Finger Lakes region struggles in key areas, per ACT Rochester report

ACT Rochester released compelling new data evaluating some of the long-term trends in counties and cities throughout the Finger Lakes.

The Report Card looks at everything from socio-economic factors — to ultra-specific population data-points that may get lost in the grind of daily governing. The data was collected in an effort to give elected leaders throughout the Finger Lakes better data to base decisions.

Tom Argust, chair of the ACT Rochester Advisory Committee, reminded added “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.”

Overall, the Report Card shows that our region is doing as well or better than New York State in five of nine areas: Children, Community Engagement, the Economy, Financial Self-Sufficiency and Housing. Our region is performing slightly worse than the state in Education. Areas in which our region trails the state by 10% 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.

“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,” explained Simeon Banister, interim vice president, 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 its time for us to … ACT!”

Highlights from the Report

Voter Registration and Participation: In 2016, 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. That number is consistently higher than statewide rates.

Earned Income Tax Credit: In 2015, payments from the EITC amounted to $179 per resident in the region — a 5 percent increase from 2011. This is substantially lower than statewide and national figures, which both are above $215. Assuming 10,000 low-income residents accessed the same payment amount as the state, the $26 difference could bring an additional $230,0000 to our residents and communities.

Charitable Contributions as a Percent of Income: Charitable giving supports a wide variety of 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 — which sit at 2.4 percent — as well as the national average. This indicator provides insight as to residents’ generosity and capacity for potentially more giving, according to the report.

Employment-to-Population Ratio: The ratio is an indicator of the people’s willingness and ability to find work. The employment-to-population 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 will be enticed into the workforce.

Total Population: From 2000 to 2016 the total population of the nine-county Rochester region grew 1.1 percent — with just over 1.2 million residents call the area home in 2016. This compares to growth of 4 percent statewide and 15 percent across the country.

Change in Total Population by Race/Ethnicity Since 2000: The nine-county region has become increasingly diverse. Between 2000 and 2012-16 — the greatest increase occurred in a group identifying as Hispanic. Growth over that time also was substantial among the Asian and African American populations. In contrast, there was a 1 percent decline in the white population over that same period.

How do counties stack up in the Finger Lakes?

The County Report Card evaluated the region specifically on the following categories:

  • Arts, Culture & Leisure
  • Children & Youth
  • Community Engagement
  • Economy
  • Education
  • Financial Self-Sufficiency
  • Health
  • Housing
  • Public Safety

It compared each county in the nine-county region on those area — as compared to regional and state trends.

Some of the trouble spots on the report card were as follows:

  • Yates County was classified as “Worse than NYS by 10% or more” in three categories. Community Engagement, Education, and Financial-Self Sufficiency were struggles. They county was also listed as “Up to 10% worse than NYS” in the category of Arts, Culture and Leisure.
  • Seneca County was classified as “Worse than NYS by 10% or more” in Arts, Culture and Public Safety — while they were classified as “Up to 10% worse than NYS” in Community Engagement and Financial Self-Sufficiency.
  • Wayne County’s only negative mark was in the Arts, Culture and Leisure Category.
  • Ontario County struggled with Community Engagement — being classified as “Up to 10% worse than NYS.”

The Report Card evaluated the long-term trend on these items as well, which can be viewed below.