Study: Hudson Valley “Out of Alignment”

Bear Mountain Bridge

Costs rising, population stagnant and jobs lacking

The mid-Hudson Valley, including Putnam and Dutchess counties, could soon face an economic crisis, with stagnant population and low-paying jobs coupled with rapidly rising costs, according to a study issued Thursday (Oct. 3) by the nonprofit think tank Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress.

The findings paint an especially gloomy picture of the region’s public school districts, which could lose more than 25 percent of their students by 2028, pushing the average annual cost to educate each student up more than $11,000, assuming 2 percent annual spending increases.

The report, Out of Alignment, analyzes data for the seven counties that make up the mid-Hudson region. Pattern says it plans to take its findings on the road for feedback while it prepares the second part of the study — which will address what to do next — that it hopes to complete by year’s end.

The 44-page report was funded by Central Hudson, which asked the organization to answer two questions: (1) What does the recovery from the Great Recession [December 2007 to June 2009] look like?, and (2) What can we expect in the next 10 years?

It took Pattern, which issues an annual Urban Action Agenda for the mid-Hudson Valley, as well as other studies, a year to complete.

The study is “the first time that someone has tried to link all of these different elements, from housing to growth and wages, together and say: ‘What have their impacts been?’ ” said Jonathan Drapkin, Pattern’s president and CEO.

If there’s a prevailing theme to the report, it’s that earnings and the cost of living are traveling on different tracks, leading to what Pattern calls “a misalignment between the economy and its demographics.”

Trending Toward Trouble

School Enrollment

The number of public school students in Dutchess and Putnam counties is expected to fall 26 percent by 2030 from its 2000-01 levels.

Cost Per Student

By 2028, the average annual cost to educate each public school student in Dutchess is expected to rise by 38.5 percent, to $36,185, and in Putnam by 44.7 percent, to $47,057.

Aging Population

The number of people aged 55 and older is expected to grow in Dutchess and Putnam from about 1 in 5 in 2000 to more than 1 in 3 in 2030.

Household Income

When adjusted for inflation, the median household income has remained stagnant in the Hudson Valley, falling in Dutchess by 4 percent, to $75,585, since 2010, and in Putnam by 1 percent, to $99,608.

Close to Home

In Putnam, 61 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds live with their parents, the highest of any county in the region. In Dutchess, the figure is 48 percent. The percentage is 40 percent in New York State and 34 percent in the U.S.

Source: Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress, citing state and federal data and the Cornell Program on Applied Demographics

Regionally, household incomes appeared to have grown from 2010 to 2017. But when adjusted for inflation, all but Greene County (2.4 percent increase) saw median incomes fall. Adjusted incomes fell 3.8 percent in Dutchess and were roughly flat in Putnam County.

Almost 9,000 higher-paying manufacturing jobs were lost between 2000 and 2017, Pattern said. Tourism, historically one of the Hudson Valley’s economic drivers, is growing but retail and food services pay less than half what manufacturing did, it found.

At the same time, residents in five of the seven counties spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, including in Dutchess (32.4) and Putnam (34.8). In six counties, including Dutchess and Putnam, renters spend nearly 50 percent of their income for housing. (The exception is Columbia, at 41.5 percent.)

That’s where it’s important to remember the timeframe being studied, said Drapkin, who was the manager of Sullivan County before joining Pattern. “At the end of the Great Recession, when unemployment was high, any job was a good job,” he said. “Eleven years later, we need to pay more attention to the kinds of jobs we’re creating, because the cost of living has increased.”

Population in the seven counties is projected to increase by only 2,403 (0.2 percent) by 2030, with nearly all of that attributed to Hasidic communities in Orange County. This lack of growth, the report projects, will lead to declining school enrollment, a shrinking workforce and fewer taxpayers. Public schools could lose 20,500 students in the next 10 years.

“If any business lost 25 percent of their customer base, would they change their business model?,” Drapkin asked. In the next decade, the region will need “real innovations in how we educate and how we fund school districts,” he said.

2 thoughts on “Study: Hudson Valley “Out of Alignment”

  1. The study appears to be written in the expectation of growth being an absolute necessity the undeniable goal. Yet, one only needs to visit Amsterdam, Broadalbin or Coxsackie along the Hudson and the Mohawk, drive on the back roads that run on either side of these rivers to see that communities have downsized, stabilized and survived very well. Growth is overvalued and overpriced and Americans are overburdened with debt. Slowly but surely when Americans realize the debt trap which cripples them they, or their offspring, will return and refreshen the communities of the Hudson and Mohawk River valleys.

  2. Most of the Hudson River towns were urban-renewal ghettos only 10 or 15 years ago. Revitalization is good but it’s often driven by greedy developers. [via Facebook]

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