Sustainability Watch

Ecosystem Health

Bird counts in the Pittsburgh area have improved in recent years and limited data suggest that fresh water mussel populations are also doing well – two encouraging trends that offer insight into the health of the region’s ecosystem.

Internet Access

The digital divide is narrowing in Western Pennsylvania, if only slightly. Fewer people in the Pittsburgh MSA reported a lack of internet in their households in 2015 than in the previous two years, according to data obtained from the Census Bureau American Community Survey (ACS).

Cost of Living

The cost of living has increased in the region since 2011, but so has family income. And despite rising costs, southwestern Pennsylvania continues to rank as one of the least expensive places to live overall among the 16 Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions.

Unemployment Trends in Pittsburgh

Southwestern Pennsylvania’s economy suffered less during the last recession than most regions and one key reason was that unemployment was relatively stable when other places were reeling with more widespread joblessness.

Recreational Opportunities

Southwestern Pennsylvanians think highly of the parks, trails and other recreational amenities in the region and survey data suggest most base their views on firsthand knowledge.

Water Quality: Bromide and TDS

Levels of bromide and total dissolved solids have improved in the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio rivers in recent years. But the future is uncertain due to potential new sources.

General Health Trends

The prognosis for residents’ health in southwestern Pennsylvania is mixed. Heart disease deaths declined over a recent 10-​year period in Allegheny County, the most populous of the seven Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area counties. But across the region, the rate of people reporting fair or poor overall health has increased.

Mobility Trends in Pittsburgh

An easy commute is hard to come by in the Pittsburgh region. Traffic delays are longer, transit use lags and transportation costs consume a significant share of household income in many places.

Graduation Rates

High school graduation rates are improving in southwestern Pennsylvania overall. Yet, in a handful of districts, nearly a third or more students fail to graduate on time.

Racial Equity

The racial and ethnic demographics of southwestern Pennsylvania are changing, just as they are across the nation. The share of the population held by African American, Asian, Hispanic and other minority residents has increased since 2000 and continues to do so.

Air Quality Trends

The days when Pittsburgh earned the reputation as the “Smokey City” may be long gone, but the quality of the region’s air remains a concern.

Environmental Ethic

The environmental ethic among southwestern Pennsylvanians is complex, data reported in the Pittsburgh Regional Environmental survey suggest.

Infant Mortality Trends

Infant mortality remains a serious public health issue in the region, nation and around the world. Local data, however, is encouraging.

Combined Sewage Overflow

Abundant annual rainfall leaves southwestern Pennsylvania in a fortunate position as much of the world grapples with the prospect of a shortage of fresh water. But effective stewardship to protect the quality of its rivers and streams has not been the region’s strong suit.

Regional Poverty

Poverty remains a stubborn problem for most regions in the United States and southwestern Pennsylvania is no exception.
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