We saw today this assertion that the Albany metro is the "most average city in America." And our first thought was: "Really?"
That claim is based on market research on how metros compare/contrast to the whole United States "on age, marital status, home ownership and estimated income." And Albany was at the top of the list.
But. Those rankings are from... 2004 -- which is like a whole other decade (actually, it is a whole other decade). Considering how much the United States has change demographically during the last 10 years or so, we kind of doubted that Albany could still hold the claim to being unusually average (an odd claim).
Here's the thing, though: We're not going to run the numbers for every metro in the country (yes, we're missing out on quality time with spreadsheets). But we did run them to see how the Albany of now compares to the rest of the United States of now. You can make your own judgement about whether it's a good representative for the whole.
Before we dive in
Numbers are from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey 2011, 3-year estimates. The categories we used are mostly from the marketing report linked above (which is somehow connected to Richmond, Virginia, another apparently "average" city). One category -- income -- is a bit different because we didn't have access to the same metric they used (we used general household income instead of a number adjusted for taxes). We also added a few categories to fill out the picture.
A few things
+ We marked the categories where Albany differed from the United States by more than one percent -- that's an arbitrary designation, but it seemed like if we're going for extraordinarily "average," it was an OK mark to use.
+ You could define "average" (or not average) a lot of different ways. And you could probably make a pretty good argument that even if the Albany metro is demographically very similar to the country as a whole, it's unusual because of it's geographic and political structure.
+ We suspect sophisticated market research goes beyond simple census data like this and looks at psychographic factors for areas -- stuff like whether people are willing take a chance on something new.
+ Apparently one of the good things about a metro being average is that it makes a good test market for new stuff. But off the top of our heads, we can't really think of too much stuff that we get first here. In fact, when it comes to chain stuff, it always seems like people are clamoring for something everywhere else has.
+ Peoria, Illinois was once the "average" capital of the country, thanks in part to Vaudeville.
The Albany metro area isn't too far from typical of the United States. Generalizing, it's more or less different in that:
+ It's a little bit older than the rest of the country.
+ It's less ethnically diverse than average.
+ Its households tend to make more money, and people have more education.
+ Its households are a bit smaller, women tend to have fewer children, and it has has more people who live alone.
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