A New Pittsburgh Survey

In the current issue of Pittsburgh Quarterly magazine, publisher Doug Heuck puts on both of his hats at once (Doug is also director of the Regional Indicators project at pittsburghtoday.org) to describe a forthcoming Pittsburgh Today project:  an updated "Pittsburgh Survey."

The original Pittsburgh Survey, published in several volumes roughly 100 years ago, was a pioneering sociological study of living and working conditions in an urban, industrial community.  (The Wikipedia entry is here.)  The research was prompted by and was part and parcel of the Progressive Era reforms of the early 20th century.  Its data supported decades of further research; the researchers who worked on it went on in many cases to influential careers. 

Still, and despite the Progressive ambition, the results were revelatory.  For the first time it became clear just how wealthy the Pittsburgh wealthy were -- and just how hard the rest of Pittsburghers, especially Pittsburgh's women and children, had it.  I've written at Pittsblog before about what I call today's First World Pittsburgh, Second World Pittsburgh, and Third World Pittsburgh.  It should come as no surprise to most people, but it may surprise them anyway, that Pittsburgh's current "tale of two [or three] cities" has its roots in the steel industry of a century ago.  It is probably not an understatement to say that the Pittsburgh Survey changed not just how Pittsburgh was viewed, but how cities were viewed, and how they were studied, and how they were approached for public policy purposes.  I want to look at Pittsburgh with fresh eyes, but doing that requires a supreme effort.  And I've only been here for little more than a decade.

Doug's story about the new study is itself titled, "A Tale of two Pittsburghs."  That headline refers, I'll bet, to "old Pittsburgh" and "new Pittsburgh," but it also should be understood to refer to the rich and to everyone else, revealed in all of their detail in the original Pittsburgh Study and waiting, one suspects, for revisiting, renewing, and updating today.  The Pittsburgh Today study is a fantastic but daunting proposition.  No one should assume that it reveal only good or even middling news.  There is much to celebrate in modern Pittsburgh, but much of the Progressive agenda remains unfulfilled.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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