Statistically Significant

Illustrations By Travis Foster

hedging on pork futures

Notwithstanding our fame as the site of the “Big Pig” tunnel project, the Bay State gets only scraps of pork from the federal government, according to Citizens Against Government Waste. The “taxpayer watchdog” group says that Massachusetts won $18.25 in “pork per capita” in fiscal year 2006, which puts us in 46th place-down from 39th just one year earlier. During the same period, New Hampshire, with its all-Republican congressional delegation and its first-in-the-nation presidential primary, rose from 15th to 10th place.

Meanwhile, the Tax Foundation released its annual analysis of federal taxing and spending patterns, this time covering fiscal year 2004. Massachusetts ranked 44th in that survey, getting only 77 cents for every dollar in taxes it sends to Washington; that’s down from 33rd place in 1994, when the Bay State almost broke even with 97 cents back for every dollar sent. Pork notwithstanding, New Hampshire fared even worse in overall federal spending: It ranked 48th in fiscal year 2004, getting back only 67 cents on the dollar.

The biggest item on the list of alleged pork projects in Massachusetts is $7.1 million for the Army National Guard’s “weapons maintenance” training facility at Barnes Municipal Airport, in Westfield. Also cited: funding for the final piece of the MBTA’s Silver Line ($4 million), a “streetscape plan” in Pittsfield ($1.9 million), and the renovation of the Merrimack Repertory Theater, in Lowell ($200,000).

population gain equals weight gain?

People seem most likely to be putting on pounds if they live in the fastest-growing regions of the state, where “sprawl” development patterns are most likely to be found. A March report from the state Department of Public Health, based on data from 2004, estimated that the share of adults who were overweight was 62 percent in the central part of the state, which includes Worcester County, and 58 percent in the South East region, including Plymouth County and the Cape and Islands—both areas with significant population growth. The lowest rates were in regions that have stayed level or actually lost population during the past few years: 45 percent in the Metro West region and 52 percent in Boston’s Suffolk County.

In the state as a whole, the obesity rate was 55 percent, 66 percent for men and 44 percent for women.

wilmington firefighters get hosed?

According to The Sun of Lowell, Wilmington firefighters have lost the battle to continue washing their own cars at fire stations—a practice that had been going on for nearly 30 years. Their union filed a complaint last year with the state Labor Relations Commission after the town manager ordered the practice to stop, but it accepted the ban as part of a new contract signed this spring. A car wash at nearby ScrubaDub, in Woburn, ranges from $8.50 for an “express wash” (no interior cleaning) to $34.99 for “the ultimate,” including shampooed carpets. But with a 7.95 percent salary increase over the next three years (not quite as good as the 8.2 percent increase in the previous three-year contract), firefighters may be able to splurge once in a while.

abortion data delivered

About 43 percent of all teenage pregnancies in Massachusetts ended in abortion in 2000, according to a new study by the New York–based Guttmacher Institute, a share exceeded only in New Jersey and New York.

Yet because relatively few 15- to 19-year-olds in the Bay State became pregnant in the first place (60 per 1,000, as opposed to the national average of 84 per 1,000), we actually ranked 11th in the incidence of abortion among that age group. When looking at all women between the ages of 15 and 44 during that same year, only 23 percent of all pregnancies in Massachusetts ended in abortion; only in New Jersey was there a bigger age gap. Among all women, Massachusetts ranked 10th in the abortion rate (with New York first and South Dakota last) and 43rd in the birth rate (with Utah first and Vermont last).

cell phones endanger public opinion polls?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in May that 8.4 percent of all households have cell phones but no land lines, a number that is rapidly increasing. (Why does the CDC care? It keeps tabs on how people are likely to give and receive information in case of medical emergencies.) There is no breakdown by state, but demographic groups that are most likely to be without land-line phones are also disproportionately large in Massachusetts. For example, 20 percent of apartment renters, and 34 percent of adults who live with unrelated roommates, have only cell phones.

This development is reason to worry for public-opinion pollsters, who are already trying to track this year’s gubernatorial race, since they are not allowed to place random calls to cell-phone numbers. Could a candidate who does disproportionately well among cell-only voters surprise people on Election Day? That would depend on whether they actually go to the polls—and it may be tough for the favored candidate to call and remind them to vote.

cape cod nets fewer tourists

The red tide scare and high gas prices may have put a crimp in the state’s tourism economy last year, at least on Cape Cod. The chief ranger’s office estimates that the Cape Cod National Seashore got 3.7 million visits last year, but that’s a significant drop from National Park Service’s official report of 4.1 million visits in 2004. The Cape Cod Commission confirms a drop of 3.4 percent in auto traffic on the Cape last year, though it notes a growth of 9.6 percent over the past decade.

Meet the Author

Statewide, according to the Office of Travel and Tourism, the demand for hotel rooms was up 1.1 percent last year, to an average of 46,000 guests per night. Because the average nightly room rate inched up, from $116 to $121, the hotel revenue grew more robustly, up 5.3 percent to $2.01 billion (or $5.5 million per night). But last year’s new visitors to Massachusetts were apparently not motivated by indoor pursuits: The OTT reported a 0.4 percent drop in attendance at the 54 Bay State museums and “attractions” that it tracks, to 11.4 million visitors.

In 2004, the last year for which figures are available, the “domestic travel impact” on Massachusetts included $11.0 billion in expenditures. That amounted to $14,723 per capita in Nantucket County and $7,739 per capita in Boston’s Suffolk County. At the other end of the scale, income from tourism amounted to $564 per capita in Hampshire County and $570 per capita in Bristol County.