The Local Outlines of Inequality

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Erika RosenbergWe know the pandemic is impacting people and communities unequally. What does that look like in Rochester?

Based on an inquiry from the United Way of Greater Rochester and our community’s Systems Integration initiative, CGR mapped Census data correlated with economic risk linked to the outbreak. Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School developed and analyzed estimates of households and communities most at risk of job loss. The authors found the people and communities most vulnerable based on their occupation are the same we already know to be struggling – neighborhoods that are low-income, have a high share of renters rather than homeowners, and higher shares of residents of color. Read more »

Reflecting on 105 Years of Service to Communities

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Erika RosenbergCGR celebrates our 105th birthday today, having been incorporated under our prior name, the Bureau of Municipal Research, on April 20, 1915. 105 years of longevity has a special meaning today, when a global pandemic is wreaking havoc in many communities, taking lives across the world, and altering daily life for all of us.

It’s a time when survival is not guaranteed, but there have been other such times in CGR’s history — as there have been in the history of many of our other Eastman-era institutions, from the United Way of Greater Rochester to the Eastman School of Music to the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

Consider this introduction to a summary of part of our organization’s activities in just its third year of existence – 1918. Read more »

COVID-19: What will it mean for local communities once the immediate crisis has passed?

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Erika RosenbergThe COVID-19 crisis has confronted diverse communities across the country with similar challenges: treating and tracking the sick, making decisions to protect those who appear well as well as health care workers, and taking all possible steps to preserve the functioning of the local health care system.

But once the crisis has passed, what questions will local communities be asking? How might it change how we think about the challenges we were confronting, and new ones that emerge? Read more »

Essex County Uses Data to Take Action on Income Inequality

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Erika RosenbergEssex County, MA is just north of Boston and home to some very rich and very poor communities. The median household income in Boxford, for example, tops $155,000, while the median in Lawrence is less than $40,000.

The countywide median of $73,500 is nearly 30% higher than the national median, which is why many people think of Essex County as a well-off place.

But the Essex County Community Foundation knows better. That’s one of the reasons it turned to CGR to create a community indicators project that would serve as an open clearinghouse of trusted data and analysis about the community.

Now the Foundation is using that project – aptly named Impact Essex County – to take action in the community to close income gaps. The Foundation is investing $1.3 million over the next three years in a project called Empowering Economic Opportunity aimed at uncovering and addressing the root causes of income inequality.

Read more »

Gov to Governments: Keep Cutting

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Erika RosenbergThis piece first appeared in Mid-Hudson Valley Community Profiles Viewpoints section.

New York State’s local governments were shielded from the fallout of the Great Recession but did not escape unscathed: Though federal stimulus funds postponed the pain, county government spending across the state and in the Mid-Hudson Valley has now been flat or declining for at least two years. Yet governments are under continuing pressure to find efficiencies. Read more »

Financial Viability of Public Nursing Homes: NY Isn’t Only State Struggling

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Erika Rosenberg New York isn’t alone in struggling with the financial viability of its public nursing homes. Across the country, public nursing home operators are weighing their options in an era of diminishing state and federal reimbursement. Many counties, especially those in the Northeast, are choosing to sell, or contract out management of the homes, in order to stem financial losses.

In New York, 92% of homes had operating deficits in 2010, as CGR detailed in our in-depth report, The Future of County Nursing Homes in New York State. Financial pressures have led 8 of the 33 remaining counties with homes to decide to sell them, and another 5 to actively consider it. If all those potential sales actually occurred, New York would be left with 20 counties with nursing homes, down from 40 just 15 years ago.

From 2005 to 2009, half of states had declines in the number of public nursing homes, compared to 28% that had increases (more recent data aren’t yet available).

Read more »

The Long View on Student Testing: Ups and Downs, but Achievement Gap Persists

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Erika RosenbergSummer’s finally here, but just weeks ago students in schools across New York completed state tests that carry bigger stakes than ever before. This is the first year that test scores will feed into teacher evaluations, and with the tests now aligned with the new Common Core curriculum, many observers believe passing rates will decline.

The push-back against testing and increased accountability has grown, and it’s easy to see why. Students, families and schools have seen passing rates decline, felt more pressure to increase performance and wondered whether testing now gets too big a space in education. It’s worth revisiting why and how these changes came about, and examining the long-term trend in performance.

Read more »

Promoting Healthy Births – The Challenge of Expanding Early Care

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Erika RosenbergPremature childbirth increases the risk of death or a lifetime of disability and nearly always drives up cost. Early care for expectant mothers can help increase the chances of a healthy, full-term pregnancy. Now that the Supreme Court had upheld national health reform and its mandate to carry health insurance, we might hope to see more expectant mothers receiving care early in their pregnancies. Studies suggest that access to health insurance isn’t the only factor, however.

The nation had set a goal for 2010: 90% of pregnant women getting care in the first trimester of pregnancy. In New York and in the Rochester area, we’re not close: in 2010, 79% of mothers in our region started prenatal care that early, higher than the state rate of 73% but largely unchanged over the past decade.[1] Generally speaking, rates of early access to prenatal care haven’t changed much over the past decade, and neither have rates of problems that prenatal care helps prevent, such as low birth weight. Even more troubling, low-income and minority women tend to be less likely to start care early, another stubborn pattern. Read more »

Grad Rates Rise Despite Tougher Standards

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Erika RosenbergNew York State has been working to make a high school diploma meaningful for most of the past two decades, and the work continues. Since a push toward higher standards began in the mid-1990s, the state tightened graduation requirements twice: first requiring all students to pass 5 Regents exams, then increasing the minimum score to pass from 55 to 65.

Many feared graduation rates would plummet, but recently released data showed they’ve mostly held steady or increased. In the last five years, as the 65 minimum score was applied to more and more tests, the statewide graduation rate increased from 69% to 74%. New York City gained 8 points, rising from 53% to 61%, and the combined rate for students of the 4 next largest cities (Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers) also increased from 47% to 53%. Rochester’s performance remained the lowest of the five, with a graduation rate of 46% in 2011.

At the same time, the federal government has gotten tougher about how states are to calculate graduation rates. Starting with the class of 2010, schools had to include every student in their building for even one day in their graduation cohort – the previous threshold had been 5 months. That means schools are held accountable for those students – those who moved or transferred don’t count against them, but missing students are considered dropouts. Read more »

Redistricting Reform in NY – Maybe in 2022?

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Erika RosenbergState lawmakers pulled a neat trick when it came to redrawing the boundary lines of their districts: Though 138 of them (out of 212) signed pledges while running for re-election in 2010 to support redistricting reform, they instead used the usual process under their own control, while promising to do different in 2022. Ten years from now.

It’s not all that surprising, given the political realities: Senate Republicans depend upon redistricting and other elements of the political status quo to maintain control of the chamber despite having less than a quarter of all registered voters enrolled in their party. Assembly Democrats have been all too happy to respect their “gentlemen’s agreement” with the Senate Republicans to each draw the lines in their respective houses. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who also promised to support independent redistricting, had other priorities. And voters, well, we don’t care enough about this once-a-decade process of truing up legislative boundary lines to population changes measured by the decennial census to scare the lawmakers into giving up control of it. Read more »