Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Home of the bean and the cod? Nah. Home of the psychiatric technician.

I am a complete and utter sucker for lists, rankings, “mosts”, whatevers, that reveal something or other (or maybe even nothing) about a region, city or state.

Matters not how shoddy or imbecilic the approach used to come up with the lists, rankings, “mosts”, whatevers. Best not to look to closely at how anyone comes up these lists. Methodological rigor is seldom involved. The assumptions behind the rankings tend toward the specious.

But reading through them – and reading into them -  is just plain fun.

As in last summer, when we learned that my sister Kath (small city), my cousin Ellen (mid-sized city), and I (big city) all live in cities that made the snobbiest-for-their-size places to live. Not bad for three girls whose maternal grandparents got to Ellis Island with fifty bucks in their pockets.

Or a couple of weeks ago, when I read about travel predictors, by state. No surprise that the most likely destination for residents of Massachusetts was Ireland. But given the crappy weather on both sides of the pond, you’d think we’d be more interested in the places our fellow New Englanders seeks out: Aruba (Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island) and Costa Rica (Vermont).

Interesting, useless non-information! Big data are da bomb!

The latest one I’ve seen is a list of the job that’s “more common in that [one] state than anywhere else in the country.

In order to come up with a list of the most unique jobs by state, Mental Floss teamed up with Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., a CareerBuilder company, and analyzed a metric called location quotient, which "compares the percentage share of a state’s workforce in a given occupation to the percentage share of the nationwide workforce in that occupation," according to Mental Floss. In other words, the location quotient measures what jobs are most specific to a given state. (Source: Huffington Post)

Admittedly, this list -  from an analytical perspective -  is more rigorously concocted than most. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for an outfit called Economic Modeling Specialists, given that my husband was an economist/econometrician, and given that my first job out of business school was working as an economic and financial modeler. (Oh, wait, certainly the latter should have convinced me that modeling can be bull-shitty modeling to the extreme. I remember one manager demanding that we throw extra variables, no matter how far-fetched and implausible, into our models to “pump the fit.” Did it really help NYNEX forecast new phone demand by throwing swimming pool exstallations – whatever that means – into the equation?)

And I have to say that, from a grammatical perspective, reading the words “most unique jobs by state” makes me cringe.

Nonetheless, it’s great fun to read through the list: Sure:

It's no surprise that there's a high concentration of actors in California, but who knew Kansas was the referee capital of America?

Not to mention finding that Massachusetts comes to the fore in terms of psychiatric technicians. I will interpret that as our having better-than-average concern for mental health, rather than that we have more people who suffer from mental illness. Which is sort of borne out by another list I saw that had The Commonwealth among states with a rate of serious mental illness lower than the national average.

Anyway, walking through the list is interesting. And mostly doesn’t hold all that many surprises (other than Massachusetts, Kansas, and – maybe – Arizona: semi-conductor processors: who knew?) And what is there about public transportation in Maryland that makes them home to so many subway and streetcar operators. (Streetcar operators: are these job titles never updated?)

In the no surprise category, why wouldn’t Arkansas, home to Tyson food, have a high rate of food processing workers? And, while on the subject of ghastly jobs, think all you want about where the hog butcher of the world might be, but why wouldn’t Minnesota, home to Hormel Foods, have more slaughterers and meat packers?

Delaware  - thank you, Irénée DuPont -  has more than its share of chemists. Washington – thank you, William Boeing – has more aircraft assemblers.

There are plenty of other states in which the “most unique” job harkens back to days of yore, when every state was known for some industry. (Wisconsin is the Dairy State. Or used to be: now it’s the foundry mold and coremaker state.)

But Connecticut’s still the Insurance State, specializing in actuaries. Oregon has loggers. Oklahoma has wellhead pumpers.

One of my favorites is Indiana, where boilermakers rule. So it looks like Purdue’s mascot remains safe. (No need to change it to the Purdue semi-conductor processors or the Purdue survey processors.)

Another of my favorites is Illinois, which leads the pack in terms of correspondence clerks.

Correspondence clerks! Talk about harkening back.

Has such a profession actually existed since Bartleby was a scrivener, since Bob Cratchit toiled away under Ebenezer Scrooge?

Oh, I’m sure it’s the fin serv folks who send us letters, but it sure sounds quaint.

And just think of all those Chicagoans, toiling away in downtown skyscrapers, toiling away at correspondence. Have they traded in their quill pens for something more modern? Are they typing away on manual Remingtons, pounding away to make sure they get through all those carbon copies? Have they upgraded to IBM Selectrics – use white out to correct mistakes, and Xerox to make multiple copies. Or are those correspondence clerks using e-mail these days? Do they tweet?

Ah, the wonder of the list…






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