Thursday, December 28, 2017

A morning quiz. Arizona, Idaho, Wyoming. Pick the two states that have something in common.

Why people really want to move to Idaho but are fleeing its neighbor, Wyoming. This is a most interesting set of stats reported by Andrew Van Dam in the Washington Post.

In terms of population growth, Idaho ranks 1st but Wyoming ranks dead last at 51. The reason, according to Van Dam, is that Wyoming is heavily resource dependent. It’s very rich in natural resources, particularly coal, but that makes it susceptible to boom-and-bust cycles. In contrast, Idaho has diversified.

Like Alaska and West Virginia, which also lost population in 2017, Wyoming is suffering from a tamer version of the “resource curse,” in which natural-resource wealth actually harms developing countries because it crowds out important long-term investments in infrastructure, education and industrialization.

Across the border in Idaho, the somewhat ironically nicknamed “Gem State” moved on from mines long ago, stepping first into agriculture and forestry, and later into manufacturing, technology and services.

Dependence on mining in 20 states
Dependence on mining in 20 states

Van Dam concludes: “It’s the tired old parable of two siblings, separated at birth. One began with natural gifts and found little incentive to grow beyond them, and another was forced to play a weaker hand but became stronger and more resilient in the process. …”

So what’s the answer to the morning quiz? Is Arizona more similar to Idaho or Wyoming? In terms of these stats Arizona is quite similar to Idaho. The accompanying graphic shows that, in terms of mining as a percentage of state GDP, Wyoming ranks 1st out of 20, but Idaho ranks 19th. Arizona ranks 18th.

What about population growth? As mentioned above, Wyoming, and another coal-dependent state, West Virginia, are at the bottom, actually losing population. Idaho is ranked first in population gain. Arizona ranks 6th.

So the next time someone tells you that mining is a big deal in Arizona, you can use these stats as a talking point. 1.29% of GDP is not a big deal. We definitely do not need another open pit mine that trashes our real natural resources - those things that attract people to Arizona.

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