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Rankings schmankings; Pennsylvania’s doing just fine

If you took seriously the continuous stream of ranking, scorecards, grades and other “measurements” generated by various advocacy groups, you’d wonder why anyone bothers to stay in Pennsylvania. The consensus, whether it’s on education, business climate, tax environment or social policies, tends not to be flattering.

We’ve got the worst bridges in the nation, according to a Washington, D.C.-based transportation research group. Site Selection magazine ranked our business climate 18th, which at least was an improvement. The Corporation for Enterprise Development gives the state C’s in “Businesses and Jobs” and “Education” (but A in “Health Care”). The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation puts the commonwealth in the middle of the pack or lower on a host of “enterprise” metrics.

And the oil and gas industry? Oh, dear. After everything Gov. Corbett did to block a severance tax and make Pennsylvania welcoming to the industry, what’s our reward? We may get pluses for our workforce, but it’s big frowney faces for “regulatory certainty and taxation,” according to this article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

I’m willing to admit Pennsylvania isn’t perfect. But because I not only am a Keystone native but also live and work here now by choice, I was thrilled to come across this positive news: When it comes to economic opportunity, Pennsylvania is doing just fine. Better than fine, in fact.

The National Bureau of Economic Research last week released a report on intergenerational mobility in the U.S. This is a serious topic — politically, economically and socially — since upward mobility is engrained in our national identity. Giving our kids a better life than we had is most parents’ measure of success; fear that our current course will send future generations on a downward spiral is at the center of the current budget debate in Washington and in state capitals around the country.

So this report threw a lot of gasoline on those fires — because the study found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, upward mobility hasn’t changed much since 30 years ago. “… a child born in 1971 to households in the bottom fifth of income distribution had an 8.4% chance of reaching the top fifth of earners. That compared to a probability of 9% for those born in 1986,” according to the Los Angeles Times story on the report.

What we all should worry about more is where that child is born, according to the NBER. Take a look at this map. West of the Mississippi remains the land of opportunity in the U.S. The South continues to struggle.

And Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania is looking pretty darned good.

The week ahead

One of the privileges we have in working here at the Business Journal is the chance to report on some very cool businesses. If flying saws and death-defying high-wire acts are up your alley, you’ll want to read reporter John Hilton’s story about a growing midstate company in the Jan. 31 issue.

Also this week, Jason Scott and Mike Sadowski bring their first midstate fantasy stock fund update.

The Inside Business focus is on energy, the environment and green business.

The week’s networking opportunities can be found here.

The rewind

Did the National Bureau of Economic Research sound even vaguely familiar to you? A nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 1920, these are the folks who made the recession — beginning and end — official.

Last week, I wrote about how lack of sleep short-circuits our productivity and creativity. If you still aren’t convinced that going without sleep is bad for you, take a look at this graphic detailing how it can undermine your health, shrink your brain, alter your genes and make you fat. (Thanks to our senior Web developer, Dave Gottschall, for sending me the link.)

And then there’s this: “Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication.”

Hope Stephan

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