Report signals urgent need for change

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The Rochester region lags behind the rest of the state when it comes to key community indicators, ACT Rochester’s 2022 Regional Report Card shows. The nine-county area  is doing as well or better than New York State in only one of eight areas: housing.

From 2016 to 2020, median monthly rents were $900, while statewide and nationally, the median was $1,300 and $1,100 respectively. That value is a decrease of 2 percent compared with 2000, while state and national medians rose by 26 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

Source: ACT Rochester

Among the remaining seven community indicators, the region was found to be performing slightly worse than New York State in community vitality, economic security, economy, education and public safety and much worse in the indicators of children and youth as well as health.

The 2022 Regional Report Card was presented before a live audience at the “Make Change Happen” event today. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many information sources used by ACT Rochester were slow to publish their data, causing a delay.

“With this 10th report card, ACT Rochester has equipped local towns as well as cities and counties to face the facts and foster necessary changes in response to the conditions around us,” says Jennifer Leonard, president and CEO of Rochester Area Community Foundation, which hosts and helps support ACT Rochester.

ACT Executive Director Ann Johnson, who will be retiring from the position next month, adds that, as a community, the highest priority should be seeing how data, information and analyses can drive impactful and measurable local action.

From 2016 to 2020, nearly one in five children in the region were living in poverty, with a concentration in the city of Rochester where the rate jumps to nearly one in two children. However, even with that concentration, the report card also found evidence that child poverty was shifting from the city to the suburbs of Monroe County as rates in that geographic area shared more burden than usual.

In 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 4 percent of residents under the age of 65 did not have health insurance, which is lower than the 6 percent reported for the state and 11 percent for the nation.

In 2020, likely due to the pandemic’s impact, Monroe and Orleans counties had the highest unemployment rates in the region at 8.6 percent and 8.4 percent respectively, while Yates had the lowest unemployment rate in the region at 6.5 percent. The city of Rochester unemployment rate in 2020 (12.8 percent) had been declining before the pandemic from a high of 11 percent in 2012.

Echoing a theme repeated by law enforcement, serious crimes, defined by the FBI as murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft, fell by 52 percent from 2000 to 2020 in the region, which outperforms the 45 percent decline statewide. 

However, violent crime increased by 5 percent in the region compared to a 37 percent decline across the state. This year has already been one of the most violent years in Rochester’s recent history.

Six new indicators were also announced at the event with an eye toward racial and gender equity. Those include a race/ethnicity lens for maternal morbidity, women and female seniors in poverty, and a gender set that studies seniors and people in poverty and ratio of female to male earnings.

“Gender disaggregation of our data has always been on our wish list. A partnership with the Century Club of Rochester made this work possible, reflecting the Club’s key focus on the well-being of women and girls,” Johnson says. 

With these new indicators, it was found that severe maternal morbidity, which measures for complications from labor through delivery, increased between 2012 and 2018, disproportionately affecting moms of color. Severe maternal morbidity increased by 89 percent for Black, 60 percent for Latina, and 23 percent for white mothers. The health of a mother is crucial to the survivability and well-being of her infant and can affect both the birth and the years afterward.

The new indicators also found that in Monroe County a woman earns 68 cents for every dollar earned by a man, while in the city of Rochester, a woman earns 87 cents for every dollar earned by a man.

At the event, the audience also participated in a poll informed by previous polling conducted by the Siena College Research Institute for RACF and the Democrat and Chronicle of nine potential strategies to address structural racism in Rochester. The overall poll results are expected to be released soon.

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.

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