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The following Cascade Focus reports summarize the department’s research on issues related to community development in low- and moderate-income communities and fair and impartial access to credit in underserved markets. Reports in this series are topically similar to, but more concise than, the department’s discussion papers and special reports.

Toward Digital Inclusion: Broadband Access in the Third Federal Reserve District
(March 2020)   PDF

This report provides an overview of the digital divide in the Third Federal Reserve District, with a focus on determining which groups stand to benefit the most from a concerted effort toward digital inclusion. The report describes patterns of broadband availability and adoption for the Third District (eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware) as a whole, followed by a regional comparison of digital access using a typology of broadband. A distinction between broadband availability and broadband adoption is made throughout the paper in order to better understand barriers to access. The findings show gaps in fixed wireline broadband availability and adoption in the Third District that are associated with neighborhood level characteristics, such as income, race, and rural versus urban status.

Home Improvement Lending in the Third Federal Reserve District: Patterns by Income, Race, and Gender
(December 2018)   PDF

This report uses Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) data from 2015–2017 to understand how access to conventional home improvement financing varies across different borrower and neighborhood characteristics. Findings suggest that low- and moderate income (LMI) and nonwhite applicants experienced high denial rates during this period, as did women with no coapplicants and applicants from LMI and majority-minority neighborhoods. These patterns persist after controlling for applicant income and neighborhood characteristics, though indicators of applicant creditworthiness were not available in the dataset. While the analysis cannot identify the causes of observed disparities, it provides insight into which borrower groups may have unmet home improvement financing needs.

Uneven Opportunity: Exploring Employers’ Educational Preferences for Middle-Skills Jobs
(January 2017)   PDF

“Uneven Opportunity: Exploring Employers’ Educational Preferences for Middle-Skills Jobs” represents research conducted by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Atlanta on the level of education requested by employers in online job advertisements. Focusing on four opportunity occupations that have not historically required a four-year college degree — computer user support specialists, registered nurses, retail sales supervisors, and executive secretaries — this paper seeks to understand why employers’ preferences for college-educated candidates vary dramatically across metro areas. After controlling for the characteristics of the jobs themselves, the research suggests that employers’ preferences for a bachelor’s degree are higher where recent college graduates are relatively more numerous, where wages are higher, in larger metro areas, and in the Northeast. In these types of markets, workers with lower levels of formal education qualify for relatively fewer jobs than is the case in other regional economies.

Gentrification and Changes in the Stock of Low-Cost Rental Housing in Philadelphia, 2000 to 2014
(January 2017)   PDF

Philadelphia has experienced increased rental housing affordability challenges in recent years, especially in neighborhoods that have experienced gentrification. This report explores one aspect of gentrification’s impact on housing costs by examining its association with changes in Philadelphia’s stock of low-cost units, defined as those that rent for less than $750 per month. Using tract-level Census data, this report finds that the city lost one out of every five low-cost units between 2000 and 2014. These losses were especially acute in gentrifying neighborhoods, which lost low-cost units at nearly five times the rate of nongentrifying neighborhoods. These losses were mitigated by the city’s stock of federally subsidized affordable housing, but 20 percent of these subsidized units will see their affordability restriction periods expire within the next five years. The preservation of federally subsidized units would help stem the city’s loss of housing that is affordable to lower-income residents and would give these residents greater access to improving neighborhoods that may otherwise be financially unattainable.

Correction: The original version of this report initially misclassified three gentrifying census tracts as nongentrifying. Additionally, the gentrification type classifications have been corrected. This updated report reflects the corrected analysis.

Affordability and Availability of Rental Housing in the Third Federal Reserve District: 2015
(February 2015)   PDF

In the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis and subsequent tightening of mortgage credit, many households have turned to the rental housing market, increasing pressure on an already limited supply of low-cost units. Using the most recent data available, this issue of Cascade Focus analyzes trends in rental housing affordability in the Third Federal Reserve District between 2007 and 2012. In addition to examining rates of housing cost burden for low-income renter households, this analysis evaluates whether the supply of affordable rental units is sufficient to meet the need. Lastly, this report presents a series of in-depth fact sheets for the Third District, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and 14 metropolitan areas within these three states, as well as the City of Philadelphia. Note: Estimates from reports published by the department in 2010, 2011, and 2012 should not be compared with estimates in this analysis because of the differences in geographic areas covered, data sets used, and methodologies employed.

Beyond the Numbers: A Qualitative Exploration of Affordability and Availability of Rental Housing in the Third Federal Reserve District: 2015
(June 2015)    PDF | Appendix

Intended to provide an in-depth look at the challenges and trends revealed in Affordability and Availability of Rental Housing in the Third Federal Reserve District: 2015, this Beyond the Numbers qualitative companion report presents themes that emerged from interviews with housing professionals in the Third Federal Reserve District and shares insights on the factors driving increased unaffordability, unit scarcity, and rising demand in the rental housing market.

Student Loan Trends in the Third Federal Reserve District
(April 2014)   HTML | PDF

The state of the student loan market has received much attention in recent years, as the number of borrowers and their collective debt have risen dramatically. These trends have been particularly problematic in the wake of the 2007–09 recession because increased unemployment and suppressed income impair borrowers’ ability to make payments on their loans. This report outlines the recent history of student borrowing in the Third Federal Reserve District and explores lending patterns, by the neighborhood income of the borrower, to better understand the implications for low- and moderate-income communities. Areas for further research to broaden understanding of the issue are also identified.

An Overview of the Nonprofit Foreclosure Counseling Industry in Philadelphia
(January 2013)   HTML | PDF

The collapse of the housing market in the second half of the last decade created increased demand for counseling services to assist homeowners dealing with foreclosure. In Philadelphia, the nonprofit agencies that provide free housing counseling dealt with this surge in demand at the same time that funding became increasingly hard to secure. This paper provides a high-level overview of the state of the nonprofit foreclosure counseling industry in Philadelphia in the wake of the housing crash. The report includes information on the industry’s funding levels and sources, details what agencies must do to access the available funding, and summarizes the results of a survey on the challenges that counseling agencies face. Areas for further research on the subject are also identified.

Affordability and Availability of Rental Housing in the Third Federal Reserve District: 2012 (December 2012)

Using the most recent data available, this suite of materials provides information on rental housing affordability conditions and trends in the Third Federal Reserve District from 2005 through 2010. This analysis not only explores the proportion of renters in the Third District with a housing cost burden but also investigates whether there are sufficient numbers of affordable rental units to meet the needs of low-income households. See "Affordability and Availability of Rental Housing in the Third Federal Reserve District: 2012" for the Cascade Focus PDF summarizing findings for the Third District, data tables with estimates for the states, metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), and counties that lie within the District, and supporting documentation.

  • Last update: December 11, 2018

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