Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Apples and Oranges

There is a saying that Durham is a spot of blue in a sea of red, political implications, I think. Durham is also surrounded by cities that are anomalies… or maybe Durham’s the anomaly. Either way, comparing Durham to its neighbors is apples and oranges, and Durham doesn’t want to be like those other oranges. :-)

Durham differs in several ways… it has more texture, arguably more culture, definitely more diversity, and it gets slammed for high poverty and high crime.

I used a new tool this weekend that let me search cities that are comparable. I was using it to establish and reality-check some cohorts for benchmarking. I searched for those most like Durham in population, % non-white, poverty, violent crime etc.

There were some natural outliers… e.g., way too small a population etc.

But in the final 28 ranging from Salt Lake to South Bend, Columbus to Chattanooga, Fort Worth to Fort Lauderdale, Little Rock to Oklahoma City etc., Durham ranked 2nd in diversity or percent non-white, 16th or near the middle in violent crime rate and 20th or the bottom third in poverty.

Turns out, if you want a community as unique and diverse as Durham is, it’s one of the best choices you can make. It also turns out our poverty rate, while it bugs us to no end, is nowhere near the pejorative some neighbors heap on it.

Another thing that galls me is people who assume, if you have diversity, you’ll have high crime and poverty. Turns out they aren’t attached at the hip. So for those reluctant to crack down hard on crime for stepping on the toes of either minorities or those who are poor and, likewise, for those afraid of people who aren’t exactly like themselves socio-economically… both groups can get over it.

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