Although we’ve deemed it a peer cities analysis, we’re actually examining cities at the metropolitan level (MSA). Banks don’t confine their business within city, or even county limits, so it seemed wisest to expand the scope of our research to the city and its neighboring counties. Selecting peers for Pittsburgh was no easy feat, and it confirmed something we all know: Pittsburgh is a special place. Getting at “peer-ness” required sifting through loads of data, and nearly 40 variables were selected, including MSA population, poverty rate, median household income, median home sale price, and home ownership. Sixteen cities passed muster, some more so than others, and include Buffalo, Richmond, Louisville, Milwaukee, Nashville, Indianapolis, Columbus, Kansas City, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Portland, Baltimore, St. Louis, Denver, and Minneapolis.
The full study will be published within the next couple months, but some initial findings indicate that:
1) Pittsburgh is populous, like Portland, Denver, and Baltimore – though the city proper barely tops 300,000 people, our MSA’s population is nearly 2.4 million.
2) Pittsburgh in homogeneous, like Minneapolis, Buffalo, and Portland; of the 17 MSAs in the study, Pittsburgh has the highest percentage of white residents at 88%. In fact, no one even comes close; the nearest city on the list is Buffalo at 81%. When you include the black population at 8.2%, that leaves only 4% to comprise all other racial and ethnic groups.
3) Pittsburgh is large, like Denver, Nashville, and Minneapolis; the area of our MSA (in square miles) is double that of cities like Baltimore and St. Louis. However, the City of Pittsburgh itself is quite small – only 1% of the land within our MSA.
4) Pittsburgh is low earning, like Buffalo, Louisville, and Cleveland; both whites and blacks have low median household incomes. In fact, Pittsburgh’s MSA has the lowest white and 4th lowest black median household income of the 17 cities.
5) Lastly, Pittsburgh is sprawling, like St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Cincinnati. Only 13% of our MSA’s population is within the city of Pittsburgh.
Our next step is to compare Pittsburgh’s lending data with its peers (while controlling for major differences between the cities). If there is a factor or factors unique to Pittsburgh impacting low- and moderate-income communities’ access to fair lending, we hope to get closer to discovering it with this study.