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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Half empty, half full

For a site with such an optimistic name, it’s funny how you can always count on Anchor Rising to pounce on anything that can be spun to reflect poorly on the state of Rhode Island. No, the glass is not half full according to that other blog; it’s defective, leaking, and surely the fault of a public employee somewhere.

The latest example of this comes from Justin, Rhody’s littlest think tanker and a guy who truly puts the “dismal” in the dismal science. What’s got Justin so concerned this time is Rhode Island’s ranking in the “Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity”:

If we accept the proposition that a struggling economy leads more people to start their own businesses in order to generate their own income, then Rhode Island’s position on the Kauffman Index’s ranking is worrisome.  The Ocean State ought to be highly entrepreneurial, because its employment situation is so bad.  The other two states with unemployment rates above 10% are near the top of the entrepreneurialism list.

Rhode Island is tenth from the bottom.

Fair enough, and for the fringe-right that’s more than enough to begin wailing that the sky is falling. But what Justin doesn’t tell you, is that there are big regional differences between the states and that the index slants heavily towards those states with large construction sectors, an immediate disadvantage to densely populated states like RI.

But the larger point here is an obvious one:  not all states start at the same place! In fact, Rhode Island has shown incredible growth in the amount of entrepreneurial activity.  RI saw an increase of 71% in the past decade (comparing 1999–2001 to 2009–2011)! That’s 49 percent more than the national average and 5th nationally, behind only Nevada, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Georgia for growth in entrepreneurialism. 

Another decade of “underperformance” like that and Rhode Island would be in the top 10. Of course that little tidbit must go unmentioned because it doesn’t fit neatly into Justin’s “everything here sucks” worldview.
Look, it’s dangerous to read too much into these state to state comparisons, especially when drawing conclusions about a state this size. My take, take these studies with a healthy grain of salt… and ignore the fringe-right’s dismal science entirely.

Russ Conway is a political activist and longtime RIFuture blogger, who lives and works in Providence. Russ works in healthcare IT, loves data, and is a proud Providence Geek. When not grousing about progressive issues, Russ loves fishing, open water swimming, and triathlon.