Sunday, March 13, 2011

How do you measure how "angry" a city is?

This is pretty lame..  Magazine names Detroit angriest city in America  Detroit, the angriest city in America? really?  I don't know..  People you meet around here seem pretty friendly.  So I dig into the story to see what criteria was used to make the claim. I mean, how does one go about determining which city is the hotbed of anger.  So here it is..
To come up with the rankings, analysts compared aggravated assaults per capita, time spent in traffic during rush hour, the number of people with high blood pressure and the number of anger management specialists per capita for each of the cities.
Interesting set of criteria.  I guess you have to start somewhere.

1) Aggravated assault per capita:   If you had to pick one crime to represent anger, I guess this is the one.  But only a very small percentage of angry people actually go out and commit aggravated assault. Because this applies to such a small part of the whole group, I don't think it correlates to anger level in the general population.
2) Time spent in traffic during rush hour: This is a function of average commute distance, the amount of people employed, and the amount of road construction underway.  My problem with this is that as unemployment rises, rush hour traffic would become less of a problem.  I think that if unemployment was very high, there would be a lot of anger in the population.

3) Number of people with high blood pressure: There are a number of causes for high blood pressure, diet and weight contribute as well as stress level and genetics.  Its a medical condition, not a mood.   This assumes correlation that may not be there at all.  
4) Number of anger management specialists per capita: I suppose this could be a real indicator.  But it might just be tied to sentencing rules in the local courts. If anger management counselling became mandated as part of sentencing for certain crimes, new anger management specialists would open up shop to grab a slice of the buisness.  I don't think too many angry people actually show up for anger management therapy without getting prodded by the courts.

And I notice that Madison Wisconsin was #5 on the list of least angry cities in America.  Ha.  Not if you've been watching the news lately.  More like angriest place this side of the Middle East.

OK, if I was going to try to scale angriness of cities and had to pick four predictors, I would look at these factors.

1) Percentage of workforce who belong to a union.  Unions thrive by keeping members angry. 
2) Long-term unemployment rate. Long term joblessness breeds resentment.
3) Popularity of Fox News. They stoke anger and toss out red meat to attract angry viewers.
4) Turnover in elections.  Incumbents are safe until voters get angry. 

Might still be Detroit?  hmm.  Or Madison Wisconsin.

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