Essex County Uses Data to Take Action on Income Inequality

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

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.

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CGR Study Maps Food Resources and Examines Barriers

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Alice CarleTo help meet people’s nutritional needs, 150 organizations operate 195 program sites – providing on-site meals, or delivered meals, or food pantries – in Northwest Arkansas. Yet, access for the estimated 58,000 food insecure residents of Benton and Washington counties remains a problem.

CGR was engaged by the Walmart Foundation to help answer the question of why. We gathered, analyzed and mapped relevant data, interviewed stakeholders and partnered with a collaborative in the region to conduct 24 focus groups with food providers and program recipients.

Food insecurity is a bit distinct from hunger, in that it can refer not only to people lacking adequate food, but also people lacking access at certain times, or whose access to nutritiously adequate food is uncertain.[1] While it affects primarily low-income people, it can hit a broader range of households with job or income insecurity. College students are one group increasingly affected, because of ballooning college costs, inadequate financial aid, and growing enrollment of low-income and first-generation students. Read more »

“Eds and Meds” as Economic Drivers in NYS

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Mike SilvaEducation and healthcare are major sectors in New York State’s economy. The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates 20% of all jobs and 15% of total income statewide are generated by these two sectors.

CGR recently concluded our economic impact analysis of New York State’s independent colleges and universities sector, the eighth in an annual series. The sector’s 100+ private, not-for-profit higher education institutions are spread across the state, and collectively contribute approximately $88.8 billion to New York’s economy. Our study breaks this impact into three categories. Read more »

The “Yield Curve” Makes Forecasters Tremble

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Kent GardnerThe yield curve compares interest rates charged on long term and short term bonds—typically, 10 year v. 2 year U.S. Government treasuries. When the 10 year rate is lower than the 2 year rate, the yield curve is said to be “inverted” and may be “predicting” a recession.

The yield curve is nothing but a sophisticated investor confidence survey—if investors expect inflation will rise, then they will demand a higher yield (or interest rate) for longer maturity bonds. 

Some of you may remember the TV series, Early Edition. Every morning the protagonist found tomorrow’s newspaper outside his door. Blessed (or cursed) by knowledge of the future, he spent the rest of the episode trying to fix things.

Suppose you found the Wall Street Journal from 2028 on your doorstep or in your email’s inbox and learned that inflation, 2% today, had risen steadily to 5%. To compensate for the loss in inflation-adjusted yield (the interest rate minus inflation), you would demand a higher interest rate for bonds with longer maturities.

On the flip side, if your “early edition” of the WSJ showed inflation to have stayed the same or fallen, you’d be willing to accept a lower yield (rate of interest). Read more »

Autonomous Vehicles: The Revolution is Upon Us

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Kent Gardner“it’s unlikely that any on-road vehicles will feature “fully autonomous” drive technology in the short term (for instance, by 2020–22)”

McKinsey, June 2015

Possibly jealousy of its eye-watering fees, I enjoy seeing McKinsey proved wrong. All of punditry has been caught off-guard by the neck-snapping acceleration of autonomous vehicle (AV) adoption.

Uber made the headlines last year when it unleashed a fleet of self-driving taxis in Pittsburgh. The Regulatory Capital of America, the State of California, approved true driverless AVs in April, joining a number of other states, all eager to become the center of a new industry. While Uber’s expansion has been stalled by a fatal accident in Tempe, Arizona, the level of investment in AVs across a number of firms is very significant. The apparent industry leader, Google-spinout Waymo, reports 7 million miles of impressive performance. The question is no longer “if autonomous vehicles?” but “when?” Read more »

RIP, Obamacare

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff.

Kent Gardner We stand watch at Obamacare’s bedside, filled with uncertainty about the timing of its demise and what will follow. There are good deaths and bad deaths—good ones are peaceful and offer time for reflection and fond farewells. Bad deaths are filled with misery and leave behind discord, estrangement and confusion.

Born of compromise

Although the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed without Republican support, it did not emerge full grown from the head of Obama. Unlike the Clinton Health Care Reform, the Obama Administration consulted with and received the support (mostly) of the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Society, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Consumers Union, and many other interested parties. The Obama Administration did not want to resurrect the AHIP-funded Harry & Louise ads that doomed the 1993 Clinton plan. Born of compromise, ACA was a frail child.

Each of the interested parties got something in exchange for their political support. AHIP won the personal and employer coverage mandate and dodged the “Medicare for All” public option. AHA, courtesy of the “out of pocket maximum,” hoped for fewer bankruptcy-driven write-offs. PhRMA escaped negotiated drug prices. AMA’s support bought a long list of free preventative services, like annual physicals and screenings. Consumers advocates won community rating coupled with an end to “pre-existing condition” exclusions.

Rejecting the “single payer” models of the United Kingdom and Canada, the ACA retained private insurance and provider markets, imitating the health care systems of many of our trading partners, e.g. Germany, France, Japan and Switzerland. While private, the payers and providers in these countries are subject to comprehensive price regulation. Read more »

The High Cost of Dying

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerMy mother died in October at age 92. It has yet to become real to me—I reached for my phone to tell her how lovely her funeral had been. I’m sorry she missed it. One of my browser’s home pages remains set to our ongoing Scrabble game on Facebook. She’s winning. And always will be.

A child of the Depression, she’d tucked a newspaper clipping tucked into her papers that suggested ways to cut the cost of a funeral. When my sister & I sat down with the funeral director, I handed him the clipping and said, “We’re under orders!”

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Rochester: “City of the Arts”

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent Gardner Question: Which city has the largest concentration of professional musicians in the nation? If you guessed Nashville, you’d be right.

But Rochester’s in second place. Among all metro areas with at least half a million employed, Rochester leads San Francisco and Portland, both recognized for their music scene.

And Austin—“The Live Music Capital of the World”—clocks in at #16. Musicians may flock to Austin for SXSW and Austin City Limits, but many of them live right here.

Many of the nation’s professional musicians learned their trade right here, too. Among roughly the same group of large metros, Rochester colleges and universities graduate more musicians per capita than anyplace but Boston.

Much of the credit goes to the Eastman School of Music, routinely ranked one of the globe’s top music schools. In addition to frequent performances by faculty luminaries like the Ying Quartet and lutenist Paul O’Dette, Eastman’s three principal venues bring the best musicians in the world to our ears. But the spillover from Eastman’s riches is vast. The Hochstein School of Music & Dance is the largest community music school in the nation (for a comparably-sized city). Read more »

New Evidence on Minimum Wage Hike

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent GardnerIn November 2015, I wrote a column titled, “$15 Minimum Wage is Uncharted Territory,” discussing New York’s minimum wage law and speculating on its effects. Given how early we are in the process, however, we know very little currently. New York is not the first jurisdiction to attempt to address low wages legislatively, however. We’re now receiving reports from the territorial explorers in Seattle. And the news, while unsurprising, is disappointing to those who hope to help low wage workers by passing a higher minimum wage.

Low and stagnant incomes at the bottom of the income distribution and the growing gap between high and low wage workers are serious problems for families with low incomes and for the economy. These trends are also potentially destabilizing for society. Read more »

Bearing One Another’s Burdens: The Challenge of Health Insurance (Part 1)

Posted by & filed under CGR Staff, Rochester Business Journal.

Kent Gardner“Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Asked of Jesus by the religious authorities of the day, this question haunts many conversations about social welfare and health policy. Self-reliance—that people should “get what they earn”—is embedded in America’s cultural mythology. In some subtle way, people in poor health must be responsible for their condition and simply have to pay when illness strikes.

This is the moral question underlying health policy: Who should bear the cost of caring for the sick? That we are neither wholly blameless or nor wholly guilty for the state of our health is the Gordian knot we labor in vain to untie. We know that smoking often causes lung cancer and obesity can trigger diabetes. But not all lung cancer comes from smoking and diabetes has other triggers. We’re not willing to deny care to victims of either disease. We admire self-reliance but also sense the injustice in “blaming the victim” for diseases and conditions that have no known link to personal decisions (and some that do). As the Republican Congress and the Trump Administration seek to unwind Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), this “who pays?” question takes center stage. Read more »