Toward improving well-being in New York counties: trends in major social indicators
CALS Impact Statement
This program applies Abraham Lincoln`s principle, "If we would first know where we are and whither we are tending, then we could better tell what to do and how to do it," to New York`s counties as delineated in my 250-page book, Socioeconomic Trends and Well-Being Indicators in New York State, 1950-2000 (published by the NYS Legislative Committee on Rural Resources). Programs cover trends on nearly 50 indicators for individual counties in PowerPoint presentations to county leaders brought together by Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) or other organizations inviting me to present to them. The trend indicators cover counties` demography, employment (by industries), education, income, poverty, housing, family, health, and political indicators.
The project is the outcome of my collaboration with Ronald Brach, executive director of the NYS Legislative Commission on Rural Resources (LCRR). He asked me to write the book Socioeconomic Trends and Well-Being Indicators in New York State, 1950-2000, and from data organized for and appended in the book, my assistants and I customize findings for individual counties. I contacted CCE staff about the opportunities for using these materials in their counties, and from there various contacts were generated for the 14 programs in the counties. Community leaders are much concerned with what is happening in their counties, as a prelude to formulating local strategies for resolving the issues raised in my presentations. Since the data are taken from "official sources," various national or state censuses, they become increasingly important for local policymakers. Since the program covers trends on key socioeconomic, demographic, family, health, and political indicators, organized over time, which is seldom available elsewhere, local leaders find the program very informative. The LCRR and Cornell's Community and Rural Development Institute (CaRDI) are now using these data as part of their "Listening Sessions," a program focusing on generating strategies for responding effectively to many of these trends.
The 14 workshops presented around the state in 2005 (and the dozen in 2004) focused on the first two parts of Lincoln's dictum, "Where we are [on social indicators' trends] and whither we are tending." The collaboration of CaRDI and LCRR have just this year (2006) started holding seven "Listening Sessions" around the state on "Where we want to go and how to get there" (the last two of Lincoln's dictum). Invitations to these seven sessions, covering seven to eight counties in each session (thus covering all 44 non-metropolitan counties in the state by the end), were sent to elected and appointed officials in each county. In the three sessions thus far, an average of 60 officials have attended, and they have taken their tasks very seriously and impressively, producing some very good local and/or state policy strategies. The sessions are on seven themes that overlap with the booklet I have prepared for them (from my 2004 data published by the LCRR, customized for each county in a session), and the discussions have been led by CCE or CaRDI staff, with careful notes being taken on them. I, and others, will be working with graduate students to summarize at least some of the themes across these seven sessions, in order to focus possible strategies for resolving certain issues to be presented to the LCRR staff and assembly and senate members for further consideration.
At best in using outcomes from disseminating social trends research, any impact is causally always relative; a great many factors always play in decision making for strategic interventions, some having more impact than others. To determine those having significant impacts requires a complex research project of its own, and such projects usually have little chance to be funded. Still, to specify and disseminate social indicators trends, undertaken last year, brings greater focus to local and state leaders regarding collective social issues such as poverty, family disruption, births to single mothers, as well as slow employment growth overall and economic structural changes whereby certain industries were in sharp decline (numbers employed in manufacturing and retail-wholesale trades) and others sharply growing (health-care, communications, and professional-scientific). This trends focus did elicit responses by CaRDI and LCRR this year (2006) to seek ways for policymakers to respond more effectively, such as in the Listening Sessions. What benefits will accrue to groups and individuals? The possibilities could be pervasive and huge, such as through increased emphases and resources from state and local policies on education, jobs, income, benefits to families with children in poverty, etc. But, several additional steps are necessary to complete this process. I believe some future steps, at least, will be taken, but their character is unknown at this point.
funding source description
Federal Formula Funds - Research (e.g., Hatch, McIntire-Stennis, Animal Health)
Federal Formula Funds - Extension (e.g., Smith Lever, RREA)