Compared to geographically similar cities around the country, Pittsburgh surfaces as a highly innovative city with some complex demographic problems.
Pittsburgh Today Director Doug Heuck and his team studied the makeup of benchmark regions like Milwaukee, Detroit and Richmond and found that Pittsburgh has numerable encouraging qualities, but lacks many important elements some residents find essential to city life.
While Heuck notes that the growing population of young Pittsburghers will inevitably advance diversity, he admits it will be a slow process and will need supplementation through government initiatives that embrace immigration and entice newcomers.
“We need to make a conscious community effort to make people more welcome,” Heuck says, adding that just over 3% of Pittsburgh is comprised of foreign-born residents. The benchmark cities average at about 8%, ranking Pittsburgh last.
Luckily, Pittsburgh is at little risk of losing its unique "flavor," as those who end up staying here do so based on their love of the Steel City charm. Low living costs as well as opportunities for jobs and education will continue to entice immigrants and newcomers to the region, but problems with transportation and racial inequality continue to concern residents. Following an ongoing struggle with Harrisburg over the past few years, Pittsburgh can expect to see an increase in funding for transportation. Currently lack of public transportation is the primary concern of people living within the city limits.
Heuck says “eds and meds” – referring to the high number of educated people living in the city, the concentration of universities and the presence of powerhouse hospitals and research centers – are the driving force in attracting newcomers. As the city moves forward, Heucks expects the major issues will be environmentally centered, specifically hydraulic fracking and air quality.