Month: April 2016

Minneapolis Trends Update: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

“Foreclosures also increased in the 4th and 5th Wards by about 24 and 25 percent, respectively.”

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

The Minneapolis Trends: A Quarterly Overview of Socioeconomic & Housing Trends in Minneapolis (MT) released its 2015 4th Quarter findings today. For those not familiar, the Minneapolis Trends is released quarterly by the CPED (Community Planning & Economic Development) which is a city department that comprises four divisions:

  1. Long Range Planning,
  2. Housing Development and Policy,
  3. Economic Development and Policy,
  4. and Development Services.

Every quarter, MT releases its approximately 45 page report. In this report, the MT provides data on employment, labor force, number and percent of foreclosures, wages, construction and demolitions, and other economic and housing information.

Figure 1
Figure 1

Here are some highlights of the 4th quarter report and some differences from the 3rd quarter report:

Good News:

  1. Unemployment dropped from 3.5 percent in the 3rd quarter of 2015 to 2.8 percent in the 4th quarter of 2015. Minneapolis should retain its top position for unemployment for the 50 largest cities in the United States.
  2. The average number of jobs increased from 309,091 in the 1st quarter of 2015 to 317,086 in the 2nd quarter of 2015. Obviously that’s a nice little increase in job availability. Note, this economic category is behind by two quarters. In other words, there are no 3rd or 4th quarter numbers yet.
  3. Average weekly wages in Minneapolis are still higher than the Metro average weekly wages or the Minnesota average weekly wages, see Figure 1. The following numbers are for the 2nd quarter 2015:
    1. Minneapolis Average Weekly Wages: $1,255
    2. Metro Average Weekly Wages: $1,098
    3. Minnesota Average Weekly Wages: $977

Bad News:

  1. Foreclosures increased across the city by about 24 percent. There were 101 foreclosures in the 3rd quarter of 2015. However, that number increased to 125 in the 4th quarter of 2015.
  2. The number of condemned and vacant buildings (CVBs) also increased from the 3rd quarter to the 4th quarter of 2015. However, this was a very slight increase from 531 to 535. That’s about 0.8 percent. But there were still 535 CVBs in the 4th quarter of 2015.
  3. Average weekly wages dropped on average across all industries from $1,445 to $1,255. However, it should be noted that average weekly wages have been steadily increasing in Minneapolis since 2006. So although average weekly wages dropped from 1st quarter of 2015 to the 2nd quarter of 2015 (this category is two quarters behind in data), the trend is still positive. See Figure 1.

Ugly News:

  1. Foreclosures also increased in the 4th and 5th Wards by about 24 and 25 percent, respectively. In addition, foreclosures are mostly clustered and centered in the southern part of the 4th ward and the northern part of the 5th Ward.
  2. A vast majority of the CVBs were clustered in the 4th and 5th Wards in North Minneapolis. Again, CVBs, the same as foreclosures, tend to be clustered and centered in the southern part of the 4th Ward and the northern part of the 5th Ward.
  3. Unfortunately, the Minneapolis Trends Report does not distinguish the average weekly wages between the city of Minneapolis and its respective wards. However, utilizing a little bit of deductive logic and knowledge from past articles (education and unemployment levels), then it ought to make sense to assume that the average weekly wages in some parts of North Minneapolis would be lower than the rest of Minneapolis. However, data would confirm or deny this assumption.

There is obviously a lot more data and information in this most recent Minneapolis Trends report to explore and analyze. As the readers of this blog understand very well, the data and information will be optimized for systems analyses of Urban Dynamics in forthcoming articles along with lots and lots of questions.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

Two Liberals and a Social Justice Warrior Walk into a Safe Space…

“Safe spaces, trigger warnings, and microaggressions are intellectually defunct tools for real world policy applications. They’re not capable of addressing or solving real world problems in any real way.”

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

You’ve heard the old joke, right? “Two liberals and a social justice warrior walk into a safe space…” No? Me either. This is because this issue is neither old nor is it a joke.

If Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, The Moral Landscape, Free Will and many other books, and Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis and The Righteous Mind, are concerned with safe spaces, trigger warnings, and microaggressions, then as a scientist interested in policy and research, I’d better pay attention and take these issues seriously as well. Why?

It potentially could, if not already, affect my opportunity to apply important and sound science policy to urban environments. Safe spaces, trigger warnings, and microaggressions are intellectually defunct tools for real world policy applications. They’re not capable of addressing or solving real world problems in any real way. In addition, this kind of thinking could also affect science policy, in general, in some really profound and devistating ways.

This is what I got out of this conversation, but I expect each reader will gain something a little bit different. So without further ado, here are Sam Harris and Jonathan Haidt on Harris’ “Waking Up podcast, titled ‘Evolving Minds: A Conversation with Jonathan Haidt’, published on the 9th of March,” 2016.

Scott Fraser on 9/11 and Drive-by Shootings

“Did you see the second tower fall during 9/11? Did you see the face of the person who pointed a gun at you while the car drove by?”

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

Did you see the second tower fall during 9/11? Did you see the face of the person who pointed a gun at you while the car drove by? According to Scott Fraser of the Northern California Innocence Project, you didn’t see either of those events.

In this TED Talk, Fraser explains why eye-witness testimony is not only questionable for purposes of detailing an event, but that our minds actually reconstruct false memories as well. In other words, we never saw the event, or at least it didn’t happen the way we thought it did.

In this interesting and provocative talk, Fraser utilizes the second tower from September 11, 2001 and a case that he worked as a forensic’s specialist to explain why we don’t see what we think we see.

Note: This is a continuing series by Urban Dynamics to explore social psychology along with its scientific evidence of eye-witness reliability and testimony, which is just one element of a criminal justice system.

Defining the Crime of Larceny

“Crime is a wide and complex subject. It is understood by very few people. And it influences different parts of a society in different ways.”

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

The criminal justice system is a highly complex and adaptive system. It interacts with an economic system in ways that are not very well understood; it interacts with a political system in ways that are not very well understood; and it interacts with a social system in ways that are not very well understood. In addition, all of these other systems are highly complex and adaptive systems in their own right.

Minnesota Statute 609.52
Minnesota Statute 609.52

But within the criminal justice system, there exist the definition of crime. In addition, not only is crime defined within a criminal justice system but the criminal justice system also defines different types of crime with different types of conditions that satisfy the manifestation of a particular crime; and then the criminal justice system takes it a step further and appoints sentencing that is relative to the particular crime committed.

For example, 2015 Minnesota Statute 609.52 defines theft, otherwise known as larceny, utilizing several sub-definitions, which are also called subdivisions, in the context of property, movable property, value, article, representing, trade secret, services of another, Motor vehicle, and a few others. As the definition of 609.52 illustrates,

(1) “Property” means all forms of tangible property, whether real or personal, without limitation including documents of value, electricity, gas, water, corpses, domestic animals, dogs, pets, fowl, and heat supplied by pipe or conduit by municipalities or public utility companies and articles, as defined in clause (4), representing trade secrets, which articles shall be deemed for the purposes of Extra Session Laws 1967, chapter 15 to include any trade secret represented by the article.

But this is how Minnesota defines theft. Not every state defines it quite the same way, although it should be noted that each law in the United States must be constitutional.

In the case of the Republic of California, theft is defined under larceny as a penal code in Chapter 5 of the California penal code book, specifically penal code (PC) 484, and explained in great depth from PC 484 through PC 502.9. As the penal code book defines larceny in PC 484,

Every person who shall feloniously steal, take, carry, lead, or drive away the personal property of another, or who shall fraudulently appropriate property which has been entrusted to him or her, or who shall knowingly and designedly, by any false or fraudulent representation or pretense, defraud any other person of money, labor or real or personal property, or who causes or procures others to report falsely of his or her wealth or mercantile character and by thus imposing upon any person, obtains credit and thereby fraudulently gets or obtains possession of money, or property or obtains the labor or service of another, is guilty of theft.

Crime is a wide and complex subject. It is understood by very few people. And it influences different parts of a society in different ways. In the case of a city like Minneapolis, larceny does not happen at the same rates or numbers within different parts of the city. But perhaps this understanding of what larceny is and where it happens the most can provide some valuable information of the dynamics of the general system of Minneapolis and its respective subsystems.

2015 5th and 13th Neighborhood Crime ComparisonFor instance, although the north side of Minneapolis – the 4th and 5th Wards – experiences the greatest numbers and rates of crime, none of the neighborhoods within those wards are actually the number one neighborhood for total number crimes. That honor belongs to Downtown West which resides in both the 3rd and 7th wards.

How many crimes does Downtown West experience on a monthly basis, a quarterly basis, and an annual basis? What is the type of crime that is most reported? And with some knowledge about that respective subsystem, could that type of crime and its rate be predicted with some certainty? Questions ought to facilitate more questions.

Who are those that commit larceny? Are they residents of the 3rd and 7th Wards or are they residents of other wards? Why do people commit larceny? What type of people commit larceny; that is, what is their economic and social background? Would it be reasonable for these people to come from a stable ward in the south part of Minneapolis or would it be reasonable for these people to come from an unstable ward in the north part of Minneapolis? And what exactly is the make-up of the Downtown West neighborhood?

For more on the topic of criminal justice, see Crime Patterns: Comparing the 5th Ward to Minneapolis and Diversity and Today’s Minneapolis Police Department.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

The Validity of Eye-witnesses, According to the APA

“…memory is malleable and…’it erodes over time, which further complicates witness testimony.'”

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

According to the American Psychological Association, eye-witnesses are wrong approximately 33 percent of the time. This is a striking statistic with important implications for the criminal justice system and for how it is applied at the local, county, state, and federal levels. But it’s not just how often eye-witnesses are wrong. It is much more complicated than that.

As Norman B. Anderson, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of the American Psychological Association, will explain in this short video, juries tend to give too much credit to eye-witness testimony. In addition, memory is malleable as this publication explained in the recent article The Eye-Witness Test: Are you sure you saw that? and

it erodes over time, which further complicates witness retestimony.

In addition, eye-witnesses may experience stress during the act of a crime and of course eye-witnesses bring with them a package of biases, which includes racial perceptions. All of these factors complicate what the eye-witnesses are seeing.

Here is Norman B. Anderson, PhD, Chief Executive Officer of the American Psychological Association.

Black Entrepreneurship, Could It Be Resources, Resources, Resources?

“…immigrants from other countries, particularly those from the higher echelons of their respective societies, are entering the United States and hitting the ground running with resources already in hand and a support system to boost.”

By Matt Johnson, The Systems Scientist

In a recent Michigan State University press release and paper conducted by Michigan State University scholar and sociologist Steven Gold, it is suggested that a lack of resources may help explain the disparity between black entrepreneurship and white entrepreneurship.

White Entrepreneurship is still twice that of black entrepreneurship in today's United States

Currently in the United States, there is a disparity between black owned businesses and white owned businesses. As MSUToday reports, self-employment for whites is more than twice that for blacks. In other words, white entrepreneurship is still twice that of black entrepreneurship in today’s United States. But this doesn’t take into account the urban decay that predominantly black communities face in urban environments.

But as Gold explains, this isn’t just a black and white thing

Immigrants – who benefit from skills, investment capital, family labor, imported goods and wage differentials brought from the country of origin — have higher rates of self-employment than native-born minorities…To a large extent, the most entrepreneurially successful immigrants from countries such as Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, China and Iran came from property-owning upper classes and entered the United States with human capital and money to invest. So it’s no surprise they’ve been successful in small business.

Gold seems to be suggesting a more complex paradigm. Where resources lack in traditionally disenfranchised communities because of historical reasons, for example federally mandated segregation of the 19th century and formal and ad-hoc red-lining policies of the 20th century, immigrants from other countries, particularly those from the higher echelons of their respective societies, are entering the United States and hitting the ground running with resources already in hand and a support system to boost.

You can read more about this press release and the sociological study at MSUToday.

For more Urban Dynamics news, see $15 an Hour? Not so Fast and  Modern American Journalism, Not a Place for Science.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!

$15 an Hour? Not so Fast

“…increasing wages to $22 an hour, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics says is what the average American private industry employee makes, would cause a 25 percent increase in prices.”

By Matt Johnson

According to a recent press release and economics study from the University of Purdue,

Raising wages to $15 an hour for limited-service restaurant employees would lead to an estimated 4.3 percent increase in prices at those restaurants.

The study, which was conducted by Richard Ghiselli from the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue University, and Jing Ma from the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Purdue University, not only focused on what would happen if wages were increased to $15 an hour in limited-service restuarants, for example McDonald’s, but the researchers were also interested in what would happen if wages were increased to $22 an hour. According to the study,

…increasing wages to $22 an hour, which the Bureau of Labor Statistics says is what the average American private industry employee makes, would cause a 25 percent increase in prices.

You can read more about this press release and economic study at Purdue University News.

For more news, see Modern American Journalism, Not a Place for Science.

**Remember, there is nothing more American than discourse. You are always welcome to post your comments, thoughts, and questions below. Feedback is always appreciated!