Friday, November 13, 2009

I missed a day, but only to blow your mind more:

I missed a day, but it wasn't because I was lazy: it was because I was trying to avoid the same old, same old.

I came up with something to look at.

In research, one of the things that they teach you to do is "operationalize your variables". For example, if you wanted to know whether a community was "wealthy", you would have to operationalize that into...median income, mean income, median household income, mean household income, net worth per individual, net worse per household, etc.

But its also important to DEOPERATIONALIZE variables. Some questions come up often, and they are taken to "mean something", but what do they mean? For example, housing statistics can be used as a stand in for income or more broadly for (as we say on THE STREETS) "SES", Socio-Economic Status.

So I decided to take a look at one of those housing statistics, and compare it to a more immediate statistic. The statistic was "Single family detached homes", meaning homes, (owned or rented), unattached to another home and occupied by a single family. Picket fences and suburban smiles, so to speak.

Before I get to this, there are some methodological problems: I selected 23 communities around the Portland area, including Portland itself. I did not select every community, so there is a chance that with more data points, the trend would become more clear. Honestly, though, I think this captured most of what we need to know, and the fact that I left Cornelius out of my scatterplotting probably is not going to throw off my results much.
This plot shows is that there is a correlation between poverty level and single-family homes, but that it is so vague, with so many outliers, that the correlation probably has to do with something else.
Another interesting thing is that Portland is more "suburban" than some of its suburbs. Beaverton and Hillsboro, once fairly expensive suburbs, have smaller percentages of people living in single family homes. And even Lake Oswego, which has (somewhat unjustly) been painted as an ultra-rich town where the streets are paved with gold, has no significant differences in single-family home percentage than Portland.

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