We have all long been aware that the Youngstown area is a Revelation-style hellscape — Youngstown State University classes are taught by cackling fiends, the Mahoning River flows freely with sulfur-smelling magma and 88 percent of children born here are actually the anti-Christ — luckily now the rest of the United States knows, so they can all point and laugh at the freaks.
The Youngstown-Warren-Boardman area has been ranked dead last in a ranking of the 100 most populous areas in the U.S. by well-being.
The Detroit-Warren-Dearborn area was ranked 92. Yes, the poster-child of destitution, Detroit, was ranked higher than us.
We, the movers and shakers that we are, take umbrage with this abyssal ranking.
To come to these results, Healthways partnered with Gallup to interview a random sample of more than 176,000 people — with at least 300 cases per metro area — across the country over the past year.
Healthways, in its report, said, “The Well-Being Index is calculated on a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 represents the lowest possible well-being and 100 represents the highest possible well-being.”
The actual metrics they used were based on five “essential elements of well-being”: purpose, social, financial, community and physical.
The purported purpose of this index, according to Healthways, was to improve well-being.
We are far from polling experts, and we simply can’t successfully comment on the metrics, sample size or potential biases of the studies. There are plenty of accessible articles that bemoan Gallup and other polling groups’ technique, and doubtlessly those same complaints apply to this poll.
The issue isn’t so much with the methodology, but with the way the information has been presented.
Youngstown, as mentioned, is familiar with being ranked. We have been ranked, over the past 10 years alone, one of the most dangerous cities, one of the best places to raise a family and one of the leading cities in export growth, to name just a few. YSU itself has been lauded as having some serious bang for your buck and derided as a glorified community college.
If every claim concerning Youngstown was true, this city would make for an excellent episode of the Twilight Zone.
We are sure that every other city has experienced just as many wavering rankings and reports about how terrible/great their city is in cocaine production and in total ferret happiness index, but not every city is still fighting to excite a discouraged population after a protracted depression.
On this index, Youngstown received a 58.1. The area in the number one slot — North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida — was 64.1 on this 100-point index. On this 100-point scale there was a 6-point difference between number 100 and number 1, not considering a margin of error of plus-or-minus 1 to 1.5 points.
Of course Healthways is not a fault that there isn’t a wide margin in the levels of well-being between each area. Nor is this exactly surprising. Every area has poverty and every area has affluence; every area has dissatisfied masses and every area has an elite.
This is especially true when you are dealing with the 100 most populous metro areas in the U.S. Consider, just in Youngstown area, the difference in affluence between the city of Youngstown and the Poland Township. If you measured the Poland area well-being index independently, it would be a significantly higher number.
This study is particularly galling because Healthways — like so many other powerful policy groups, researchers and polling institutes before it — displayed wanton disregard in their choice to rank these cities.
Forget that well-being is a nebulous concept and that their metrics as presented by their report were vague at best, local news sources nationwide couldn’t avoid this story. And who could blame them? Papers can’t ignore when a group like Gallup ranks your city the worst in America at something.
If there is anything remotely important about this study, it is the actual number value assigned and what that number represents, but what will be emphasized in news sources nationwide is the actual ranking — which is next to meaningless.
For example, WKBN headlined their article on the issue, “Youngstown area ranked worst community for well-being.”
It isn’t even just news sources jumping on tasty details hid within — the actual report released heavily features the ranking within the first paragraph.
Even if this choice was not to bolster the report’s viral-potential, but because it is an easy way to present the data, information gatherers must consider how their information will be disseminated.
Of course, people could easily read the report in its entirety for more information, but we aren’t dealing in possibilities — we are dealing with reality.
The majority in the Valley who read this report will gain one iota of information: Youngstown is the king of the landfill and we are all trash people.
Yes, of course the actual effect of this report will be mitigated by the low number of people in the Valley that will actually read it and the lower number that will let it influence action, but these reports have a cumulative effect on an area.
Maybe this study will achieve its ostensible goal of spreading awareness of well-being in other regions, especially those in the mid-range, but for the bottom tier it is little more than demoralizing — telling a community that their supposed revitalization is finely-tuned propaganda.
We aren’t trying to cast this town in a false light— Youngstown is pretty damn far from a utopia. The city and this university have a plentiful harvest of problems, but for the first time in a long time, we have just as much reason to hope. We refuse to let some jackasses with a telephone and a list of names take that away from us.
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