Popular Science Monthly/Volume 40/March 1892/Lessons from the Census V
LESSONS FROM THE CENSUS. V.
By CARROLL D. WRIGHT. A.M.,
UNITED STATES COMMISSIONER OF LABOR.
THE social statistics of our great cities are being put into concrete form by Mr. Harry Tiffany, Chief of the Division of Social Statistics of Cities of the Eleventh Census, under the able direction of Dr. John S. Billings, U. S. Army, expert special agent of the census office. So far the returns on some important leading features comprise about fifty of the principal cities. These facts relate to streets, street-lighting, water-works, sewers, and the police and fire departments. All these, however, are among those features of municipal conditions which are constantly in the minds of men and agitating them as to expenses and the value which they secure in return for taxes paid.
The distribution of population in the fifty cities on which reports have already been published should first be given in any treatment of the social statistics of cities, and the following table answers the purpose admirably well:
Population and Area of Fifty Cities, with Distribution of Population by Square Miles and Acres.
The total population of the cities comprehended in the foregoing table is 10,095,370, The areas have been determined by actual measurements, and from latest obtainable data, or from records in the offices of the city engineers of the respective cities. Fall River is an exception to this rule, as the boundaries of Wards 6 and 9 in that city have never been accurately defined. The city of Washington, in the table, includes the area and population inclosed within the actual municipal boundaries, and not the total area and population of the District of Columbia. The islands in the East River, with an area of five hundred and twenty acres, and which are geographically situated in Wards 12, 19, and 23, are included as part of New York.
The most interesting feature of the foregoing table is that relating to the distribution of population according to area; but in this one must not be deceived. The population to each acre or to each square mile of a city can not well be compared with like data for another city, unless the exact area of dense population is known—as, for instance, a city may comprise fifty square miles of territory and have 500,000 population, which would give a population of 10,000 to each square mile, but the population may be compressed into twenty-five square miles, when the actual distribution would be 20,000 persons to the square mile; while another city of like area and like total population, but with the population distributed more evenly over the whole area, would be in a much better sanitary condition than the first city named, although in statistics the population per square mile would be the same when the whole area is considered.
Twenty-two of the cities named in the foregoing table have a population of over 100,000 each, the total being 8,737,648, which is 13'95 per cent of the total population of the country. The population to the square mile of these twenty-two cities is 15'92 to the acre; but the differences in ratios of population to area are very great, ranging from four in St. Paul, five in Minneapolis, nine in Omaha, ten in New Orleans and Buffalo, eleven in Chicago and Denver, and twelve in St. Louis, to thirty in San Francisco, thirty-one in Washington, forty-eight in Brooklyn, and fifty-nine in New York. These figures represent population to a square acre. So skillful a statistician as Dr. Billings is of course careful to remark that the ratios indicated by the statistics published "give no information as to the difference in density of the population in the actually built-up portions," and he cites that in New York the number of persons per acre ranges from four hundred and seventy-four in Ward 10 to three in Ward 24, while in Chicago there is a range from one hundred and sixteen in Ward 16 to two in Wards 28 and 23. These instances show the extremes, and teach us emphatically that any comparison of population to the square acre or to the square mile for the purpose of drawing conclusions relative to sanitary and other conditions must be avoided. Physicians have taken considerable interest in censuses, and for the very reasons stated, and so in many cases health districts have been prescribed and the statistics of population and the social facts relating to population for such health districts preserved. In this way the very best results are to be reached. With complete statistics of population for clearly defined health districts, where the sanitary conditions can be compared and differences of conditions noted, a scientific study of death-rates with reference to the density of population can be undertaken. The ordinary statistics of death-rates based on the density of population of cities are exceedingly vicious, but perhaps not more so than the ordinary statements relative to the death-rate of cities based on the whole population. There is great liability to very misleading statistics in this direction. The errors arise from two causes. The first of these is the incompleteness of death statistics. This can only be overcome by a compulsory registration of deaths. The second cause is that population is not accurately known except for periods some distance apart, and here error arises, and would arise, even with complete and perfect statistics of deaths; as, for instance, a State which depends entirely upon the Federal census ascertains its population only once in ten years. For the census year the death-rate based on population may be fairly accurate; but for intermediate years the death-rate must be based upon calculations of population mathematically made. In some cases this has led to very vicious results, and has caused considerable fright and anxiety on account of the great apparent death-rate, when, had the facts all been known, it would have been found that the death-rate was really normal. Another feature of error, or rather feature for the basis of erroneous conclusions, relative to the death-rate in great cities, arises from the fact of the existence of large hospitals in cities, and that the death-rate is increased by people coming from the country to the cities for treatment and there passing away thus giving an abnormally high death-rate relative to the actual living population of a city. This is also true in connection with the criminal statistics of cities. Men come in from country towns for the purpose of a visit or a spree, or for carrying out some nefarious design. At all events, they commit crime, from one cause or another, within the city limits, are there arrested and punished and their crimes help to swell abnormally the legitimate criminal statistics of the city itself. All these considerations should be taken into account when writers are undertaking to draw what they feel to be accurate conclusions through comparisons of statistics. I have read very learned essays upon conditions of the population, involving insanity, crime, disease, death, etc., when all the conclusions of the essays were based upon most incomplete and unsatisfactory data—in fact, upon statistics that were not within a large percentage of accuracy. When treating the vital statistics of the whole country I shall take pains to call attention to some of the exceedingly misleading if not thoroughly erroneous conclusions in the past. It is exceedingly gratifying to know that the experts in charge of such important facts under the eleventh census are thoroughly alive to all the opportunities of error which ordinarily and naturally arise under imperfect statistics.
The discussions which are going on relative to municipal control will be enriched by a great many facts in the social statistics of cities that are being published under the eleventh census. The difference in the cost of building and maintaining streets and in the cost of street-cleaning, the advantages of paved or unpaved streets so far as health is concerned, and the general conditions resulting from cleanliness—all these facts can be learned when the complete statistics of cities are published. Boston, Worcester, and Holyoke are cities in which all the streets are paved; but Dallas, Texas, has but 4·7 per cent of its streets paved, St. Paul 4·1, and Minneapolis 3·1, while Denver's streets are not paved at all.
The average yearly cost of construction and repairs per head of population in cities having over 100,000 inhabitants is $1.54, while in twenty-seven cities for which the census has returns, having less than 100,000 inhabitants each, the cost is $2.04.
The average annual expenditure for street-cleaning varies from five cents in Buffalo and eight cents in Chicago to seventy-one cents in New York and sixty-two cents in Cincinnati; but, as the census officials remark, there is probably no definite relation between the cost per head of street-cleaning as shown by the figures and the actual condition of the streets as to cleanliness. Ordinary observation teaches us that in many cities where the cost is greatest the streets are in the filthiest condition.
The question as to economical street-lighting is an important one in all municipalities. The facts already published indicate that the annual cost of gas-lamps varies from $50 per lamp in New Orleans, $43.80 in San Francisco, and $37 in St. Louis, to $15 in Indianapolis and Canton, $15.60 in Minneapolis, and $17.50 in Hoboken; while the annual cost of each electric lamp varies from $68 in Chicago and $58.46 in Denver to $237.25 in Boston and $440.67 in San Francisco. When all the facts are collected and published it is to be hoped that the public can ascertain the relative advantages of the different systems of lighting, so far as cost per capita is concerned. At present the cost to each head of population can only be stated for the total average annual cost for the cities comprehended in the table. This is sixty-four cents per annum. Not only will the facts be shown relative to the cost per capita of each method of lighting the streets of a city, whether by gas, electric light, or oil, etc., but the relative advantages of lighting streets by works owned by the city and works owned by private corporations will be shown. It is a fact that the gas-light is gradually giving place to the electric light; for, while the facts for the cities named in the tables already published by the census office show that gas-lamps comprise over sixty per cent of all classes used for street-lighting, it is evident that they are now rarely used exclusively for lighting. It is also learned that electric lighting is most favored in those cities that have less than 100,000 inhabitants each; for, in 278 such cities, out of a total of 91,667 lamps, 35,127 are gas-lamps, 35,191 are electric lamps, and 21,149 are lamps burning oil, etc. Taking the total cities from which reports have been received relative to light, being 309 cities, with a population of 16,335,569, the total number of lamps of all kinds is 293,847, the gas-lamps numbering 182,671, the electric lamps 53,696, and the oil-lamps 57,480.
The interest which now centers in the question as to whether quasi public works shall be controlled by private corporations or by the municipality itself is illustrated more specifically by the facts connected with water-works than by those surrounding any other character of city works, and the difference as to cost of maintenance and receipts between public and private works is very noteworthy. The facts are already given quite fully by the census for fifty cities, and of these thirty-five own their own water-works. The average cost of construction in the thirty-five cities owning their own water-works to each head of population is $21.35, while in thirteen cities where the water-works are owned by private parties the cost of construction to each head of population is $31.20, or nearly ten dollars more per capita than where the cities construct their own works. Out of 273 cities reporting to the census on their water-works, fifty-six per cent own and operate their own works, the remainder depending on private companies for their water-supply; but the fifty-six per cent represent seventy-seven per cent of the total population of the 273 cities. A greater proportion of private works perhaps are to be found in the smaller cities; for, out of 133 such cities, having a population of 3,708,994, 112 cities, representing 2,351,574 people, have their water-works operated by private parties.
The sewers of the cities of the country are under the control and direction of the municipal governments. The construction has been under public control. In Baltimore, where the sewers are intended for the removal of storm water only, is found the smallest percentage of sewers to streets in the larger cities, it being only 3-56. The cities of Washington and Cambridge have more miles of sewers than of streets. In 190 cities the population to each mile of sewer is 1,815.
The social statistics of cities already published comprehend tables on the points which have been discussed; and, further, as stated, on the police and fire departments. In the latter two sections the chief interest relates to the cost of each force. Selecting some of the salient features relative to the police, it is interesting to learn that in New York there are 72·65 patrolmen to each square mile of territory, while in Chicago there are but 9·08, in Philadelphia 11·01, in Brooklyn 34·01, in St. Louis 8·72, in Boston 19·25, in Baltimore 21·81, in San Francisco 21·73, in Cincinnati 16, in Cleveland 10·13, in New Orleans 4·66, and in Washington 35·64.
The criminal conditions as indicated by arrests, if arrests be a fair indication, are shown by the following facts: In New York the number of arrests to each patrolman is 25·53, in Chicago 27·37, in Philadelphia 35·09, in Brooklyn 31·52, in St. Louis 32·98, in Boston 48·41, in Baltimore 42·96, in San Francisco 69·68, in Cincinnati 35, in Cleveland 29·76, in Buffalo 41, in New Orleans 86·71, and in Washington 48·71.
The question as to what a man receives for the taxes he is called upon to pay is not only an exceedingly interesting one from an economic point of view, but of real, vital consequence to the welfare of the people. I have therefore constructed an entirely new table from the various tables already reported by the census, showing the average cost per head of population in the fifty cities named for the construction and repairs of streets, for street-cleaning, for lamps of all kinds, for the maintenance and repairs of sewers, for the police force, for the fire department, and for water, with a total which all these items of expenditure make for each inhabitant in the fifty cities named. (See table on following page.)
The averages in the tables from which the foregoing is drawn are, as I understand it, for the ten years ending January 1, 1890, except in some cases where municipal governments have been of recent growth, in which cases the averages are for the years during which the work has been carried on. It is evident, however, that the averages have been very carefully worked out, and represent more forcibly than any statements heretofore published the cost in the great branches of city government in the cities named. I hope in some future paper to add the cost of the educational work of the cities, and some other features, so as to show the exact expenditures which one has to make for the maintenance of the various branches of city affairs. It must be remembered that the average cost per head of population, as shown in the last table, represents the cost to each man, woman, and child. It must also be remembered that the cost is not paid directly, in
accordance with the items specified, but that to the whole city the cost per capita is as stated. According to all economists, however—and there is no reason to take issue with the proposition—the taxed cost is "borne by every man, woman, and child, either directly or indirectly. It is fair, therefore, to assume that in each of the cities named, for each person there must be paid, either directly, by an assessed tax, or indirectly, through the increased cost of articles of consumption, of rent, etc., the cost specified.
The column for water is not particularly satisfactory, although it is indicative of the actual expense. The census tables show only expense of annual charge for water for an average dwelling, meaning by an average dwelling one that is occupied by one family and not exceeding seven rooms, with one bath-room, including hot and cold water, and one water-closet. If an average dwelling is one occupied by one family, then one fifth of the annual charge for water as given in the census reports would show with reasonable accuracy the charge for each individual, and on this basis the column for water has been constructed.
Looking at the items for each of the fifty cities named in the last table and the total, we easily ascertain what a man receives for the tax which he is obliged to pay directly or indirectly, and also in which city he receives the most for his money, or, rather, where he receives all his protection of police, his use of streets, his protection from fire, etc., for the least expenditure, and the analysis also leaves in each man's mind this question: Could he secure so great a return for his money by any other method of expenditure?
There are a few blanks in the table just given; as, for instance, in New Orleans the expense for the maintenance and repairs of sewers is missing, and this item is also omitted from the reports for Newark, St. Paul, Indianapolis, Toledo, Fall River, Trenton, Los Angeles, Lawrence, Mass., Binghamton, Canton, Taunton, La Crosse, Wis., and Newport, Ky. There are also a few other points missing; as, for instance, the expense of street-cleaning in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Denver, and some other cities. These points, however, comprehend nearly all the omissions, and in so far as they occur the total expense in the cities named is vitiated, although to a very small extent.
Taking the table as it stands, it is seen that Rockford, Ill., offers the most for one's taxes of the smaller cities, it being $4.14 per capita. Camden, N. J., comes next, with $4.22; and Trenton follows, with $4.24. Among the larger cities, those having over 300,000 inhabitants, Baltimore offers the very lowest expense for her great departments of government, the per capita expense for all being $4.66. Brooklyn, N. Y., comes very close, the expense being $4.71, and Philadelphia ranks third as to cheapness of municipal government for the items named, the expense being $4.96. The great city of New York, about which so much is said relative to her expensive government, furnishes the seven items of expense named in the table at $7.05 per capita, being lower than St. Louis, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Cincinnati, or New Orleans, and ranking almost exactly with Washington. The most expensive city on the list is Sioux City, Iowa, and the next is Duluth, Minn., the expense being in the first $23.91 and in the second $23.08; but this great expense is probably due to the extensive construction of streets in a recent period, and therefore the expense of these two cities should not be compared with that of others. Throwing out the cities with abnormal conditions, it is probable that San Francisco is the highest cost city in the list of fifty given in the table, the expense being $11.41 per capita.
The table will be found interesting in many respects, as comparisons can easily be made for one city with another, not only as to total per capita cost, but as to the items enumerated. Looking at the city of New York, for instance, the table means that it would cost a family of five $35.25 per annum for the benefits accruing to it from the use of streets and the cleaning thereof, for public lighting, for the maintenance and repairs of sewers, for police protection, for the protection of the fire department, and for the use of water. No one can object to an expense for a family of five persons no higher than that named for all these great advantages. The working-man with five in his family is not taxed this $35.25 directly, as intimated, but he has to pay it in rent and the cost of his living. Is it an unreasonable addition to his annual expenses? is the question. It does not matter whether the total expense is high or low for all the advantages detailed; the great question is. Could they be furnished as efficiently and as well in every respect for a less sum, with the integrity of all departments preserved? If they could, then a man is entitled to the less expense. If not, he should certainly be entirely satisfied with the great return which he now gets for the money expended.