Erie Vital Signs

Some Reasons to Love Erie!

Paul Gibbons

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

– Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861), Sonnet 43

With Valentine’s Day on the near horizon, Erie Vital Signs thought it would be a good time to think about some of the reasons we love Erie. Our reasons are data-based as that is what Erie Vital Signs is all about – providing objective data to help Erie residents make data-based decisions. So here are a few data-based reasons to love Erie.

We certainly haven’t included ALL the reasons to love Erie! As Albert Einstein said: “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Some uncountable things for Erie include things like our sunsets, Sara’s, and summer State Street parties. Maybe even the snow!

But there are a lot of important things that CAN be counted, and Erie Vital Signs is in the business of identifying them, collecting the data from reputable sources, and then spreading the word about what those data say.

1. Extra money in your pocket

You may have a little extra money to treat your Valentine this year as our local economy has been good. In fact, the Erie Times-News reports that the local unemployment rate has dropped below 5% for the first time since 20071. This can actually be considered “full employment” since there are always some people changing jobs, or just finishing school or training, or entering the local labor force after a move to the area. And although Erie has traditionally had an unemployment rate about four tenths of a percent above the national rate, since the recent recession started Erie has averaged about four tenths of a percent below the national rate. And Erie per capita personal income has continued to rise in recent years, since its slight drop in 2009.2 All of this means that Valentine’s Day 2015 will be a better one for Erie’s workers than they’ve seen for the last eight years.3

2. Lots of entertainment options

Are you looking for something to do with your special Valentine? You know that your honey really enjoys dinner and a show, so you open the Showcase looking for some ideas. Right away you notice that there are a lot of options. In fact, Erie is blessed with more than its share of arts, entertainment, and recreation (AE&R) activities. Having visited the Erie Vital Signs website recently, you remember that Erie was #3 on the list of 14 peer areas when it came to the number of AE&R establishments per thousand residents, and that Erie’s AE&R organizations also tended to be larger on average with 54% more employees than their peers.4 After reviewing the ads and those fine-print listings, you settle on a show by the North East Community Players. She’s going to be surprised by that, and you’re glad you thought to check the newspaper. But then, the newspaper in Erie is about 22% less expensive than the average for papers in 300 or so metro areas around the country, so you can afford the daily paper without breaking the bank.5

3. No “Smoke in Your Eyes”

When the big night comes, you might start off with a romantic dinner. Sitting in the corner booth you requested with the low mood lighting, you notice that the restaurant’s background music is playing Nat King Cole’s “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” While it’s a nice tune, you have to smile to yourself because you remember seeing on the EVS website that adult smoking declined in Erie between 2007 and 2011, so you have less chance now of actually having smoke get in your eyes these days.6 And that’s good!

4. Cost of Living

As an appetizer you surprise your sweetie with a nice sparkly bracelet. Yeah, it’s a bit on the extravagant side, but then the cost of living in Erie is about four or five percent lower than elsewhere and that makes it a little easier to save some money for special treats.7 In fact, the EVS website reported that housing costs in Erie were about 17% below the average for American metro areas, and housing makes up a major portion of the household budget so it makes a real difference in terms of money left over for other things.8

5. Neighborhoods

Erie Vital Signs also reports that homeownership is higher in Erie than nationally.9 That’s good news because it is often thought that when one becomes a homeowner, he or she has a greater stake in the community—some skin in the game—since the value of their home will change with the fortunes of the area. Hopefully, that leads to greater involvement in ensuring the success of the local area. Homeownership may also reflect a willingness to put down roots locally rather than “just passing through”, perhaps lending a bit more stability to the area. Atlanta’s homeownership rate, for example, was only 42.9% in 2013, and Manhattan’s was just 23.1%. So your Erie neighbors are probably more committed to helping Erie succeed, like you are, and that’s good for everyone.

6. Safety

As you leave the restaurant and try to remember where you parked the car, you realize that you are not worried that your car won’t be where you left it. Unlike those years you spent in Detroit, you do not have to worry much about crime in Erie. In fact, Detroit’s crime rate was a whopping 85% higher than Erie’s in 2013. And it’s not just Detroit; the EVS site said that Erie’s crime rate was 15% below the national average, too.10 So it’s less likely that someone’s going to come out of the shadows and try to take that new bracelet. It’s hard to love a city where you have to constantly worry about getting mugged, so the low crime rate is another very personal reason to love Erie.

After the show, you reflect that it’s been a very nice evening, and as you head home you take some comfort in the fact that the EVS site reported that binge drinking has fallen in Erie by nearly 25% since 2001.11 That means you’re less likely to be hit by a drunk driver these days, and will actually make it home to that lovely house you can afford to own in Erie.

7. Health Care

So it’s been a good night. But it’s not quite perfect; you’re beginning to wish you hadn’t finished all of that huge plate of Fettuccine Alfredo AND the decadent caramel rum cheesecake. It’s probably just a little indigestion, but if it hasn’t cleared up by Monday, you can bite the bullet and see your doctor—taking some comfort in the fact that doctors charge about 19% less in Erie for a typical office visit than in other metro areas.12

So, as you drift off to sleep, you smile at how well Valentine’s Day in Erie went, and think how many good reasons you have to love the area—as well as your sweetheart. Speaking of which, you wonder if next year maybe she’ll get YOU something for a change. Maybe a nice romantic power tool…

The story above has been a fun way to present some data about Erie. We should hasten to say that for this special “We Love Erie” edition, we’ve only focused on the positive aspects of Erie. But we recognize that not all the news about Erie is good, certainly, and future editions of the news from Erie Vital Signs will present a more even-handed approach, or perhaps even focus on some of the bad news and challenges that Erie faces.

If you’ve been reading the above and repeatedly saying “yeah, but you’re ignoring…”, we hear you. But to kick off this new series, we thought it’d be fun to start with an unabashedly good-news piece.


  1. Seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for December 2014 (most recent): Erie 4.9%, U.S. 5.6%. Data source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  2. Personal income per capita for Erie: 2013 (most recent) $37,729, 2009 $33,225. Data source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
  3. The last time the Erie unemployment rate was this low was in August 2007. On Valentine’s Day 2007 it was 4.5% Data source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  4. AE&R establishments per thousand residents for 2012 (most recent): Erie 4.03, average of 13 peer areas 3.58. Erie is 12.6% higher than the average of the peer areas. AE&R employment per establishment: Erie 23.0, average of 13 peer areas 14.9. Erie is 54.1% higher than the average of the peer areas. Data source: U.S. Census Bureau, County Business Patterns.
  5. Monthly cost of daily and Sunday newspaper, home delivered, average for 2014: Erie $14.82, average for 308 U.S. urban areas $19.00. Data source: Cost of Living Index, Council for Community and Economic Research.
  6. 23% of adults reported being a current smoker in 2011 (most recent data) compared with 26% in 2007. Data source: Erie County Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, Erie County Health Department.
  7. The Cost of Living Index for Erie was 95.1 for the 2014 annual average, indicating that Erie’s cost of living was 4.9% less than the average of about 300 American urban areas (which was set to 100.0). Data source: Cost of Living Index, Council for Community and Economic Research.
  8. The 2014 annual average Cost of Living Index for Erie was 83.2 for the housing component of the COLI, indicating that Erie’s cost of housing was 16.8% less than the average of about 300 American urban areas. Housing (including both homeownership and renting) accounts for 27.8% of the COLI market basket. Data source: Cost of Living Index, Council for Community and Economic Research.
  9. In 2013 68.1% of all occupied housing units in Erie County were occupied by homeowners, compared with 63.5% nationally. Data source: U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, one-year estimates.
  10. In 2013, there were 2,630 crimes per 100,000 residents in Erie County, compared with 3,099 for the U.S. as a whole. Detroit had 4,877 per 100,000. Data source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports.
  11. 19% of adults reported binge drinking behavior (5 drinks or more on one occasion for males, 4 for females) in 2011 compared with 25% in 2007. Data source: Erie County Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey, Erie County Health Department.
  12. The cost of a typical doctor visit (general practitioner’s routine examination of an established patient, AMA procedure 99213) for Erie averaged $83.59 in 2014 compared to an average of $102.86 for about 300 American urban areas. Data source: Cost of Living Index, Council for Community and Economic Research.

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