Monday, February 9, 2015

How well does Minnesota's economy serve Minnesotans?

MinnPost today published an interesting Community Voices article by Jay Kiedrowski. He notes that, according to Politico magazine, Minnesota is tied with New Hampshire as the "best state in the nation." The factors on which Politico based its assessment are:
  • annual per capita income
  • percent unemployed
  • percent below poverty level
  • home ownership rate
  • percent high school graduates
  • life expectancy at birth
  • infant deaths per 1,000 births
  • percent obese
  • wellbeing score
  • average math score (Gr. 8)
  • average reading score (Gr. 8)
  • GINI score (income inequality)
  • violent crime rate per 100,000
  • percent employed in computer, engineering, science
The author goes on to note that Minnesota has a few problems that can be addressed by "innovatively improving our human and physical infrastructure."

There is, if you think about it, what appears to be a high degree of multicollinearity in Politico's factors. For example, nothing in Politico's list refers to environmental quality or the arts or citizen happiness.

Fortunately, for those of us who care about things like clean air, clean water, wildlife and the arts, Gallup and Healthways have, for six or so years, been assembling an annual wellbeing index that takes into account more than Politico's factors. TIME magazine reports that it
"... quantifies just how happy each state is based on a series of criteria including “physical and emotional health, healthy behaviors, work environment, social and community factors, financial security, and access to necessities such as food, shelter and healthcare to create a composite well-being rank for each state.”"
Minnesota ranks high on that index also [see below], although not at number 1, we are in the top 10 and New Hampshire is eleventh. Is it possible that we would all be better served if we paid more attention to a wellbeing or happiness index? Are we approaching, or have we already passed, a point of diminishing returns when it comes to economic growth? Would more growth make more Minnesotans happier?

source: TIME Magazine

In order to grow, or accommodate growth, Minnesota is being told it is faced with the prospect of copper-nickel mining that puts at risk the quality of the environment in the BWCAW or Lake Superior or both; increased capacity in oil pipelines that puts at risk the quality of our wetlands and water bodies; growing infrastructure maintenance and replacement costs we seem unwilling to pay for. Is it getting to be time we said Enough?


By Suzanne Buffam 

I am wearing dark glasses inside the house
To match my dark mood.
I have left all the sugar out of the pie.
My rage is a kind of domestic rage.
I learned it from my mother
Who learned it from her mother before her
And so on.
Surely the Greeks had a word for this.
Now surely the Germans do.
The more words a person knows
To describe her private sufferings
The more distantly she can perceive them.
I repeat the names of all the cities I’ve known
And watch an ant drag its crooked shadow home.
What does it mean to love the life we’ve been given?
To act well the part that’s been cast for us?
Wind. Light. Fire. Time.  
A train whistles through the far hills.
One day I plan to be riding it. 

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Please be kind to each other while you can.