PolitiFact On St. Petersburg Poverty Rate; Climate Agreement Jobs

Jun 30, 2017

The south side of St. Petersburg - best known among locals as "Midtown" -- is a predominantly African-American area with a high rate of poverty.

The area hasn't changed that much over the years, but since Mayor Rick Kriseman is campaigning for re-election, he's appealing to the electorate with a claim that the poverty rate is falling under his watch. 

So much, in fact, that it is dropping faster than the "national average, the state average, Pinellas County, Tampa and Jacksonville."

Here's PolitiFact Florida's ruling on that claim: 


In order for this claim to be true, the poverty rate in south St. Petersburg would have to be dropping faster than in those other areas he named.

But Kriseman’s evidence for the claim is imprecise.

Instead of providing data for that area,

Kriseman

pinpointed the poverty rate of the African-American population in the entire city of St. Petersburg between two years.

Kriseman’s staff relied on a 2013 Pinellas County report that highlighted south St. Petersburg as one of five at-risk communities, areas marked by "high concentrations of poverty and a small return to the taxbase."

According to the report, approximately 48 percent of the population in this zone live in poverty. The demographic breakdown of those who live in poverty is as follows: 63 percent are African-American, 27 percent are white, 5 percent are Hispanic, and 5 percent are of another race.

City staff said given that the majority of residents in that zone are African-American, addressing poverty among African-Americans is a priority for the mayor.

So to support his claim, Kriseman compared the poverty rate for the entire St. Petersburg black population (which should go without saying, does not entirely live in south St. Pete) against the rates of other big cities, the state and the country.

Even with that allowance, the numbers don’t hold up.

Kriseman’s team sent PolitiFact Florida two sets of data from the Census Bureau’s 2014 and 2015 American Community Survey for the African-American population. (The 2016 numbers will not be released until September.)

According to that data, the black poverty rate in St. Petersburg decreased by 8.5 percentage points between 2014 and 2015, from 34.9 percent to 26.4 percent.

The other areas Kriseman mentioned — Pinellas County, Jacksonville, Florida, the United States, and Tampa — showed a smaller reduction in the black poverty rate, between a drop of 4.8 percentage points to a gain of .2 point, respectively. 

This data may look convincing, but it's not as certain as Kriseman describes.

Most importantly, the data neglects the large margin of error in census data.

Based on our calculations, the difference in the number of African-Americans in poverty — for St. Petersburg as well as the other locations — was statistically unchanged from 2014 to 2015.

In other words, there's no way to know for sure if poverty went up or down, because the change in the poverty rate is within the margin of error.

That data has problems. At face value, 2014 Census data showed a decrease in the poverty rate for the city’s African-American population through 2015. But that ignores critical facts, including the wide margin of error for Census city data that indicates there is no discernable difference between the years Kriseman highlighted. A more comprehensive look at five years of data does not show a strong trend either way.

For a statement that contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give the reader a different impression, we rate this claim Mostly False.

Another claim PolitiFact checked out involves Congressman Gus Bilirakis of Pinellas County. He recently made a claim about the Paris Climate agreement, which President Donald Trump is moving to withdraw from.

"A study by the National Economics Research Association showed that the deal could cost 2.7 million lost jobs in the U.S. by 2025 should our country adhere to the commitments made by the Obama Administration," Bilirakis said.

Here's PolitiFact Florida's take on that:

The study predicts the potential impact of hypothetical U.S. regulatory action to meet the carbon emission goals pledged in Paris. It was produced in March 2017 and funded by the American Council for Capital Formation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, both vocal opponents of the agreement.

The loss of 2.7 million jobs economy-wide by 2025 reported in the study is contingent on "additional regulatory actions necessary to meet the Paris target." But the Paris agreement does not require actions, as it was not binding, and the regulatory action mentioned has not been proposed.

The study begins, then, with the assumption that regulation would expand beyond the electricity sector, which is where the Obama administration directed it.

According to law professor Cary Coglianese, the director of the University of Pennsylvania Program on Regulation and author of Does Regulation Kill Jobs?, the study is a forecast based on an erroneous model.

"How accurate that forecast or any forecast will be depends upon how well the model matches reality and the world. The particular model used in that NERA analysis doesn’t match up with what I think most people would recognize as the reality of the economy," Coglianese said.

According to Gary Yohe, a professor of economics and environmental studies at Wesleyan University who worked on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that received a share of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, the model does not accurately reflect government regulation or the energy industry’s reaction to market trends.

"They impose what they interpret as the effect of what the Unites States agreed to under the Paris accord," Yohe said, but "they pick the least efficient way of doing it." The hypothetical regulations they impose are inflexible, ruling out cap-and-trade or taxes and instead set strict regulations on specific sectors.

So while the quote in the NERA study seems to conflate job loss with unemployment, it ignores the possibility of a changing job market in which jobs in the renewable energy industry replace jobs in the traditional fossil fuel industry that would face heavier regulation to comply with the agreement.

We rate this statement False.