Tuesday, December 23, 2008

City of Williamsburg, by the numbers

http://www.city-data.com/ has more numbers than you'll ever need for any city you could ever want to know about. There's data for both the City of Williamsburg and Williamsburg the county.

Some interesting/relevant tidbits:

(Williamsburg city)

Population in July 2007: 12,434. Population change since 2000: +1.7%

Estimated median household income in 2007: $46,254 (it was $37,093 in 2000)
Williamsburg: $46,254
Virginia: $59,562

Estimated median house or condo value in 2007: $427,735 (it was $182,000 in 2000)
Williamsburg: $427,735
Virginia: $262,100

Mean prices in 2007: All housing units: $500,825

2008 cost of living index in Williamsburg: 104.6 (near average, U.S. average is 100)

According to our research there were 64 registered sex offenders living in Williamsburg, Virginia in early 2007.
The ratio of number of residents in Williamsburg to the number of sex offenders is 194 to 1.

Daytime population change due to commuting: +9,499 (+79.2%)
Workers who live and work in this city: 2,212 (52.2%)

Williamsburg household income distribution Williamsburg home values distribution

Unemployment in September 2007:
Here: 4.1%
Virginia: 2.8%

Residents with income below the poverty level in 2007:
This city: 18.3%
Whole state: 9.6%

Residents with income below 50% of the poverty level in 2007:
This city: 9.3%
Whole state: 4.3%

There's a whole page with numbers on the poverty levels in Williamsburg:

(We will definitely talk about this on the first morning).

Next, if you type in "poverty in Williamsburg virginia" in Google, this memo will show up:

One little bit from there caught my eye:

Income and Poverty

  • The Census Bureau¹s model-based estimates for income and poverty should be used with caution. Still, they reflect the existence of a relatively intractable segment of the population in poverty in both James City County and Williamsburg.
  • Poverty is more prevalent in Williamsburg than in James City County. Part, but not all, of this trend can be attributed to William and Mary students.
  • Black youths are especially likely to live in poverty. This trend is most noticeable in Williamsburg where 49% of black youths were in poverty in 2000.

If you're very interested in the issue of affordable housing, here's a site that might be worth a look. Every year they have the "Va Governor's Housing Conference," a major gathering of everyone involved in the area. The presentation powerpoints can be found here (most are very technical):

Out of all the presentations, those of you living in NoVA will find this one particularly relevant, as it details the unusually high number of foreclosures in the NoVA area:

Food crises and US policy

This article explains how subsidized US rice, sold to Haiti, undercut the local Haitian farmers and precipitated a food crisis. Shows how good intentions can sometimes go awry.

This article, "Manufacturing a Food Crisis," details the role that the WTO, IMF, and US played in exacerbating hunger abroad, with particular emphasis on Mexico and the Philippines.

POSTnotes on Global Health

Apparently the UK Parliament keeps a gaggle of PhDs on-hand to write 4-page briefs for them about the latest trends in science and technology. There's also a fair amount relevant to both national and global health. Since there are so many, I'd suggest reading the ones on topics in which you are interested-- although since they're only four pages, they tend to go by fairly quickly.

POSTs related to national health (in the UK)

Health Behaviour

Ethnicity and Health

POSTs related to developing countries

HIV/AIDS in developing countries

Fighting Diseases of Developing Countries

Access to Medicines in the Developing World

Tackling Malaria in Developing Countries

Food Security in Developing Countries

Adapting to Climate Change in Developing Countries


Full List of publications on "Science, Technology, and the Developing World"

Full List of publications on biological sciences and health

Obesity and Global Health

Newsweek interviews Barry Popkin, author of "The World is Fat," who offers some suggestions on why obesity is on the rise globally. His main argument seems to be the growth of an "obesogenic environment," i.e a surplus of food plus a culture of inactivity.

Some interesting points at the end, too, on the subject of intervention:

Some people are going to respond to all this by saying it should be a matter of individual responsibility that diet and weight are a matter of choice and the government shouldn't meddle.
That's OK if those people want to pay for the extra health-care costs that come with obesity. But right now this is affecting everyone in America, because we all pay those costs. It's the same issue we had with seatbelts. People who didn't use them were only hurting themselves, physically, but in the process, they were raising insurance costs for everyone. Now we are at a point where people can't even walk and they need scooters to get around, where we have to build special beds and chairs in hospitals, where we're taking toes and feet off people that have diabetes. If the government is going to pay for all of this, that affects everyone, and we need to do something about it. But America is a society that prefers to break things and then pay to fix them.


Brief article on the state of joblessness in America right now.


The Labor Department said that initial filings for state jobless benefits fell to 554,000 for the week ended Dec. 13. That was a decline of 21,000 from the 26-year high of a revised 575,000 claims a week earlier.

A week ago, the government reported the highest number of jobless claims since Nov. 27, 1982 when initial filings hit 612,000.

Moral Obligation

Peter Singer argues that the affluent have a moral obligation to help the poor in his extremely influential article Famine, Affluence, and Morality. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with his position, this is definitely worth a look.


My next point is this: if it is in our power to prevent something bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance, we ought, morally, to do it. By "without sacrificing anything of comparable moral importance" I mean without causing anything else comparably bad to happen, or doing something that is wrong in itself, or failing to promote some moral good, comparable in significance to the bad thing that we can prevent. This principle seems almost as uncontroversial as the last one. It requires us only to prevent what is bad, and to promote what is good, and it requires this of us only when we can do it without sacrificing anything that is, from the moral point of view, comparably important. I could even, as far as the application of my argument to the Bengal emergency is concerned, qualify the point so as to make it: if it is in our power to prevent something very bad from happening, without thereby sacrificing anything morally significant, we ought, morally, to do it. An application of this principle would be as follows: if I am walking past a shallow pond and see a child drowning in it, I ought to wade in and pull the child out. This will mean getting my clothes muddy, but this is insignificant, while the death of the child would presumably be a very bad thing.

More from Peter Singer and the morality of consumption:

Found via MetaFilter.

Poverty and the Youth

A poverty-related article from ESPN? Believe it: they compare the football careers of two high school students from the same area, one a rich school and the other.. well.. read on!

Hard times have fallen on even the upper-middle class. Falling allowances? Kids getting jobs? Tragedy in suburbia.

Girl receives a $2 unemployment check:

Compare our youth situation with that of those in Greece. (Spoiler: they were selling rocks for throwing in protest. Yes, that's right, selling rocks.)

Cost Calculators and Financial Success

Mint.com is a lovely site that offers an incredibly useful tool for personal finance management, and also some general advice on how to manage your money:

Pulled from the above article, a series of "cost calculators" for just about everything you can imagine...

What's the cost of raising a child? Find out here:

What about the cost of moving to a new city?

The "real cost" of a car?

Finally, how long will it take you to pay off that credit card debt?

Tackling the doctor shortage

What do you do when there aren't enough doctors to meet the primary care needs of a community? Rosenberg profiles one relatively successful answer in India: train community health workers from among the laypeople. Whom do you pick from, considering everyone probably has a busy life and won't want to work for free? Try a historically disadvantaged population, thereby giving them a chance at higher social status (the Untouchables, in this case)!

[ Special note here: I actually really want to start a similar program like the one detailed in the article in the future. So the article has a little extra meaning, at least for me. ]

There's a problem of "medical migration" out of developing nations for better-paid jobs elsewhere. This colorful diagram depicts it quite artistically:

Found via Metafilter.

Help for the Homeless

Today, some facts and figures about homelessness in the US from PBS:

A neat LA Times article about a new technology designed to improve upon the living conditions of the homeless.. kind of.

Visit the Home of the EDAR for more info on that.

In other news, Dr. Helene Gayle offers Obama some advice: Fight Extreme Poverty!
Yet women and girls are disproportionately marginalized. Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours and produce half its food, yet earn only 10 percent of the world's income and own less than 1 percent of its property. Approximately 500,000 women die each year in childbirth—a number unchanged in more than 20 years—and almost all those deaths are due to preventable causes.

Found via MetaFilter.

Healthy Eating vs. Thrifty Eating

There's tension between how healthy you can eat and how much you can spend on food, as many low-cost foods tend to be junk foods. Can you eat healthy while on a strict budget? This NYT article examines that question:


The blog of the two Social Justice teachers who lived on a dollar a day can be found here (links to the Food Cost Index, something neat to look at):

Paternalistic Aid

On the global front, you have to be careful about how you deliver foreign aid-- the relentless desire to help can sometimes cause charitable organizations to neglect simple human dignity, resulting in reactions like this one, by Binyavanga Wainaina:

His website, link below, features additional perspectives on that theme:

Finally, an earlier article from Wainaina, expressing the same tone:

Mental Illness and America's Prisons

This is.. troubling, to put it lightly. America's prisons have become the de facto mental health institutions as actual mental institutions lose funding. Documentary and article by Jenn Ackerman.


Related, another video piece about prisons, called, appropriately enough, "Getting Out of Prison":


Laura Ling follows several young inmates out of prison and into the often losing battle to keep from going back in. With a record two million Americans behind bars, hundreds of thousands of inmates are released on parole every year, and most of them end up going back to prison. Laura takes us through the entire system, from the moment of release, to the first days out of freedom, to the struggle parolees have to resist going back to the lifestyles that originally put them behind bars.

A guide for the newly poor (in LA)

Today features a pair of articles from the West Coast, plus a bonus (fun?) article at the end.

The LA Times publishes "A guide for the newly poor"... in Los Angeles. Goes through many of the social services available there.

"10% of U.S. homeowners in arrears or foreclosure." Pretty much says it all, things are not looking good for homeowners trying to make it right now.

Finally, some unexpected/unintentional/unusual consequences of the recent downturn in the economy (selling hair?):

Global Issues

First up, an extremely compelling narrative about the consequences of foreign aid and foreign development in Kabul. One of the most interesting questions: Can architecture actually affect the level of violence in an area?

Next, a companion to the above, an opinion piece essentially making explicit the policy changes hinted at in the above article..

Third, women in the Congo testify about an onslaught of rape:

Fourth, Pakistan prepares for a water shortage:

Income vs. Brain Development

Here's the headline, and you'll see immediately why this is relevant, and why it ruffled a few feathers:

Cal Study: Poor Kids Lack Brain Development



"This is a wake-up call," Knight said. "It's not just that these kids are poor and more likely to have health problems, but they might actually not be getting full brain development from the stressful and relatively impoverished environment associated with low socioeconomic status: fewer books, less reading, fewer games, fewer visits to museums."

Related: Kirstof argues that the world's IQ could be raised simply by introducing iodine into the diet..

What is the connection between Poverty and Health?

"Poverty and Health: Asking the Right Questions" by Victor Fuchs

Hint: It's not completely intuitive. This is a definitive article, a must-read.


Article highlights:
1) Low income is probably not the cause of poor health, at least in developed nations.
2) Low income is still correlated with higher mortality, even in countries with universal health care.
3) Education may be the "third variable" that explains the relationship between income and health.


Here, you'll find the highlights of the WHO's "Global Burden of Disease" report, which essentially predicts how we will die in the next few decades. Some of the numbers may surprise you..

I suppose this is health-related too; a map of the world disaster hotspots!