Systems Science

Some Thoughts on Systems

By Matt Johnson

We’ve spent some time talking about elements of systems, but what do we mean by the elements of system? And what are they?

Well, we’ve discussed the foreclosure rates, condemned and vacant buildings (CVBs), the median household incomes, and unemployment rates in North and South Minneapolis, and Minneapolis in general. These are elements of the system of Minneapolis. But more¬†importantly, these are, as this systems scientist believes, the most important elements in the system that have been identified thus far and as of this writing. This is because they play a significant role in the lives of residents (please note that I am a scientist, so I open to changing my mind as the data is presented to me).

And what have we learned from these elements? Well in the case of the 4th Ward, specifically 55412, we’ve learned that the foreclosures rates are higher relative to the rest of the city except when compared to the 55411. 55412 also has a higher than average population of “black” residents, it has a lower than average level of median household income, the education level is lower than average when compared to the rest of the city, and the unemployment rate is higher than average. According to City Data, the unemployment rate was 16 percent in 2013, only second to the 55411’s 21.9 percent.

In contrast, these elements look very different in other parts of the city. As we have learned from the data, the 2nd Ward in Southeast Minneapolis and the 10th Ward in Southwest Minneapolis have much lower foreclosure numbers and percentages than Wards 4 and 5 in North Minneapolis. These areas are also mostly populated by “white” residents and have higher levels of education. In the case of the 2nd Ward, there is an anomaly. The zip code 55455 is in the 2nd Ward and it has an unemployment level of more than 33 percent. But it also has a poverty level of less than 1 percent. What the…???

This is because this is one of the zip codes for the University of Minnesota. They are students my dear Watson. And yes, we should expect that type of rate with a large population of students, which is why we throw it out as an anomaly.

The element of the median household income also looks different in the 55406 and 55419 in South Minneapolis. In 2013, almost 40 percent of households in the 55406 had a median household income greater than $75 thousand and just under 60 percent of the households in the 55419 had a median household income greater than $75 thousand.

In that same year, less than 25 percent of households in the 55412 had a median household income greater than $75 thousand and a bit more than 16 percent of the households in the 55411 had a median household income greater than $75 thousand. Obviously the median household income element shows different faces in different wards and zip codes.

We’ve taken our first step in understanding systems. To recap, we know what the primary elements of the system are for this particular system and we know that they show different faces in different parts of the system. We must also understand that they perpetuate different interactions with other elements of the system, which gives rise to the purpose of this particular system. but that is another discussion for another day.

We are indeed moving towards a greater understanding of systems and Urban Dynamics my dear readers.

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