ACT Rochester released its 2018 Community Report Card for the nine-county region.
More than 250 people representing government, business, nonprofit, faith-based and education sectors, along with sixth-graders from Genesee Community Charter School in Rochester, recently were challenged to combine data with stories to support their learning and decision-making.
Ann Johnson, senior director of ACT Rochester, opened the 90-minute session by recognizing the release of Hard Facts: Race and Ethnicity in the Nine-county Area, a joint report of Rochester Area Community Foundation and ACT Rochester.
She also announced the addition of data for regional cities — Batavia, Canandaigua and Geneva — to ACT’s website. The regional cities data, a subset of the county indicators, covers demographics and income, housing, children and youth, education and crime. The Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Rochester funded the project.
Johnson provided an overview of the nine-county regional report card. She said only three of the 18 grades changed since last year. Education, which previously had performed better than the state, is now slightly worse. The indicators driving the change were English exam results for fourth and eighth grades. The rate of children receiving public assistance decreased from 2015. Health trends that saw improvement last year remain unchanged.
The report card highlights focused on several key indicators. Johnson started by asking, “What if our voter participation rate was higher, earned income tax credit dollars, charitable giving as a percent of income were equal to the state’s and our employment-to-population ratio had increased instead of decreasing since 2007?”
In 2016, a presidential election year, 58 percent of residents in the region voted, while statewide turnout was 50 percent. Between 78 percent and 85 percent of the region’s voting age population has been registered to vote since 2000, consistently higher than statewide rates.
In 2015, payments from the earned income tax credit amounted to $179 per resident in the region, a 5 percent increase from 2011. This is substantially lower than statewide ($218) and national ($215) figures. Assuming 10,000 low-income residents accessed the same payment amount as the state, the $26 difference could bring an additional $230,000 to area residents and communities.
Charitable giving supports various organizations, including those that provide essential services to the community and people in need. In 2015, residents in the region gave 1.9 percent of their income as charitable contributions, below the levels for the state (2.4 percent) and nation (2.2 percent).
The employment-to-population ratio is an indicator of people’s willingness and ability to find work. The ratio for the region was 73 percent in 2016, decreasing from 78 percent in 2000. In a period of rapid economic growth, a larger share of the population — including teens, second earners in a family and elders — will be enticed into the workforce.
From 2000 to 2016, the total population of the nine-county Rochester region grew 1.1 percent, with just over 1.2 million residents calling the area home in 2016. This compares to growth of 4 percent statewide and 15 percent across the country. The city of Rochester had a population decline of 5 percent since 2000.
The nine-county Rochester region became increasingly diverse. Between 2000 and 2012-16, the greatest increase (57 percent) occurred in the group identifying as Hispanic. Growth over that time was substantial among the Asian (51 percent) and African-American (12 percent) populations, in contrast to a 1 percent decline in the white population.
Audience members viewed infographics while members of ACT Rochester’s advisory committee performed several scenarios.
“ACT Rochester has led the way in raising our awareness about the critical issues affecting our community, including the complex interrelationship of race and poverty,” said Simeon Banister, interim vice president of community programs at The Community Foundation. “I am excited about this new approach to reporting that combines compelling narrative with undeniable data to drive the point home that to solve our challenges it’s time for us to act.”
Audience members, seated at tables of 10, were asked to discuss and provide insights from the personal reflections/experiences shared by members of the ACT Rochester advisory committee, as well as how they will be able to combine the use of data and stories to inform their decision-making.
“The massive data available on ACT Rochester, coupled with compelling stories, can bring out of hiding community issues in such a way that they can no longer be ignored,” said Tom Argust, chairman of the ACT Rochester advisory committee.
Overall, the report card shows that the region is doing as well or better than the state in five of nine areas: children, community engagement, the economy, financial self-sufficiency and housing. The region is performing slightly worse in education. Areas in which the region trails the state by 10 percent or more include the arts, health and public safety.
Data for indicators in the report card are from different years, ranging from 2014 to 2017. Compiled by the Center for Governmental Research, data is updated three times a year and only when information from authoritative sources is final.
County-level report cards are available for each of the nine counties, as well as comparison data for the four cities in the nine-county region. Visit actrochester.org for information.