Child-Impact Statements — and More

The summer issue of the Boston Fed’s Communities & Banking is out, and it’s chock full of great articles. I’m passing along the table of contents today and hope to blog more about individual articles in the future.

Focusing on Children’s Rights to Fight Poverty
by Michael Schmidt, University of Memphis
Assessing the potential impact of government or corporate investment decisions on children’s rights is essential to combatting poverty.

Mapping New England: Student Loans
by Kaili Mauricio, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
The map shows the proportion of individuals per county aged 18 to 44 who have a student loan. In one county, the average amount is $14,770; in another, nearly $35,000.

Locking in the Promise to Buy Local
by Claire Greene, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston
Local currencies, like barter and location-specific gift cards, are ideas for encouraging people to support their local merchants.

Engaging Financially Distressed Consumers
by D. James Greiner, Dalié Jiménez, and Lois R. Lupica
Research on low-cost ways to engage consumers holds promise for tackling the high default rates in debt-collection lawsuits.

High School Pathways to Prosperity
by Nancy Hoffman and Amy Loyd, Jobs for the Future
The Pathways to Prosperity Network helps young people attain an industry credential or associate’s degree in a high-demand field.

Retail Co-op: Maine Islanders Band Together to Preserve a Way of Life
by Gloria J. LaBrecque, Cooperative Fund of New England
As owners of a valued island business thought about retiring, helping their loyal workers form a co-op had real appeal.

Government Contest to Spark Innovation in Hartford
by Anthony Price, Choose Hartford
An innovative contest aims to produce a comprehensive economic development plan and position the Hartford region as an entrepreneurial hub.

Food Council Accelerates Community Transformation
by Daniel Wallace, Julia Harper, Deborah M. Burd, Good Food Council of Lewiston-Auburn
Now entering its third year, a local food council is connecting across multiple sectors to support the rebuilding of a healthy, community-based food system.

Ending Chronic Homelessness
by Alicia Woodsby, Partnership for Strong Communities
For the first time, ending homelessness among Connecticut veterans and people with disabilities is within reach.

Guilty Until Proven Innocent: The Problem with Money Bail
by Francesca Forrest
Pretrial incarceration is expensive for society and destroys lives, but there are safe, humane, cost-effective alternatives.

Read the articles here.

Working Cities Update in Mass Benchmark

We write from time to time about the Boston Fed’s unusual initiative to boost the economic strength of smaller cities in New England, the Working Cities Challenge.

Now Colleen Dawicki and Tamar Kotelchuck, of the Challenge team, have written for MassBenchmarks on lessons learned from the first year of the multiyear effort.

“After its first year, the Working Cities Challenge — three-year grant-based initiatives to transfom local economies and enhance collaboration in smaller Masschusetts cities — has yielded valuable lessons. These include investing in cross-sector teams to interact with a project manager who drives implementation and engeges residents early on in the process.”

These lessons will be valuable as the Boston Fed explores the possibility of offering a second round of the Working Cities Challenge and explores choosing another New England state for a challenge targeted to its particular needs and characteristics.

Check out MassBenchmarks report here (pdf).

Link between Innovation and Manufacturing

A new study out of MIT emphasizes that a strong innovation economy depends on a strong manufacturing sector and suggests that greater collaboration among US manufacturers and universities will be needed for the country to remain cutting edge.

Kirk Carapezza at WGBH news has the story.

“Economists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology laid out Friday the kind of manufacturing production they believe the United States will need to sustain an innovation economy.

“While the economy is slowly recovering from the financial crisis, unemployment still remains high and many Americans’ incomes are stagnant. In poll after poll, companies have said the problem stems from a shortage of skills in the workforce: employers say they can’t find and hire people with the right capabilities.

“MIT Professor Suzanne Berger led a commission that interviewed more than 250 companies, including large American-based multinationals.  At a time when the global economy has fragmented production, Berger told WGBH’s On Campus that U.S. manufacturers will need to deliver products that are unique and different. …

“Advanced manufacturing, Berger says, will allow U.S. companies to produce goods that are difficult for other foreign companies to replicate. And MIT President Raphael Reif thinks colleges and universities should play a more central role in preparing the manufacturing workforce to support that kind of production. …

“Reif wants to galvanize Harvard and MIT’s free online-learning platform, edX, to teach workers the skills they will need. With nearly 40 percent of college students saying higher education is a financial burden, some analysts argue the system should move beyond the traditional credit hour to better align education and workforce development. Reif says it’s time for administrators to take a close look at access and affordability. …

“Employers argue that colleges and universities are failing to prepare graduates for the jobs of tomorrow. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Patrick Gallagher says public-private university partnerships could address that issue by significantly supporting ingenuity. …

“Economists and educators say if the U.S. allows its manufacturing base to further weaken it will be left with an economy built entirely on consumption.” More here.

sculpture over the Greenway


NH Home Health-Care Workers Seek Funding

Home health-care can save money for a state, but home-health workers don’t like to see the savings go to some other need, like nursing homes.

Kathleen Ronayne writes in the Concord Monitor, “Providers of community and home-based health care joined together yesterday to plead for more state money and criticize lawmakers and Gov. Maggie Hassan for what they say is chronic underfunding of their programs.

“ ‘Our most fragile seniors who have given so much for our country and our community deserve to be cared for in their own homes in the community, with appropriate services delivered in a timely and consistent manner,’ said Mary DeVeau, president of the Concord Regional Visiting Nursing Association.

“Yesterday’s news conference focused on the Choices for Independence program, a Medicaid-waiver program for qualifying adults who want to receive home-based health care. The program ended fiscal year 2014 with a $5.1 million surplus, which the state’s Department of Health and Human Services plans to use to plug other budget holes. Hassan pointed to the surplus as justification for giving nursing homes $3.9 million in reimbursement rate increases that had been in jeopardy.

“But advocates for community and home care say that $5.1 million surplus is rightfully theirs. They have not received a rate increase since 2009 and say a lack of funding is making it harder for people to access a full level of care in a timely manner.

“ ‘System failure is not a surplus. People go without services because there is no one to provide the care,’ said Carolyn Virtue of Heritage Case Management.” More at the Concord Monitor, here.

The trend is toward more home-based care for the elderly, but policymakers will always have to balance competing priorities.


Addressing RI’s Workforce-Skills Gap

sculpture over the GreenwayIn an opinion piece in the Providence Journal, assistant managing editor John Kostrzewa looked at Rhode Islanders’ ideas about the gap between what skills employers say they need and what skills the available workers have.

“Rhode Islanders may do a double-take when they hear Governor Raimondo talk about manufacturing as a key to reviving the economy and creating jobs.

“After all, isn’t manufacturing all about the past? …

“But Raimondo is talking about a different type of manufacturing, called advanced manufacturing, that produces precise, engineered-to-order, high-end products for the medical-device, defense, aerospace and other industries. This manufacturing is all about the future, and it pays middle-income wages.

“Raimondo has won some support for her thinking from the New England Economic Council — a regional group that studies economic issues.

“The council said in a recent report that advanced manufacturing is an opportunity for job growth, especially in Rhode Island, whose jobs numbers lag all the other states in the region, except Vermont. …

“Raimondo gets it. She told 450 people at the Rhode Island Manufacturers’ Association annual meeting last week that concerns over freight and energy costs are pulling manufacturing jobs back to the United States from overseas.

“But she pointed out they are not the low-skill manufacturing jobs of the past, but newer, advanced manufacturing jobs that require highly trained workers. Rhode Island should be primed to take advantage. …

“After Raimondo visited the Yushin America facility in Cranston last month to outline her plan to create jobs and revamp the state’s workforce training system, I talked with Michael Greenhalgh, operations director at Yushin.

“He said Yushin, a unit of Yushin Precision Equipment Co. Ltd. of Japan, is completing a $2-million expansion and wants to hire 14 more workers. Some would be at a starting pay of $12 to $13 an hour. Others would be paid about $50,000 a year.

“But Greenhalgh can’t find workers with the skills he needs.” …

“The real answer is more qualified candidates coming out of the vocational and technical schools or colleges, or better training of workers who are in transition from declining industries.

“The New England Economic Council came to the same conclusion and recommends a regional approach that includes using New England’s combined clout to win federal funds to create a jointly run center to train advanced manufacturers.

“It’s a good idea, but I don’t think Rhode Island can wait years for a regional solution.”

More here.


Low-Pay Lawyers Happier

Looks like money isn’t everything. Even for lawyers.

A May 14 article by Douglas Quenqua in the NY Times details a new survey showing that public defenders and Legal Aid lawyers feel happier in general than law firm partners.

“Of the many rewards associated with becoming a lawyer — wealth, status, stimulating work — day-to-day happiness has never been high on the list. Perhaps, a new study suggests, that is because lawyers and law students are focusing on the wrong rewards.

“Researchers who surveyed 6,200 lawyers about their jobs and health found that the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost zero correlation with happiness and well-being. However, lawyers in public-service jobs who made the least money, like public defenders or Legal Aid attorneys, were most likely to report being happy.

“Lawyers in public-service jobs also drank less alcohol than their higher-income peers. And, despite the large gap in affluence, the two groups reported about equal overall satisfaction with their lives.” More here.

I can’t help thinking of another recent Times story, about a small aboriginal community in Alaska that just rejected a natural gas company’s $1 billion offer, here.

“ ‘Hopefully, the public will recognize that unanimous consensus in communities (and where unanimity is the exception) against a project where those communities are offered in excess of a billion dollars, sends an unequivocal message this is not a money issue: This is environmental and cultural,’ Garry Reece, mayor of the band, said in a statement announcing the vote on Wednesday.”