Census data leads Yahoo reporter to erroneous conclusion
Now THIS is a ghost town. Bodie, California, courtesy California State Parks.
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — If a recent Yahoo.com story is to be believed, then Summit County ranks right up there with dilapidated cities in Maryland and abandoned rust-belt communities in Michigan as one of the country’s top-10 ghost towns.
The April 11 piece by Douglas A. McIntyre puts Summit County third on the list, behind Lake County, Michigan and Vilas County, Wisconsin, and just ahead of Worcester County, Maryland. According to the story, Summit County’s 61 percent vacancy rate is part of a nationwide trend reflecting, “how much the real estate disaster has turned certain areas in the country into ghost towns.”
Dramatically, the Yahoo story goes on to say that, These are the American Ghost Towns of the 21st century. Each has a population of more than 10,000 along with vacancy rates of more than 55%, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.”
It turns out, of course, that this story underscores the old adage that there are lies, damn lies and statistics. And it highlights the danger of reporters working purely off numbers (the piece was compiled from census data) without any contextual knowledge.
In fact, Summit County has always had a high “vacancy rate,” due to the high number of second homes that are not occupied year-round. It’s not likely that number has changed significantly as a result of the recession and housing bust.
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