The following special reports look at the issues and challenges affecting low- and moderate-income people and communities.
Special Series – College Access and Student Success: Evaluating the Bridging the Gap Financial Aid Program at Rutgers–Camden
In the fall of 2015, the Camden campus of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey (Rutgers–Camden), announced plans to implement a financial aid program called Bridging the Gap that would eliminate or substantially reduce the cost of tuition and fees for in-state students from low- and middle-income families. This series comprises a multiyear, mixed-methods evaluation of Bridging the Gap to assess its impacts on student success and financial wellbeing. Insights from student interviews are paired with analysis of academic performance data to provide a fuller picture of the program's impact.
- “2016 Small Business Credit Survey: Report on Employer Firms” (34 pages, 1.58 MB)
This report examines the results of an annual survey of business conditions and the credit environment faced by small business owners who have full- or part-time employees. The survey was launched in 2014 through an effort that merged the regional surveys conducted by several Federal Reserve Banks. The 2016 survey is the first national small business survey that has involvement from all 12 Federal Reserve Banks and input from all 50 states.
The report finds that although many employer firms were profitable and optimistic, a significant majority had recently faced financial challenges, experienced funding gaps, and relied on personal finances. These issues were even more pronounced for the smallest firms, which were less likely to receive necessary funding and more likely to rely on personal finances to operate. These findings highlight small businesses’ obstacles to growth and raise new questions about how to overcome them.
- “Following the Money: An Analysis of Foundation Grantmaking for Community and Economic Development” summarizes research conducted by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Atlanta on how grant capital is distributed across the metropolitan landscape. The research relies on a data set provided by the Foundation Center that captures all community and economic development grants of at least $10,000 made by the 1,000 largest foundations between 2008 and 2013. The analysis finds that some metro areas received a substantially greater level of philanthropic support for community and economic development than did others during this period. Regression analyses indicate that the presence of a large foundation, the density of the nonprofit sector, the size of the population, and the poverty rate are among the factors positively associated with per capita grant receipt.
- “Identifying Opportunity Occupations in the Nation’s Largest Metropolitan Economies” (35 pages, 8.4 MB) summarizes research conducted by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Atlanta on employment opportunities for workers with lower levels of formal education. Opportunity occupations are those that are generally considered accessible to someone without a bachelor’s degree and that pay at least the national annual median wage, adjusted for differences in local consumption prices. Focusing on the 100 largest metropolitan economies in the U.S., this report identifies the most prevalent opportunity occupations in these economies; highlights differences across metropolitan areas; and, by using data extracted from online job advertisements, explores how employer preferences for education affect access to decent-paying employment.
Companion Report: “Identifying Opportunity Occupations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware” (38 pages, 13.1 MB) extends the opportunity occupation research by providing detailed information on 11 metropolitan areas in the states within the Third Federal Reserve District.
- Infographic (1 page, 3.6 MB): This one-page infographic describes the report’s findings.
- Data Appendix: This Microsoft Excel workbook (207 KB) includes data on the 10 largest occupations in each of the 100 metropolitan areas included in the study.
- “The Effectiveness of Pre-Purchase Homeownership Counseling and Financial Management Skills” reflects the findings of a five-year study undertaken by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and its partners on the effectiveness of pre-purchase homeownership and financial management skills counseling. This study improves upon previous efforts by employing a different methodology that relies on an experimental design and tracks study participants’ creditworthiness over time. Although homeownership remains a cherished goal for many people, recent developments in mortgage products and dramatic changes in the housing market have made the realization of homeownership more challenging. The study shows how homeownership counseling can help prospective homebuyers navigate the homebuying process.
Full Report: “The Effectiveness of Pre-Purchase Homeownership Counseling and Financial Management Skills” (49 pages, 829 KB)
- “Small Legacy Cities, Equity, and a Changing Economy” (146 pages, 42.48 MB) reflects research conducted by 12 graduate students completing their master’s degrees in city and regional planning at the University of Pennsylvania. With the CDS&E Department serving as the client and with a particular focus on equity rather than on stated objectives, these students investigated recent revitalization efforts pursued in Bethlehem and Lancaster in Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, DE. This report summarizes the students’ findings, includes forward-looking proposals designed to produce equitable outcomes in each city, and provides a blueprint for cities interested in considering equity as an objective in their future development efforts.
Slides (236 pages, 55.69 MB) presented at a forum held on May 12, 2014, in conjunction with the department’s Reinventing Older Communities conference, summarize the students’ work.
- “Fiscal Stress in the Small Postindustrial City: Causes, Consequences, and Implications for Community Development” (45 pages, 997 KB) explores the fiscal challenges facing 10 small postindustrial cities in the Third Federal Reserve District. After using historic data to help explain the structural nature of their challenges, this report describes seven important indicators commonly used to assess fiscal health and applies them to recent financial data for the 10 cities. Following this analysis, special attention is given to the implications for public support of community development investments. The report closes with an overview of common municipal responses to budgetary strain and concluding remarks that introduce strategies, proposed by others, to improve the fiscal health of the postindustrial city.
- “Out of the Shadow: Strategies for Change in Small Postindustrial Cities” (28 pages, 435 KB) is a follow-up to the largely quantitative “In Philadelphia's Shadow,” which tracks the histories, current conditions, and trajectories of 13 small postindustrial cities in the Third Federal Reserve District. Focusing on the same 13 cities and drawing on interviews, experience, and the literature, the author explores the factors that have led to greater success in some cities and less in others. Many of these factors are strongly behavioral in nature, because successful strategies — as well as less successful ones — are in important respects manifestations of the behavior, values, and relationships of each city's leadership and stakeholders. As it examines effective strategies and promising practices, this report offers insights intended to assist these cities in confronting their challenges and thriving as successful postindustrial cities.
- “In Philadelphia’s Shadow: Small Cities in the Third Federal Reserve District” (78 pages, 1.38 MB) tracks the histories, current conditions, and trajectories of 13 small formerly industrial cities in the Third Federal Reserve District. Three cities are showing strong evidence of revitalization and the creation of new economic engines to replace their lost industry, while another three, despite continued sustained population loss, appear nonetheless to be weathering the transition to a smaller, post-industrial state. At the same time, other cities have yet to find the key to that transition, and a few show signs of deeper distress that may be more difficult to reverse. Revitalization, however, reflected in both the social and economic well-being of the city’s population and the vitality of its housing market and neighborhoods, appears to hinge on connecting residents to regional job markets, tapping into regional housing demand, and growing new economic sectors capable of changing a city’s image and drawing strong private investment.
- “Revitalizing American Cities” is based on research presented at the Community Development Studies and Education Department’s 2012 Reinventing Older Communities: Building Resilient Cities conference . Published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, the book explores the factors that have allowed some industrial cities to regain their footing in a changing economy. The volume discusses national patterns and drivers of growth and decline, presents case studies and comparative analyses of the resilience of different cities, considers approaches to the problems that accompany vacant land and blight, and examines tactics that cities can use to prosper in a changing economy. Watch video of the book launch.
- “The American Mortgage System: Crisis and Reform” comprises chapters based on research papers prepared in conjunction with the Community Development Studies and Education Department’s 2010 Rethink. Recover. Rebuild: Reinventing Older Communities conference. The book, published by University of Pennsylvania Press, offers analysis of the causes of the housing crisis and examines the challenges confronting our mortgage finance system. The volume’s contributors provide insights into loan practices, the creation of unstable mortgage securities, the identification of housing price bubbles and their impact, as well as other issues. The book also offers potential solutions to the problems facing the future of American homeownership.
To introduce “The American Mortgage System,” the University of Pennsylvania held a book launch, which included a highly informative panel discussion. Watch contributors to the volume discuss key elements of the mortgage meltdown and solutions to the problems facing the future of American homeownership.
- “The Quality of FHA Lending in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware” provides information on the quality and performance of recent borrower cohorts in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2009, both nationally and in the Third District states of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. The credit score at the time of loan origination is used as a measure of borrower quality, while loan status at the one-year point is used as an indicator of loan performance.
Full Report: “FHA Lending Patterns Nationally and in the Third District States” (27 pages, 858 KB)
- “FHA Lending Activity in the Past Decade: A National Overview” compares patterns in mortgage lending in the United States for the FHA program as well as for the overall mortgage market from 2000 to 2009. The report examines trends in home mortgage and home refinance activity. In addition, these trends provide a basis for a better understanding of the factors underlying both the FHA’s recent history and its current role in mortgage finance.
Full Report: “FHA Lending Patterns Nationally and in the Third District States” (27 pages, 858 KB)
- “Neighborhood and Life Chances: How Place Matters in Modern America” is a collection of papers that were prepared in conjunction with the Community Development Studies and Education Department’s 2008 conference on Reinventing Older Communities: How Does Place Matter? The publication brings together essays by researchers from a range of disciplines who consider the importance of place in understanding individual and household outcomes in areas such as education, physical and mental health, crime, violence, and housing that are critical to quality of life, focusing especially on low-income residents in urban areas. The essays provide a clear sense of the magnitude of contemporary challenges in metropolitan America and of the role that place plays in reinforcing them.
- "Affordability and Availability of Rental Housing in Pennsylvania" provides an in-depth analysis of the housing needs of Pennsylvania’s lower-income renter households and explores how these needs vary across the state. The study looks at the incidence of housing problems among this group at both the beginning and the middle of the current decade. It also considers the extent to which there were shortages in the number of rental units that were both affordable and available to lower-income renters at these two points in time.
- “REO and Vacant Properties: Strategies for Neighborhood Stabilization” (4.6 MB, 156 pages), a joint publication of the Federal Reserve Banks of Boston and Cleveland and the Federal Reserve Board, contains 17 articles that examine a variety of neighborhood stabilization issues. The collection highlights areas of need — such as for data, technology, and collaboration — and promising solutions from communities across the country. In one article, a Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia community development research advisor discusses the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and explores the challenges faced by NSP grantees in purchasing privately held REO properties within program parameters.
- "Atlantic City: Past as Prologue" (4.01 MB, 67 pages) is an in-depth look at the growth and decline of Atlantic City and the conditions in the city since casino gambling was legalized in 1978 as a "unique tool of urban redevelopment." The report expands on a case study of several of Atlantic City’s census tracks with high levels of poverty. The case study was published as part of "The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty in America: Case Studies from Communities Across the U.S.," a report published by the Federal Reserve System and the Brookings Institution.
- "The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty: Case Studies from Communities Across the U.S." explores some of the unique factors that have accompanied rising poverty in the locations highlighted in this study. This report, which provides an in-depth look at 16 high-poverty communities across the country, is a joint effort of the Community Development Studies and Education Offices of the Federal Reserve System and the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program.