Panthers vs. Broncos – The Economics of the Two Cities

On February 7, Super Bowl 50 will feature the Panthers vs. Broncos. Without a doubt, most Coloradans think the outcome of the game is a foregone conclusion. Some fans have painted their houses and dyed their hair orange and blue because they know the Broncos will win.

One of the fun parts about the hype of Super Bowls is the statistics associated with the big game. For example, CBS Sports has reported that on Super Bowl Sunday fans will drink 325.5 million gallons of beer and eat 1.25 billion chicken wings. Really?

From an economic perspective how do the city of Charlotte and Denver match up?

The following table includes economic data from the Bureau of Census Quickfacts (2/14/2016) comparing the city of Denver and Charlotte.

Statistic Denver Charlotte Winner
Population estimates, July 1, 2014 663,862 809,958 Charlotte
Population, % change – 4/1/10 to 7/1/14 10.6% 10.1% Denver
Owner-occupied housing unit rate, 2010-2014 49.7% 55.4% Charlotte
Median value of owner-occupied housing, 2010-2014 $257,500 $170,200 Charlotte
Median selected monthly owner costs -with a mortgage, 2010-2014 $1,592 $1,416 Charlotte
Median gross rent, 2010-2014 $913 $902 Charlotte
Households, 2010-2014 271,054 298,815 Charlotte
High school graduate or higher, percent of persons age 25 years+, 2010-2014 85.6% 88.1% Charlotte
Bachelor's degree or higher, percent of persons age 25 years+, 2010-2014 43.7% 40.7% Denver
Persons without health insurance, under age 65 years, percent 17.6% 18.9% Denver
Mean travel time to work (minutes), workers age 16 years+, 2010-2014 24.5% 24.5% Tie
Median household income (in 2014 dollars), 2010-2014 51,800 53,274 Charlotte
Per capita income in past 12 months (in 2014 dollars), 2010-2014 34,423 31,844 Denver
Persons in poverty, percent 18.3% 17.3% Charlotte

Charlotte is the larger of the two cities, but recently Denver has grown at a slightly faster pace. Housing and rent are less expensive in Charlotte and the city has a higher owner-occupied housing rate. Charlotte has a higher percentage of high school degrees, but Denver wins the battle for bachelor’s degrees. Charlotte has a higher median household income, but Denver has a higher per capita income. Charlotte has a higher percentage of people without health insurance, but Denver has a higher rate of persons in poverty.

Both are prosperous cities. Panthers vs. Bronocs. Game on!

Boulder is #1 – Most Highly Educated and Greatest Number of Toilets

Rankings are fun… Whether it is being recognized as a party school,  highly educated, or fit, Boulder is #1. Recently, Boulder also laid claim to another title. Boulder is #1 for having the greatest number of toilets per capita.number one

To digress briefly…

Some economists and data geeks are obsessed with producing rankings. If you give them a data series, they will open their Excel spreadsheet, plug the data in, and sort it. In no time they will produce a new set of rankings.

Rankings have high entertainment value. They can be used for bragging rights and they can be used for creating taglines to promote a variety of causes, both good and bad. Some Coloradans use the tagline, “Colorado ranks ahead of only Mississippi in funding for education,” to solicit support for the increased funding. The tagline tugs at heartstrings or parents with young children, but it does not clearly represent reality.

Rankings are also useful for creating a feel-good/put-down statement. Consider the bumper sticker that states, “My dog is smarter than your honor student and my cat is smarter than my dog.” My cat is ranked #1, my dog is ranked #2, and your honor student is at the bottom of the pile. I can feel good about my cat and you should feel bad about your honor student. Take that!

Rankings of economic data have value if they are used for comparative or analytical purposes such as showing the strengths or weaknesses of a region as a means of addressing a challenge or opportunity. For example, if Colorado has a high concentration of companies that conduct research in lasers, a discussion about the competencies of these companies can be used to attract and retain photonics, aerospace, and bioscience companies in Colorado.

Back to the issue in the first paragraph…Boulder is #1!

Recently,, a real estate company, produced a report entitled “Tons of Toilets: Which City Sits atop the Throne?” Like many rankings, this one had high entertainment value.

At the top of the list is Boulder with 305,200 toilets or 1.02 toilets per person. Approximately 5.3 million gallons of water are flushed daily.

Second on the list is Washington, D.C. with almost 5.5 million toilets or .98 toilets per person. Approximately 95.6 million gallons of water are flushed daily.

Denver is ranked 6th on the list with almost 2.4 million toilets or .94 toilets per person. About 41.8 million gallons of water are flushed daily.

Shortly after the rankings were released my inbox filled up with e-mails from peers. They were quick to point out the correlation between the rankings of the education levels of these cities to their toilets per capita rankings. Don’t worry, their comments are not appropriate for this document and have been flushed down the toilet.

Like most other rankings, the listing of the race to the top of the throne was used to promote a cause. In this case, the rankings were intended to draw potential customers to the Redfin website – and it worked. I was quickly reminded that I cannot afford to live in Boulder.

This ranking was fun and it was harmless, but it provides a lesson. It is important to be vigilant when reading and using rankings. More often than not, they have limited value unless they are used with other data to make a valid and constructive point.



How Would You Rate the Integrity of Data Produced by Federal Agencies?

What do you think about the integrity of data produced by the Federal agencies? Do you trust it? Do you feel comfortable making decisions with it?

Recently, the New York Post reported the following:

“A field supervisor in the Census Bureau’s Denver region has informed her organization’s higher-ups, the head of the Commerce Department and congressional investigators that she believes economic data collected by her office is being falsified.

And this whistleblower — who asked that I not identify her — said her bosses in Denver ignored her warnings even after she provided details of wrongdoing by three different survey takers.
The three continued to collect data even after she reported them.

When I spoke with this whistleblower earlier this year as part of my investigation of Census, she told me that hundreds of interviews that go into the Labor Department’s unemployment rate and inflation surveys would miraculously be completed just hours before deadline.
The implication was that someone with the ability to fill in the blanks on incomplete surveys was doing just that.

The Denver whistleblower also provided to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform the names of other Census workers who can spill the beans about data fraud in other regions.”integrity of data?

There are often innuendos that the data produced by the federal agencies lacks integrity. Several years ago Jack Welch claimed that labor data was falsified to help the Democratic campaign. While Welch had reason to be concerned about the data, his allegations were not addressed.

In Colorado there have been claims that elected officials have tried to get state agencies to falsify data and that in some cases they were successful. While the inferences came from credible sources, the innuendos were never addressed, hence they were never verified.

Colorado’s state agency that works with the Census department is the State Demographers Office (They are not the regional Census office) They have a positive reputation for making sure Colorado is fairly and accurately represented in the various surveys.

Generally speaking, state and federal agencies go to great lengths to hire people with integrity. At the same time, the temporary Census workers have thankless jobs.

State and federal agencies are no different than other organizations. Despite their aspirations to hire only quality employees, they sometimes employ workers who do not do the right things.

In defense of the federal agencies, over the past ten years they have been asked to provide more detailed data on a more timely basis with smaller or restricted budgets. As a result they sometimes produce preliminary data that does not always make sense. Such discrepancies are not an issue of integrity, but rather flawed methodology. Usually when the agencies revise their data, it aligns with what is happening on the street.

Despite the limitations of our state and federal data, we are fortunate to have so many data series to work with. Many countries have do not produce statistics or they have limited data to make decisions on.

It is great the whistleblower is being heard. If the innuendos are true, hopefully they will be addressed. The most damning part of this situation is that it destroys the integrity of the federal agencies that produce the data. Even worse, it is disturbing to think that public and private entities used data to make critical decisions and prepare budgets and policies that was intentionally and knowingly flawed.  The integrity of the data we use on a regular basis is important!

Money Museum to Open at Denver Fed

The Denver Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City recently announced that it will open a “Money Museum” and conference center in downtown Denver in early January. The museum will highlight exhibits discussing the responsibilities of the Federal Reserve. For example, information is provided about how the Fed establishes monetary policy with the intent of maintaining a stable economy.

In addition the museum will include displays that show how to detect counterfeit bills and the amount of space that is needed to store $30 million. Visitors may also receive samples of worn out or historical currency that has been shredded.

An important function of the museum is to provide education opportunities for K-12 students and teachers. The museum website indicates that class visits include a 30 minute presentation of personal finance concepts. More extensive sessions are available for K-12 teachers that demonstrate how to meaningfully incorporate economics and financial principles into the classroom.

The Denver Branch is located on the 16th Street Mall in Downtown Denver, between Arapahoe and Curtis streets.  Published hours for the museum are 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. weekdays except bank holidays. Additional information can be obtained by visiting the Kansas City Fed website (


©Copyright 2011 by CBER.