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Numbers reveal tough realities at State of Upstate Conference

Emma Jacobs
Here's a page out of Richard Deitz's book on changing wages.


You’ve probably heard about hollowing out of the middle class. It’s something you may feel, but maybe you can’t see it.

Richard Dietz has some numbers on this. He’s even got a power point. And that’s why he’s at the State of Upstate Conference hosted by Cornell this week in Syracuse.Dietz, a senior economist for the New York Fed, has plotted the pay for a number of careers since the ’80s.

Wages for legal occupations, computer, math, and finance jobs have grown pretty steadily.

At the other end of the spectrum, wages for salespeople and health aides and jobs that don’t necessarily require a college degree – those have pretty much flat-lined.

Deitz has another graph. It shows that most new jobs are appearing at those high and low ends.

“So this is showing that the gap between the high wage jobs and the low wage jobs has widened. This has continuously been happening over the past few decades.”

More info for big decisions

John Sipple, an education specialist with the conference’s host, Cornell's Community and Regional Development Institute (CaRDI) says research alone won't solve the big problems for the state and country.

“You know we’re not fooling ourselves that this is the answer, that we’ve solved the world’s problems right now.”

But he says a lot of people are telling him that changes for the state, plus rising poverty rates, combined with $4/gallon gasoline mean they need to make some informed changes:

Health care people, school superintendents, “who says we’re done with the old way of doing business.”

“We can’t do it. We need to move forward in a way that is a new model because we cannot afford to run schools, our educational system, our health care system in the way we have for the past 50 or 60 years.”

In practical terms, that means making serious choices to improve the big picture. Frank Caliva, who works on creating jobs in Central New York with the organization Centerstate CEO, said the challenges for his group are nuts and bolts. 

“Trying to help a single business make a single decision ... How am I going to find the right talent in the right place at the right price.”

Who needs numbers?

The challenge is to figure out what these groups have to say to each other: what the numbers have to say to the people advising companies and individuals one-on-one.

Rhoda Meador says getting everyone in the same room is the first step. She does outreach for Cornell’s College of Human Ecology.

“It’s bringing all these people together so they can use the information to apply it to the regional challenges,” Meador says.

The conference organizers are also planning to share their data on jobs and population trends with the Regional Councils that have been set up by the Governor.

Those Councils will have the unenviable task of figuring out how to get all these specialists to collaborate to grow their economies.

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