Obama 20,579 (39.0%) (McCain +22.0%)
Rest of state: Obama wins 57.4%-42.6% (Obama +14.8%)
Ozaukee Co. difference: McCain +36.8%

Nearly 37% off of the state, but still isn't quite as weird as Madison. Let's get off the lake and head to the west.

Washington County
McCain 47,729 (65.0%)
Obama 25,719 (35.0%) (McCain +30.0%)
Rest of state: Obama wins 57.6%- 42.4% (Obama +15.2%)
Washington Co. difference: McCain +45.2%

Can't you see how we can get clowns like Annette Ziegler and Glenn Grothmann from here?

Waukesha County
McCain 145,152 (63.0%)
Obama 85,339 (37.0%)(McCain +26.0%)
Rest of state: Obama wins 58.8%- 41.2% (Obama +17.6%)
Waukesha County difference: McCain +43.6%

Now, here's the real fun part. Let's combine those 3 suburban Milwaukee counties, and make them one big county. Call it Wauzaukington County (and why not, is there really any difference between these three places?)

Wauzaukington County
McCain 225,053 (63.2%)
Obama 131,137 (37.8%) (McCain +25.4%)
Rest of the state: Obama 59.8%-40.2% (Obama +19.6%)
Wauzaukington County difference: McCain +45.0%

So to review
Madison +49.8% effect for Obama
Wauzaukington County +45.0% effect for McCain.

Looks like mostly a wash to me, as both areas are well out of step with how the rest of the state voted. And Madison mentality doesn't get hours upon hours on high-powered AM stations bamming their angry-man garbage throughout the state every day, like Wauzaukington County does.

And here's the final kicker for how disproportionate the votes were for the 2 candidates in these 2 places.

% of Obama's Wisconsin votes from Madison: 6.7%
% of McCain's votes from Madison: 2.1% (4.6% difference)
% of Obama's votes from Wauzaukington County: 7.8%
% of McCain's votes from Wauzaukington County : 17.8%! (10% difference)

Sure, the stat's a bit flawed due to there being more people in Wauzaukington County than Madtown, but that reiterates the point even more. Madison doesn't dominate the Democratic votes in this states anywhere near the way that Wauzaukington County does for the Republican.

So the next time someone says Madison should be ignored in elections because they're 92 square miles surrounded by reality (depending on what's being annexed that day), remind the whiner that being surrounded bny reality in a cool city with a lake, intellectuals and 2-liter boots of beer is a whole lot better than being surrounded by reality in a lame cul-de-sac with no nightlife, stultifying conformity, and irrational fear of being exposed as nothing special.

I'll be back with the economic stats, which will make it even more obvious that it's the 2000 square miles of Wauzaukington County that's truly surrounded by reality.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The elderly are being driven out of their homes!!!

Well, not quite, according to a paper from a group that includes one of my former La Follette School instructors (Andy Reschovsky- who was kind of a blah teacher, but he has an awesome knowledge of state and local taxation.)

Here's the paper on Property Taxes and Likelihood of Moving.

Basically, the biggest changes happen with people 75+ facing property tax increases of more than 5% in a given year. And how many of those people have to move for reasons that have nothing to do with the property tax? (i.e. need more assistance, spouse dies, etc.) Even among the super-elderly (80+), it appears that income changes are the bigger factor vs. property taxes, with more money making them more likely to move. This holds for the younger folks as well, as the people most likely to move are ones under 50 that make more money and are more likely to both upgrade and move for job reasons.

Anyway, much like the reasons that companies locate, this study says there are many more reasons that are more important than property taxes in determining whether the elderly and others choose to move. Not that property taxes are a variable to be ignored, they need to be part of the equation and strategy that communities and individuals take in when making decisions. But it also holds that taxes are the #1 determiner of outcomes only in Sykes-world, and not the real one.