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Economic Innovation Group

Economic Innovation Group

Many residents of the city of Rochester have been left behind by the economic recovery, according to a report from the Economic Innovation Group. The group looked at seven measurements of a city’s health from 2010 to 2013. Those measurements include adults without a high school degree, income, poverty rate, housing vacancy rate, businesses lost or gained, jobs lost or gained and percentage of adults not working. Distressed cities were given a score, with 100 being the maximum distress level.

In Rochester, most zip codes in the city had a distress score over 90 percent. Consider 14613, which encompasses Maplewood and Edgerton. One out of five adults doesn’t have a high school degree. One out of four homes is vacant. One out of 10 businesses closed. The employment rate fell 9 percent. This zip code is among the 500 most distressed in the entire country. Its distress score is 98.

Go over to 14605, the neighborhood just to the northeast of downtown and you see 60 percent of adults without jobs and half of residents living in poverty. Although employment ticked up 1 percent, incomes remain one-third of the median.

Looking at the map, you see things change dramatically as you cross city lines. The suburbs recovered nicely from the economic downturn. In Brighton, employment increased 11.5 percent. The number of businesses went up 3.5 percent. Residents earn 139 percent of the median income. The poverty rate is 7 percent. Brighton has a distress score of 6.5

In Penfield, employment went up 10.5 percent and the number of businesses increased 5.5 percent. The housing vacancy rate is 3 percent. The community’s distress score is 4.1.

These stark inequalities put Monroe County among the top 20 most unequal counties in the entire country. Erie County is also on this list.

Also of note, Utica is among the country’s 10 most distressed cities and Buffalo is among 10 largest distressed cities. Some rural areas are very distressed, including Albion and Lyons.

The authors of the report write:

“The analysis finds that for those living in distressed zip codes, the years of overall U.S. economic recovery have looked much more like an ongoing downturn. Large swathes of the country are indeed being left behind by economic growth and change. The phenomenon is taking place at many different scales: Well-being diverges between cities and states but even more starkly within cities and at the neighborhood level.”

The New York Times reported:

“It’s almost like you are looking at two different countries,” said Steve Glickman, executive director of the Economic Innovation Group…

“The most prosperous areas have enjoyed rocket-shiplike growth,” said John Lettieri, senior director for policy and strategy at the Economic Innovation Group. “There you are very unlikely to run into someone without a high school diploma, a person living below the poverty line or a vacant house. That is just not part of your experience.”

By contrast, in places the recovery has passed by, things look very different.

Monroe County is trying to tackle these inequities through the anti-poverty initiative. Rochester’s mayor is also exploring worker-owned businesses.

Links of the Day:



Brookings Institution

Brookings Institution


We know Rochester has a high poverty rate. But how much money do the rest of the city’s residents earn?

The Brookings Institution ranks Rochester 475th among U.S. cities on equal distribution. Nearly two-thirds of Rochester households have incomes of $41,109 or less. That compares to 40 percent in the United States.

Rochester comes close to the national rate of households earning between $41,110 and $65,952. The middle income bracket makes up 20 percent in the country and 18.6 percent in Rochester.

Rochester comes up way short on households earning more than $65,952 or more. Nationally, they make up 40 percent of households. In Rochester, they make up 19 percent of households.

What does this tell us? The City of Rochester doesn’t have a large middle class. It also doesn’t have many wealthy people. It’s got a sizable chunk of households – 25 percent –  that earn between $21,433 and $41,109. Many of these households likely have lower-wage workers.

Income distribution has implications for housing, schools, shopping, transportation and more.


Links of the Day:


– A new contract makes Buffalo cops live in city for 7 years.

– Goodbye, Urban Indoor Mall. Hello, Downtown Outlet Center!

– Once seniors are too old to drive, our transportation system totally fails them.

– The aspirational RSVP: Saying you’ll attend when you don’t plan on it.


Credit: City of Rochester

Credit: City of Rochester

An alarming report shows Rochester has a huge number of “disconnected youth.” These are young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are not working and not in school. The report is by Measure of America.

In America, 13.8 percent – one in seven – people in this age group are disconnected. That’s 5.5 million people, equal to the population of Minnesota. Nationwide, 21.6 percent of black and 16.3 percent of Latino youth are disconnected.

In the Rochester metropolitan area, 13.4 percent of youth are disconnected. That’s on par with the national rate. It’s a large number: 21,701 young people. That’s slightly more people than live in the Town of Ogden.

Rochester’s black youth face a very high rate of disconnectedness: 30.8 percent, the third highest rate in the country. That means nearly one of three black young adults are not working and not going to school. The Latino rate is 23 percent. By any measure, this is a crisis.

But Rochester’s white youth are doing much better. Just under 10 percent of white youth are disconnected, compared to  the national rate of 11.3 percent.

Disconnected youth are more likely to live in poverty, drop out of high school, have a disability and have children at a young age.

Here’s why we should care, the authors of the report say:

The costs of disconnection are high, both for individuals and for society. Disconnected youth are cut off from the people, institutions, and experiences that would otherwise help them develop the knowledge, skills, maturity, and sense of purpose required to live rewarding lives as adults. And the negative effects of youth disconnection ricochet across the economy, the social sector, the criminal justice system, and the political landscape, affecting all of us. Our analysis of a very small subset of the direct costs of youth disconnection reveals an astonishingly high cost to taxpayers: $26.8 billion in 2013 alone, or nearly the entire amount the federal government spends on science.

This is a problem affecting all of us.


Links of the Day:


– This makes me sad. Sunday hours are going away at the Central Library. No Rochester branch will be open on Sundays.

– Did state budget cuts contribute to the inmate escape?

– Police often blame suspects’ deaths on “excited delirium.” Is that a diagnosis or a cover-up?

– A Florida city finds red light cameras don’t make people safer.

– Technology to prevent drivers from starting their cars when they’ve been drinking could become standard in the future.


Tweet of the Day:


star leaf stripe sky (Large)-L

Credit: City of Rochester


A new study shows racial income and employment gaps hurt all of us.

PolicyLink‘s report indicates metro areas could add billions of dollars to their economies if people of color earned the average wages of white people.

In Rochester, 22 percent of the population was made up of racial minorities in 2010. Our GDP would go up 9 percent – about $4 billion if inequality was reduced. In Rochester, most of the racial income gap is due to unemployment – 66 percent, meaning minorities have higher jobless rates. The rest is due to wage differences, meaning minorities earn less money.

Why is this happening? PolicyLink says:

Lack of access to high-quality education at all levels, from preK to college, accounts for a large portion of differences in employment and income by race, but does not fully explain the gap. Broader economic trends—a dearth of job opportunities overall, fewer “middle-skill” jobs that offer path ways to good careers for people without four-year college degrees, and stagnant and declining wages in the growing low-wage sector where people of color are overrepresented—play a role. Racial discrimination in hiring, promotions, and wages, and barriers to employment related to immigration status, criminal records, and lack of reliable transportation factor in as well.

What do we do now? PolicyLink has some suggestions:

1. Create new good jobs.

2. Raise the floor on low-wage work.

3. Strengthen schools and job training programs.

The authors say focusing on this issue is imperative, as people of color will make up the majority of the population in the United State in the coming years. Focusing on inequality could help everyone.


Help Me Reach My Goal – And Help Women In Need!


I’m the honorary chairperson of an event Sunday that will help women and girls climb out of poverty and be economically self-sufficient. The Women’s Foundation of the Genesee Valley is holding its first 5k and Walk. The Women’s Foundation gives grants to groups that provide job training, financial literacy classes and other kinds of support to help women get on their feet – and stay there. Thanks to readers of this blog, I’m not too far from my goal of raising $1,000. Will you consider even a small donation of $5? Thank you!


Links of the Day:


– Compensation has shrunk for all income groups, except at the very highest levels, writes Brighton’s David Cay Johnston.

– Cars remain king – and a barrier to economic opportunity.

– Developers keep building in Victor, even though the Rochester region’s population is not growing. This is sprawl with no growth.

– Rochester will not be getting its own billion under Cuomo.

– The sometimes strange relationship between the Clintons and the Cuomos.

– A girl scalded by coffee at a Buffalo Denny’s won a $500,000 settlement.

– “It comes down to Pittsford not wanting tattooed people in their town.”









As the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Rochester race riot approaches, there will be many news stories and events reflecting on what happened. Here’s a summary from the Monroe County library website:

Rochester, New York, is a city known for its tolerance and forward thinking concerning the civil rights of all individuals. In the 1800s, leaders such as Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony championed the rights of African Americans and women from the environs of our town, setting the stage for the twentieth century. Yet despite efforts for social justice, persistent discrimination in areas like employment and housing institutionalized inequality in the city and throughout the nation. Racial tension between African Americans and whites mounted in many urban areas, sometimes culminating in full-scale riots like those that gripped Rochester in July 1964. 

Rochester’s race riots began the night of July 24, 1964, at a street dance held on Nassau Street between Joseph Avenue and Joiner Street. City policemen with dogs arrested a young man, eliciting protest from onlookers. The situation escalated and by 3 o’clock the following morning the city had declared a state of emergency. While most of the violence, looting, and vandalism affected the city’s northeast neighborhood in the 7th Ward, sporadic rioting also broke out in the 3rd Ward southwest of downtown and spread to the 5th Ward around Central Park. State police and, later, the National Guard joined city and county efforts to quell the unrest. On July 26, law enforcement brought the rioting under control. By August 3, the Guard and state police had withdrawn and city police returned to normal operations. 

In addition to the debris and property damage left in the wake of the riots, hundreds of people were arrested. Five people were killed; four of the deaths resulted from a helicopter crash near Clarissa Street. From this upheaval grew community organizations such as the Urban League of Rochester and FIGHT (Freedom, Independence, God, Honor, Today), which advocated for change in hiring practices, urban renewal, and additional measures for equality and set the agenda for other northeast cities as well. 

Click here for a timeline of the riot.

Fifty years later, inequality persists. Our schools and neighborhoods are segregated by race and income. Some city ZIP codes have enormously high poverty and unemployment rates. Young black men have a higher chance of dropping out of school, becoming victims of homicides and going to prison. Suburban flight, the drug war and  a lagging economy have exacerbated the problems of the very neighborhoods were the riot took place.

Could such a riot happen again?

Despite the entrenched problems in poor neighborhoods, there has been a lot of progress in diversifying the police force and City Hall over the past half-century. There are strong neighborhood groups with a voice at City Hall, even in poor sections of the city. There are many agencies working hard to lift people out of poverty, provide more opportunities, keep an open dialogue and hold governments accountable. People of color now make up a majority of city residents.

Yet, a recent survey found more than half of non-white residents and residents of northeast Rochester, where the 1964 riot started, do not trust police. Also, the bleak statistics of life in challenged neighborhoods suggests many residents are as disenfranchised as residents were fifty years ago. Could that translate into a riot, or as Minister Franklin Florence calls it, a “rebellion?”

I don’t know.

(Click here to see a number of events marking the anniversary.)


Links of the Day:


– Whatever Congel and Golisano were planning in regards to the Bills, they’re not anymore. At least not together.

– Check out where Cuomo spends most of his time. (He went to Syracuse more than Rochester…)

– Buffalo will start ticketing Lyft drivers. (Rochester is taking a wait and see attitude.)

– Horrific violence fueled by drug trade threatens children of Honduras.

– There are states where you technically can’t hold public office if you’re an atheist.

– B.B. King struggled at the Syracuse Jazz Fest, but no one cared.


Tweet of the Day:


Credit: City of Rochester

Credit: City of Rochester


Rochester area blacks and Hispanics are lagging behind whites in employment and income, with Hispanics faring slightly better than blacks. That’s according to the National Urban League’s annual State of Black America 2014 report.

Rochester ranked 59th of 77 metropolitan areas on black and white unemployment. Rochester has 18 percent black unemployment versus 6.9 percent white unemployment. 

Rochester ranked 64 out of 77 metros on black and white median household income. Black households earn $27,210. White households earn more than twice as much –  $55,002.

On Hispanic and white unemployment, Rochester ranked 77th out of 83 metros. Hispanic unemployment is 14.5 percent, compared to 6.9 percent white unemployment.

Rochester ranked 71st out of 83 metros on Hispanic and white income equality, with Hispanic households earning $30,486 compared to $55,002 for white households.

Nationally, black unemployment is 13.1 percent and Hispanic unemployment is 9.1 percent, compared to 6.5 percent for whites.

Here in the United States, our story is rife with examples indicating that despite being fve years out of the Great Recession, we have yet to realize a great recovery. Instead, what we see emerging is indisputable clarity of what I refer to as “The Great Divide.” Whether it is termed income inequality, loss of social mobility, the eroding middle class or opportunity inequality, at its core is a great divide between the people who have homes, secure jobs, savings and retirement and the people who have only some—or worse yet, none—of these.

– Marc H. Morial, President & CEO of National Urban League


Links of the Day:


– Segregation in Buffalo schools has returned to 1970s levels.

– Rochester area schools are hiring more social workers, as children come to school with more and more problems related to poverty.

– Albany immigrants are increasingly settling in the suburbs. (Also true in Rochester.)

– Turning a Catholic church in Syracuse into a mosque has been controversial.

– Who’s on the short list to buy the Buffalo Bills? A man most Rochesterians have never heard of.

– A man is opening an egg factory in Ohio. He has good-paying jobs available. He can’t find people to fill them.


Tweets of the Day: