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The state differentials

The economic mess of the last year has led to inevitable finger-pointing state by state, some of which has come to a head with a Ross Douthat column comparing the conditions of the states of California and Texas, suggesting that blue California was in rugged shape, and Texas by some measures better, in part because of their relative redness or blueness.

It doesn’t really make much sense; you can run all sorts of comparisons depending on what point you want to prove. One across-the-board comparison of some interest, though, was one pulled by economist and columnist Paul Krugman, who pointed to the batch of states with unemployment numbers over 10%. They are located, he pointed out, in two groups, on the Pacific west (Oregon, California, Nevada) and in the country’s east-center (Michigan south to Florida). From his blog:

What you see, if you look at the black states — states with 10+ percent unemployment — are two great belts of suffering. One is California/Oregon/Nevada, which is about the burst bubble. The other stretches down across the middle of the country. Except for Florida, which is presumably more bubble damage, what this looks like to me is manufacturing — I know that a large part of it is “Auto Alley”, which is the south-by-east spread of the old Detroit hub that took place as foreign automakers moved in. And manufacturing, remember, has been hit especially hard in this crunch.

All of this suggests that who’s suffering most has little to do with state policies. It’s about what you happened to be doing for a living when the economy fell apart.

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