NEWBURGH (October 3, 2019) – Pattern for Progress has released the findings of a year-long, wide-ranging study that finds the Mid-Hudson Valley has reached a demographic cliff that is affecting the socio-economic fabric of the region.
The research, which covers the counties of Orange, Putnam, Dutchess, Ulster, Sullivan, Greene and Columbia counties, takes a comprehensive look at various regional trends, including flat population growth, declining school enrollment, stagnant wages, the shrinking labor force and the rising cost of living. The study also examines what these trends mean for the region in the next decade.
“Ten years after the Great Recession, we find a regional economy that is out of alignment with its demographics,” said Pattern President and CEO Jonathan Drapkin. “Our population growth is flat, which impacts not just our schools but also the home-grown labor force. Many high-paying jobs that existed before the Great Recession have been replaced by low-wage alternatives that makes it difficult to raise a family here. This gives young people a cause to leave the area. At the same time, we are becoming older as a region but our economy is not geared toward this reality.”
“As grave as these challenges are, they provide us an opportunity to collaborate and develop strategies to modify our economy so that we can bring the region back into alignment in the coming decade,” said Drapkin.
Below are some of the main findings of the study:
- Every county except Orange has lost population since 2010. The number of births in each county has also fallen over the last decade, and deaths outpace births in three counties – Ulster, Columbia and Greene. The region’s fertility rate of 1.76 is much lower than the replacement rate of 2.1. The trend line is expected to worsen in the coming years. The region is projected to add only 2,403 more people by 2030. These changes are occurring even as the region continues to age at a faster rate. In six of the seven counties, residents 55 and older make up 30% or more of the population. That number is expected to rise to 35% by 2030.
- Of the 65 school districts in the study area, only seven have seen an increase in enrollment since 2000. The region has 26,485 fewer students since 2000, meaning it has lost 14.5% of its students. Districts spend an average of $28,264 on educating each student, among the highest cost in the nation. However, educational outcomes are discouraging. In the 2017-2018 school year, only 38% of 8th graders in the region were considered proficient in ELA and only 15% made the cut in math. Future population projections looks even more bleak. The region will lose an additional 20,571 students by 2028 and per pupil spending is projected to climb to $39,686.
- Though median household incomes appear to have risen in all seven counties between 2010 and 2017, they actually show a decrease in every county except Greene when the numbers are adjusted for inflation. Lower income households have experienced the sharpest drop in income while the top 20%, have seen their income rise. And while average poverty rates in the region have increased only marginally (11.29% in 2017 from 11.01% in 2010), 31% of households with employed individuals who are above the federal poverty are living paycheck to paycheck. Part of the reason is that a fundamental shift has occurred in the region’s employment composition post 2008 – the highest paying industries are bleeding jobs while the sectors that are growing pay less than what it costs to live here.
- The Mid-Hudson Valley’s proximity to New York City makes the cost of necessities like housing, food, childcare, transportation and healthcare higher. This places the region at a competitive disadvantage with mid-sized cities in the south that draw workers with better opportunities and lower cost of living. The high cost of living and housing is one of the reasons younger residents are leaving the region and why nearly half of the study area’s adults 18-34 live at home with their parents. The national average is 34%.
The study contains 23 mini reports on key subject areas that Pattern has identified as having undergone significant changes since the Great Recession. These include demographic changes, the shrinking middle class, student enrollment, housing trends, health care expansion, the labor force, migration trends, the growth of tourism, climate change and property taxes, among others.
The full version of the report is available online at https://www.hvoutofalignment.com