Tag Archives: New Jersey

American Community Survey Data: Falling Median Work Earnings by Educational Attainment

As I noted in my prior post,

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2016/09/28/the-american-community-survey-economic-changes-from-2005-to-2015/

the business cycle, with expansions and recessions, means that comparisons over time for data items such as work earnings and income are only meaningful if one compares economically similar years. The press reports an increase in inflation-adjusted work earnings from 2014 to 2015, but that is merely what should be expected in an economic upturn. A comparison between 2005 and 2015, on the other hand, shows falling median earnings over the business cycle.  As a follow up, with economic trends for U.S. men compared with women, and less educated workers compared with more highly educated workers, an issue in the Presidential election, I downloaded some additional American Community Survey work earnings data to see that the actual situation is – in the U.S., NYC, and nearby areas.

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The American Community Survey: Economic Changes from 2005 to 2015

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) data was released a couple of weeks ago, and I’m surprised how little coverage of its findings there has been in the media. Most of what I have read, moreover, compared 2015 with 2014, or with 2010, and finds that the economy is getting much better for many Americans.

That, however, is not a meaningful comparison if one is looking to the long term, or trying to explain why so many Americans feel so much worse off. One would expect that people would become better off in the recovery from a deep recession, or worse off in the aftermath of the peak of a bubble.   Politicians, seeking to make points for their sides, often base their talking points on data from such non-comparable years, but that is disingenuous. As it happens, there are enough economic similarities between the first year of American Community Survey data, in 2005, and the latest year, 2015, to make a comparison between them meaningful. What follows is a discussion, with 26 charts, of the economic trends I found most interesting from that comparison – for the United States, New York City, and New York State, New Jersey and Connecticut. Let’s take a break from the fantasy and deception of politics and look at some reality.

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Census Education Finance Data for FY 2014 (Compared with FY 2002)

The Census Bureau’s annual education finance data was released for FY 2014 on Friday June 11. The data shows that NYC spent $24,004 per student that year, slightly below the average of the Downstate Suburbs ($25,041) but far higher than the average for New Jersey ($19,636), Connecticut ($19,388), Massachusetts ($16,884) and Maryland ($15,812).   The Northeast Corridor is a generally high wage, high cost of living area. Even adjusting for this, however, New York City’s average adjusted expenditure per student, at $18,764, was nearly 50 percent higher than the U.S. average of $12,625. On an unadjusted basis New York City spent $14,665 per student on instructional (mostly teacher) wages, salaries and benefits alone, or $293,300 per 20 students and $175,980 per 12 students. And this was at a time when the contract for NYC teachers had been expired for years; spending has soared since, as a result of retroactive pay for past years including FY 2014.

One finds the same pattern for Upstate New York. There, spending averaged $19,428 per student in urban counties and $20,490 per student in rural counties. This compares with the U.S. average of $12,625, the Ohio average of $12,907, and the Pennsylvania average of $16,585, and the Vermont average of $20,488. Links to detailed spreadsheets with data for every school district in New York and New Jersey, and per-student revenues and expenditures by category of revenue and expenditure, follow a discussion of where the data comes from and how it was compiled. As is my custom, I’m going to provide the spreadsheets now, think about them for a while, and then provide my analysis and express my opinion. If you want the facts without the opinion, this is the post for you.

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State and Local Government Employment in 2002 and 2014: Bureaucracy, Judicial and Legal, and Public Health Employment and Payroll

I will once again end a tabulation of state and local government data from the U.S. Census Bureau with a brief discussion of the Financial Administration, Other Government Administration, Judicial and Legal, and Public Health functions. This will be a limited review, because there isn’t much to add to the more detailed employment and payroll data from the 2012, 2002, and 1992 Census of Governments, which I analyzed here.

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/general-government-census-of-governments-employment-and-payroll-data/

And the data from the government finances phase of the Census of Governments that I wrote about here.

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/bureaucracy-census-of-governments-data/

Because the level of employment and pay in New York’s courts has been an issue, however, I’m going to examine that more closely for March 2002 and March 2014.

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State and Local Government Employment in 2002 and 2014: Infrastructure and Public Amenities

There are places in this country, generally rural areas, where people don’t get very much from state and local government other than schools, state police, and a road. Instead of public water and sewer, they have private wells and cesspools. Instead of municipal garbage pickup and disposal, they have to take their trash to the dump or pay someone else to do it. Instead of public libraries and parks, they have their own books and backyards. And, as in most of the country, there is no mass transit, no roads that are safe to bicycle or walk, not even many shared rides. Drive your own vehicle or be stranded.

New York City is, at least or based on its state and local tax burden and charges for services ought to be, the complete opposite of this. It has municipal water, sewer, solid waste pick-up, and mass transit. Highly developed at a high density, with most people having small or no private yards, city residents rely on public parks and related facilities for exercise and recreation. And the city has a network of public libraries, most within walking distance, even as most information shifts to the internet. One would, therefore, expect New York City’s public employment in these categories to be higher than the U.S. average. But how much higher? And is this fair value compared with what people could purchase themselves?

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Local Government Employment in 2002 and 2014: Public Schools

Relative to population and even, in some places, in absolute numbers, state and local government employment has fallen in recent years as the cost of retired public employees has soared and tax bases have stagnated. Although many states and localities tried to shield elementary and secondary schools from the fiscal impact of past decisions as long as possible, in the wake of the Great Recession the schools have not been immune.

There are other factors, however, that have offset falling employment. First with the large “Baby Boom echo” generation exiting school age, school age children are a shrinking share of the population. In fact the number of children age 3 to 17 enrolled in school has fallen in the U.S. in absolute numbers from 2002 to 2014. And second, private school employment is rising in many places including New York City, where it was relatively high to begin with.

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State and Local Government Employment: Census Bureau Data for FY 2014 Compared With FY 2002

In 2014 and 2015, I compiled extensive data, and published a bunch of posts, based on Census of Governments data from the U.S. Census Bureau.   One can find that data on this page.

https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/the-latest-public-finance-spreadsheets/

While Bureau only conducts a Census of Governments every five years, it conducts surveys of state and local government employment and finances every year. The survey size is generally large enough to produce estimates of the totals for the U.S. and all the states, except for some years when budget cuts prevented the work from being done. This year data for FY 2014 will be made available, and I intend to compile it for comparison with FY 2002.

The first analysis, based on recently-released data on state and local government employment and payroll, is described below. As is my custom, while the spreadsheet with the tables is linked at the end of this post, my analysis and understanding of what it means will be presented in a later post. What I’d like is for people to read the background information presented below, download the spreadsheet, look at the tables, and make up their own minds before reading what I have to say about it.

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