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Special Reports

The following special reports look at the issues and challenges affecting low- and moderate-income people and communities.

  • Exploring a Skills-Based Approach to Occupational Mobility PDF

    Published by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Cleveland and based on an analysis of tens of millions of online job advertisements in the 33 largest metro areas, this report finds a high degree of similarity between the skills employers seek when filling lower-wage jobs and the skills demanded for opportunity occupations, or occupations that do not typically require a bachelor’s degree and that pay above the national annual median wage (adjusted for local cost-of-living differences). For nearly half of the lower-wage employment analyzed, we identify at least one higher-paying occupation requiring similar skills in the same metro area. We also find that transitions to similar higher-paying occupations would represent an average annual increase in wages of nearly $15,000, or 49 percent. Paired with targeted training, hiring processes that recognize the portability of skills across occupations could not only promote economic mobility for lower-wage workers but also help meet the talent needs of employers.

  • Student Loan Debt in Philadelphia PDF

    This report provides an in-depth analysis of the geographic distribution of student loan debt — and distress — in Philadelphia. It reveals that borrowers living in different zip codes have drastically different experiences with respect to how much they owe, the degree to which they struggle with repayment, and the extent to which they become delinquent. This report also discusses the implications of student loan debt for individual borrowers and the economy as a whole.

  • How Are Cities Leveraging Opportunity Zones for Community Development? — Philadelphia as a Case Study PDF

    Enacted as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones are designed to spur economic development and job creation in economically distressed communities by providing tax benefits to investors who make eligible investments into these areas. Using Philadelphia as a case study, our research finds that gentrifying areas were much more likely to be designated as Opportunity Zones in the city, although these neighborhoods generally had higher levels of economic distress than not-selected areas.

  • Measuring and Understanding Home Repair Costs: A National Typology of Households PDF

    This report, published jointly by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and PolicyMap, combines detailed, nationally representative survey data on housing quality issues with estimates of the costs of reasonable repairs to model the total costs of addressing substandard housing conditions nationwide. According to a recent survey, more than one-third of households experienced at least one housing problem, with the national cost of addressing reported deficiencies estimated at $126.9 billion in 2018. Our analysis indicates that extensive repair needs are more prevalent among low-income households, which occupy units accounting for $50.8 billion of the total, although issues were present across the income spectrum. To enhance our understanding of households with repair needs, we use unit and household characteristics to develop two typologies: one for owner-occupied units and another for renter-occupied units.

    • Technical Appendix: PDF This appendix provides an in-depth description of the methodology used to develop the repair cost estimates.
    • Spotlight on the Philadelphia Region: PDF This brief examines home repair needs by household and unit characteristics in the Philadelphia metro area.
    • Appendix Table 1 Specifies the home repair needs examined in the report and details the corresponding repairs.
  • Opportunity Occupations Revisited: Exploring Employment for Sub-Baccalaureate Workers Across Metro Areas and Over Time

    This report updates a 2015 publication investigating regional economic opportunity for workers without a four-year college degree. In this study, researchers from the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Cleveland find that opportunity employment — defined as employment accessible to workers without a bachelor’s degree and typically paying above the national annual median wage, adjusted for regional differences in consumer prices — accounts for 21.6 percent of total employment but ranges from a high of 34.0 percent to a low of 14.6 percent in the metro areas analyzed. The report illustrates how the local mix of occupations, employers’ educational expectations, and the cost of living combine to expand or limit local opportunity relative to national conditions, and it finds that some of the largest opportunity occupations became more accessible to sub-baccalaureate workers as the labor market tightened.

    • Metro Area Fact Sheets: This file includes one-page fact sheets describing the 10 largest opportunity occupations in each of the 121 metro areas analyzed.
    • Third District Summary: This three-page report summarizes the findings of the latest opportunity occupations research for eight metro areas in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
  • We are excited to announce the release of the book Investing in America’s Workforce: Improving Outcomes for Workers and Employers. It includes the voices of more than 100 authors who share research, best practices, and resources on workforce development. The book is divided into three volumes: Investing in Workers, Investing in Work, and Investing in Systems for Employment Opportunity. The publication is the result of a two-and-a-half-year collaboration between the Federal Reserve System the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development  at Rutgers University, the Ray Marshall Center  at the University of Texas at Austin, and the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

    Download your free copy today at www.investinwork.org/book

  • New Philadelphia Fed Study Focuses on the Risks and Opportunities of Automation for Less Advantaged Workers PDF

    This report analyzes the risks of automation and job opportunities for different demographic groups in the U.S. and 11 metropolitan areas in the Third Federal Reserve District. The study, by Lei Ding, Elaine Leigh, and Patrick Harker, attempts to clarify some misunderstanding on how automation impacts jobs.

Equitable Access to Public Transit

The following reports use quantitative and qualitative research methods, respectively, to understand issues of equitable access to public transit and employment. These reports were produced as part of the Philadelphia Fed’s Economic Growth & Mobility Project.

  • Accessing Economic Opportunity: Public Transit, Job Access, and Equitable Economic Development in Three Medium-Sized Regions

    Transportation can pose a barrier to employment for low-income residents unable to afford a car. This report examines access to transit, access to decent-paying jobs not requiring a four-year college degree, and the accessibility of large employment centers across three medium-sized regions in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The results demonstrate how patterns of employment and public transit affect job access at the neighborhood level, with a particular focus on low- and moderate-income neighborhoods.

  • Getting to Work on Time: Public Transit and Job Access in Northeastern Pennsylvania PDF

    For residents unable to afford a car, transportation can be an obstacle to finding and keeping a job. This report explores the extent to which public transit in northeastern Pennsylvania connects low-income neighborhoods to opportunity employment, which pays above the median wage and doesn’t require a four-year degree. It concludes by identifying opportunities to more equitably connect low-income neighborhoods to jobs.

  • Northeastern Pennsylvania Equitable Transit Study PDF

    This report reflects qualitative research conducted by The Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development at Wilkes University to explore transit equitability in northeastern Pennsylvania. Produced for the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and the Scranton Area Community Foundation, the report assesses transportation barriers for community members, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds and those most at risk of facing transportation difficulty.

  • The State of Urban Manufacturing: Philadelphia City Snapshot PDF

    Reflecting a collaboration between the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and the Urban Manufacturing Alliance,  this report combines an analysis of publicly available data with a survey of city-based manufacturers and a series of focus groups to gain a better understanding of the manufacturing sector in the city of Philadelphia. The report covers a variety of topics, including employment trends and wage levels, manufacturers’ growth intentions and barriers to growth, detailed information on the characteristics of manufacturing workers, and an overview of the manufacturing support ecosystem in the city. Opportunities to help firms thrive and grow into larger jobs generators are also discussed.

  • Transformative Economies: Emerging Practices for Aligning Growth and Inclusion

    This paper sets a framework for building transformative economies. Prepared by Paul C. Brophy, Robert Weissbourd, Andy Beideman for the Economic Growth and Mobility Project, the authors share policy levels to foster inclusive growth practices and highlight emerging approaches and innovative programs in regions across the country.

  • Investing in America’s Workforce: Report on Workforce Development Needs and Opportunities

    This report analyzes information gathered from nearly 1,000 leaders who work at the intersection of workforce training, recruitment, and finance. The study provides a current snapshot of the workforce development sector and its key challenges. It offers strategies for improving the human capital of America’s labor force, expanding access to jobs, and innovating workforce development funding.

  • Apprenticeship Guide

    Apprenticeship is a talent recruitment and development strategy that has been used traditionally in construction and the skilled trades and is being applied to high-growth sectors such as health care, information technology, manufacturing, and financial services.

    This guide explains how apprenticeships work; discusses trends, successes, and challenges in U.S. apprenticeships; provides case studies of five long-term apprenticeship programs; profiles new and noteworthy programs; and includes contacts and resources.

  • Apprenticeship Guide Update PDF

    This report describes the expansion of apprenticeship to high-growth sectors such as advanced manufacturing, information technology, health care, and financial services both nationally and in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. An update to the 2017 Apprenticeship Guide, the report examines national and regional trends such as the role of pre-apprenticeships linked to Registered Apprenticeships, the emergence of intermediaries that organize activity on behalf of multiple employers and apprentices, and growing interest in youth apprenticeships that start in high school. Employers use apprenticeship as a talent recruitment and development strategy, while apprentices obtain a structured career pathway with wages, industry credentials, and, in some cases, college credits. Apprenticeship integrates on-the-job workplace learning and related training and instruction. It has traditionally been used in the U.S. in construction and the skilled trades.

  • 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 FirmsPDF (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” PDF (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.
    • Infographic PDF (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.
    Companion Report: “Identifying Opportunity Occupations in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware” PDF (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.
  • “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” PDF (49 pages, 829 KB) 
  • “Small Legacy Cities, Equity, and a Changing Economy” PDF (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 PDF (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” PDF (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 PDF (28 pages, 435 KB) is a follow-up to the largely quantitative “In Philadelphia's Shadow,” PDF 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” PDF (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”  External Link is based on research presented at the Community Development Studies and Education Department’s 2012 Reinventing Older Communities: Building Resilient Cities conference External Link. 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” External Link 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 External Link 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” PDF (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” PDF (27 pages, 858 KB)
  • “Neighborhood and Life Chances: How Place Matters in Modern America” External Link 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” PDF Document (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" PDF Format (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." External Link 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.
  • Last update: June 16, 2020

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