Something I was thinking about this morning made me go back and revisit my own post about Charles Murray’s “Super Zips” research and data, then from there revisit the research and data.
Since the last time I wrote and thought about it, I have moved. I was living in 63011 (Ballwin) at the time, and until early March, and its score was a very respectable 90. Remember, every zip code gets a score from 1 to 99, based on a mashup of the zip code’s median household income and the zip code’s percentage of adults who have a college diploma. A zip code of 95 or higher is defined as a Super Zip, so my zip code at the time was only five points away from being super.
I now live in 63117 (Richmond Heights), which only scores a 79.
How much worse is a 79 than a 90? I cannot find the calculated standard deviation of zip code scores, (I do have a tweet into Charles Murray himself, hopefully he’ll know), but I do remember the Rule of Six when you need a quick and dirty standard deviation: Top minus bottom divide by six. This means I get a standard deviation of (99-1)/6, or 16.33. Since my new zip is 11 points lower than my old zip, this means I have moved down in the world by (11/16.33), or about two-thirds, of a SD.
Two-thirds of a SD isn’t chump change. My new area should be noticeably less good (as in both aren’t anywhere near bad) than my old area. Yet, I really don’t grok a difference. Even more head scratching is that 63144 (Brentwood) scores at 85, higher than RH, but visually less pleasant, and substantively a half a step down IMHO.
Does that point to limitations to Charles Murray’s research? Or does it point to a possibility or the need to refine the criteria?
Not only do I not see any real difference between new and old, personally, I’m actually better off. The rent is slightly lower, the square footage is slightly higher, and the commute, when I’m home, is way shorter. And that points to another social axiom: When people buy or rent domiciles, they’re not necessarily buying a building, or land, or features, or even a neighborhood, they’re buying classmates and a peer group for their children. Want proof of that? This same living space in this same kind of residential structure on this same kind of street north of Clayton Road rents for way higher. Why? School district. North of Clayton Road is the city of Clayton, and zip code of 63105 (Murray Score of 95, meaning it’s a super zip, and it would be higher but for county jail inmates being counted as residents of the zip code and therefore dragging down its educational and household income averages), and most crucially, the Clayton School District, where the kids of university professors and physician specialists attend. Where I am, definitely south of Clayton Road, is not only the city of Richmond Heights, but it and Maplewood share a school district, and as you St. Louisans know, Maplewood, blech. For those who don’t know, Maplewood is about an even mix of lower class black and lower to working class white, trending toward the former, and they’re in the same school district with Richmond Heights, the whole district only has one high school, that being Puggg’s alma mater. And as we know about mixing shit and vanilla ice cream…
You may think that you have figured out why 63117 has a lower Murray Score than 63011, because of Maplewood. Actually, Maplewood has its own zip code, 63143, with a Murray Score of 41.
Incidentally, there has been chatter for a long time about Clayton municipally subsuming Richmond Heights. If that happens, it wouldn’t solve the school district problem by itself, but I think it would be political predication for RH ditching Maplewood and joining the Clayton School District. Which wouldn’t be hard, because the only high school in the MRH district is in Maplewood, and in fact, the district’s only middle school is also in Maplewood and next to the high school, and the district’s only elementary school is technically in RH, but this close actually to being in Maplewood; there are zero MRH schools in the part of RH north of 40. If Clayton subsumes RH in a muni sense, then it would create political pressure for RH to be part of the Clayton School District. It would mean that buying in RH also means buying in the CSD, meaning much higher selling prices and rents. But, by the time that happens, I’ll probably be living somewhere else.
Incidentally, my previous abode in Ballwin was in the Rockwood School District. Also, 63136, the zip code of the Fergaza Strip, comes through with a world beating Murray Score of 9.