Industrial Metropolis

December 19, 2011
Going into 2012, the biggest shift in the electorate may be its feelings about who is best suited to handle the challenges of the economy. Back in 2008, the Democratic Party was not only the choice on the poll question “which party would do a better job” with the economy, it was the choice by a wide margin. Urban, suburban and rural, young and old, rich and poor, geographic and demographic groups of all stripes chose the Democrats. The picture is very different on the eve of the 2012 primary season, according to the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll. Republicans best Democrats on that same question with some very important voting blocs, including the elderly, the wealthy, middle income voters, white working class voters and suburbanites. The Democratic Party’s fall since 2008 has been sharp: a 15 percentage point drop among  18- to 34-year-olds and those 65 and older, a 12-point drop among those who make more than $75,000 a year, an 11-point slide...
December 7, 2011
This October Patchwork Nation Director Dante Chinni spoke at TEDxMidAtlantic 2011. His presentation ‘You Don`t Know America, Or How Community Triumphs Over Soccer Moms and Red and Blue States in the 21st Century U.S.’ explored how the U.S. news media often misunderstand and mischaracterize American communities.  Chinni talked about how his experience as a reporter travelling to various communities around the country had led him to create Patchwork Nation to gain a more nuanced perspective on the many different kinds of communities and subcultures within the United States. The work led to the creation of this site and the book Our Patchwork Nation.. The project was noticed TEDx organizers who chose Chinni to discuss it at Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, DC on October 29. The presentation can be seen in the video below. Dante Chinni at TEDxMidAtlantic 2011 from Jefferson Institute on Vimeo. TED conferences bring together the...
December 5, 2011
By: Matt Carmichael, Ad Age   Consumers are saving less again. And while that might not be great for their retirement accounts, it may be good news for marketers.   Historically, Americans save about 4% of their income, but in 2008 the recession changed behavior. Between January and May of that year, the savings rate shot to 8.3% from 3.7%. That's part of the reason recovery has been so slow to come: More savings equals less spending. But in the past three months for which Bureau of Economic Analysis data are available, consumers are saving less again -- just 3.5% in October -- freeing up more cash for spending. The trends aren't universal. As we look at the counties in Ad Age's American Consumer Project -- and the consumer segments they represent -- we see different types of areas are saving and spending in different ways. To uncover those differences, Experian Simmons used our two county-classification frameworks, Patchwork Nation and Esri...
November 27, 2011
With all the uncertainties around the 2012 presidential race there seems to be one sure thing: The fight for the White House will be about the economy. After four years of recession, a stalled recovery and growing tensions, it is issue No. 1 with the voters – and probably issues Nos. 2 and 3 as well. Generally, when elections are about the economy, the system for determining a winner is not complicated. When times are bad, the sitting president and party take a hit. Voters tend to see troubles occurring on their watch as their responsibility and punish them at the ballot box. But as primary season nears, the game looks a bit different for 2012. Not even President Barack Obama, would argue that times are good – sluggish economic growth, an unemployment rate of 9% and the still-troubled housing market dominate the news. And yet, despite all the problems, Mr. Obama sits in a fairly comfortable position. In the latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, 45% of...
November 16, 2011
Hayley Miller and Lauren Reddington While it was a clear, sunny day in Philadelphia on November 8, the city had a low voter turn out for the election. The polls opened in Pennsylvania at 7 a.m. and closed at 8 p.m. An article from Philly.com reports, “At the Amos Rec Center at 16th and Berks Streets in North Philadephia, only five residents had cast ballots by lunchtime.” Still, even with the low turnout, voters came out big for Democrats.     City mayor Michael Nutter (Democrat) was up for re-election and decided not to leave anything to chance: he called in Democrat heavy hitter Bill Clinton make robo-calls on his behalf to voters the day before the polls opened. Although worried about his votes, Nutter can rest easy tonight after pulling in 73.5% of the votes. However, it is worth noting that his female Republican opponent, Karen Brown, received 23.5% of the votes.  The race was a blowout, but Brown did better than expected. The...
November 8, 2011
The hard economic times of the last few years have been felt widely, but not uniformly. As we have often noted on Patchwork Nation, American communities that relied heavily on specific slices of the economy -- housing, manufacturing -- were particularly hard hit. A new report from The Brookings Institution, The Re-Emergence of Concentrated Poverty: Metropolitan Trends in the 2000s, sheds light on what those differences mean in America's largest metro areas. And when you examine the numbers from that report using Patchwork Nation's 12 county types, some common themes emerge in how life is changing in urbanized and rural America. First, while the cores of the nation's big city areas still have many troubles, they are lessening somewhat in relative terms. Poverty grew more in suburban counties than in the dense heart of those urban centers. Second, it appears that more distant suburbs and many rural areas saw much steeper jumps in poverty. As Patchwork Nation has...
October 31, 2011
AS THE 2012 election approaches, one question is on every candidate’s mind: What exactly are the American people thinking? The question has never seemed more pertinent. The recession has come to look more like a long-term reshuffling, the Tea Party is up in arms about spending, and economic inequality is growing. But the question has also never been so flawed. Because in 2012 the idea of following or understanding “the American people’’ has never been such an anachronism. The electorate is not a single thing, or something that can be sorted neatly with a couple of color codes — red on this side, blue on that side. It is an immensely complicated tapestry of thousands of communities experiencing different realities. And anyone — Democrat or Republican — who thinks they know where “it’’ is moving in 2012 is fooling themself. Since 2008 I’ve been traveling the country as director of Patchwork Nation, a journalism...
October 26, 2011
As the early stages of the 2012 campaign progress, a new question has come into play: Are the rich really different? Or, more specifically, should they be treated differently in the U.S. tax code? Flat-tax plans -- or flatter-tax plans -- are popular among those in the 2012 Republican presidential field. Texas Gov. Rick Perry unveiled his proposal to reform the tax code Tuesday adding the third major flat-tax proposal to come from GOP presidential hopefuls. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan and Newt Gingrich's proposal were already circulating. The idea behind a flat tax is simple. The tax code has gotten so complicated that it needs to be cut back down to size and a "flat tax" -- where there is one simple rate that everyone pays on income - is a quick and easy way to do that job. But behind all that ease is one big broad question: How exactly do Americans feel about everyone paying the same percentage of their income in taxes? After all, the current system may be...
October 21, 2011
It is all but impossible to pinpoint one key problem in the U.S. economy -- manufacturing declines, global competition and international economic tensions could all be cited. But the intractable housing mess clearly sits somewhere near the center of the larger problems. The September foreclosure numbers from the firm RealtyTrac show a housing problem that is stalled at best and far from recovery -- slightly better than August's overall numbers, but worse than July's. The numbers remain especially high in Patchwork Nation's Boom Town counties and in Latino-heavy Immigration Nation, but also above the national county average in the wealthy Monied Burbs. Those persistently high foreclosure numbers are keeping home prices low, and the low home prices are making owners less likely to sell. That helps create the latest problem in the system: a low inventory of homes on the market for those who actually want to buy. It is a difficult set of problems to fix and it is...
October 18, 2011
Ad Age magazine is working with Patchwork Nation on its new American Consumer Project. By combining Patchwork Nation's 12 county types with the esri's Tapestry demographic segmentation, Ad Age is looking at how consumers in different parts of the country are facing the country's troubled ecnomic times. The initial story from Ad Age is about the struggling, shrinking American Middle Class. We'll be posting more links to the Ad Age series as it progresses.