Federal Reserve System Community Development Research Conference Wrap Up #CommDev2013

The Federal Reserve System Community Development Research Conference on Resilience and Rebuilding in Low Income Communities came to a close on Friday afternoon – it was a great conference!

During my session on Human Capital and Jobs I presented findings that show that increasing bachelor’s degree attainment does not necessarily improve the labor market and the links between increasing bachelor’s degree attainment and the lower wage labor market are even more tenuous.  As a result of the work, I suggest that regions and municipalities leaven their education and workforce training programs to support bachelor’s degree attainment AND educational opportunities for middle and lower skill workers.  Crafting policies to meet regional context is incredibly important as well.

You can find my presentation and executive summary under the Presentations tab of this site – if you have further questions or ideas, contact me and we can talk about how promoting bachelor’s degree attainment either does or does not improve the regional labor market as a whole.

My session was very instructive.  The discussion after the session will help add richness and complexity to my work.  Karen Chapple presented findings from a survey of state and local economic development efforts and found that entrepreneurial support and training for low-income workers were weak at best.  Maybe the lack of training for self employment drives down labor market outcomes in places with increasing bachelor’s degree attainment.

Dagney Faulk discussed how bus transit service reduces employee turnover when compared to cities and areas without bus service.  I haven’t included transportation and transit service in my analysis yet, but this could be a future step in the analysis of local bachelor’s degree promotion.

Ben Bernanke’s Keynote Speech

Chairman Bernanke’s speech to conclude the conference was incredibly heartening as a community and economic development researcher.  The long-standing common wisdom in academic settings has been that the challenges that low-income communities face are greater than one single solution and we instead need to create comprehensive approaches.  The Chairman’s speech, and the entire 2013 Federal Reserve Conference, shows that the Federal Reserve takes that approach seriously.  In addition to mentioning Jane Jacobs, research on the Chicago heat wave by Eric Klinenberg, and a host of comprehensive neighborhood turnaround strategies from Atlanta to Los Angeles’ recent comprehensive planning, the Chairman said:

Resilient communities require more than decent housing, important as that is; they require an array of amenities that support the social fabric of the community and build the capabilities of community residents. The movement toward a holistic approach to community development has been long in the making, but the housing crisis has motivated further progress.

He also discussed the challenges in relationship to their promise:

To be sure, implementing a holistic approach is easier said than done. Government resources are still largely managed in silos, and coordinating government agencies, philanthropy, and the private sector to meet the needs of local communities requires extraordinary commitment and effective leadership. But persistence and effort pay off. The holistic approach has the power to transform neighborhoods and, as a result, the lives of their lower-income residents.

Advocates of comprehensive neighborhood initiatives should feel encouraged that their hard work is being noticed and appreciated.  Research at the conference helped to identify opportunities to enhance comprehensive strategies as well.

Once again, great conference!


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