It’s not all about money, Bankoh economist says
Harrumph. That was not a quote, but the sentiment from Paul Brewbaker, Bank of Hawaii economist, to news that Plano, Texas, is the No. 1 U.S. city in which to build personal wealth and that Honolulu is the fourth-worst.
Yesterday's column was about a ranking by Massachusetts-based Salary.com Inc. based on income, cost of living, unemployment and other factors.
Brewbaker was tied up at a conference, unable to immediately reply to TheBuzz's request for input on Monday.
Far from a being an egghead-ish, boring presenter of numbers and facts, Brewbaker could likely have been a successful comedian. A steady gig in banking was probably more palatable to his family.
His responses came in short, medium and long versions, because he knows we media types can have short attention spans.
"Plano, that rhymes with Drano," ... I rest my case," was first.
Next: "Given the choice, why would you live in New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Honolulu, or San Francisco, when you could live in Plano, Texas? Now I rest my case."
The Salary.com report proves "your mom, grandmother, teacher, ex-partner, therapist, yoga instructor, mixed martial arts sensei, and mullah all were correct, that there is more to life than your salary and wealth accumulation," he said.
People consider many factors in deciding where to live and Brewbaker gave Salary.com a modicum of credit for trying to quantify some of them.
However, "an economist looking at their results might well say, 'and from optimization of what objective function did you derive these weights?' but such an economist would be guilty of using jargon," he said.
He kindly offered a jargon-free way to view the report. "Your mileage may vary, depending upon what you think is and isn't important."
Salary.com's top-ranked cities enjoy the largest gaps between incomes and living expenses while low-ranking metros' gaps are narrow.
Brewbaker referenced a heady economic principle known as Granger Causality, research into which caused your columnist's head to explode.
"A problem with these analyses is that they lead radio talk show pundits to assert and politicians to advocate, that by making things different they could engineer higher Hawaii incomes and lower Hawaii living costs," Brewbaker said.
"Their logic is that Hawaii is an undesirable place in which to live because of the narrow gap," and that widening the gap would make it desirable.
It is not Honolulu's undesirability, but its desirability as a domicile that drives part of the price of paradise. Cultural and environmental attributes are reasons we accept lower wages and higher living costs, he said.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org