Updated Erie data reveals unfinished work for nonprofits

June 13, 2018

By Matthew Rink 

Erie Vital Signs website initiative gets a reboot

Erie Vital Signs, a data-driven initiative aimed at shaping the goals of social service agencies, has been rebooted 10 years after its inaugural launch.

The results were revealed Thursday.

“This is a transformational moment in our community, and you’re going to hear lots of great news,” said Mike Batchelor, president of the Erie Community Foundation, as he revealed the latest data. “But if you do a deep dive into these indicators, that progress is not being shared by everybody.”

Here are some key findings:

‒ Poverty continues to increase, especially among children.

‒ The population is growing older.

‒ Manufacturing jobs declined 35 percent between 2001 and 2016.

‒ Household incomes are down 11 percent since 2000 when adjusted for inflation.

‒ Overall, the Erie economy has not fully recovered from the recession of 2008, and there are deep disparities in a variety of areas.

But there are signs of improvement. Here are a few:

‒ Erie County residents’ access to health care has improved and mortality rates have declined, though not at the rate of the state and nation.

‒ Participation in a pre-kindergarten program rose from 15 percent in 2007 to 34 percent in 2016. Statewide, pre-K participation is only 20 percent.

The Erie Community Foundation partnered with the Nonprofit Partnership on the Erie Vital Signs project. The data was compiled and analyzed by the Rochester, New York-based Center for Governmental Research. The center also developed a new website, www.erievitalsigns.org, which includes datasets and census tract-level maps.

The research addressed seven topics on a countywide and citywide level — the economy, education, health, environment, community and civic engagement, demographics, and arts, entertainment and recreation. The data is compared to state and national averages, as well as to three counties similar to Erie — Luzerne County, Pennsylvania; Broome County, New York; and Stark County, Ohio.

Ericka Rosenberg, a principal of the research firm, highlighted some of the key findings during Thursday’s meeting.

More than 50 people from community nonprofits met at Gannon University to review those findings and to discuss ways to more effectively collaborate to meet the needs of the Erie community.

Officials from local nonprofits discussed issues like racial inequities, poverty, trauma and mental health.

They also discussed gaps that exist in the system of care, as well as areas where services are being duplicated and where there could be better collaboration.

Stephanie Lindenberger, of the Women’s Care Center of Erie County, said one issue that is often overlooked is the number of single-parent homes. Thirty-nine percent of children in Erie County live in a household headed by a single parent, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s 2017 County Health Rankings & Roadmaps report.

“It gets overlooked a lot,” Lindenberger told attendees, “but it’s really foundational to these issues.”

The Women’s Care Center provides relationship education to women and their partners, she said.

Chanel Cook, an outreach services manager for the Erie County Public Library, said nonprofit agencies need to be cognizant of duplication of services and find ways to work collaboratively. She also said there still remains an “underlying air of competition” between agencies in the community that needs to be addressed.

“The Vital Signs are an important measure of the work that we do,” he said. “The nonprofit sector is an important sector in building the successes and meeting the challenges of our community.”

Batchelor said the meeting accomplished its goal.

“There was great dialogue around data today,” he said. “We identified some new partnerships and linked people to resources. ... When you gather people in a neutral setting and focus on data, good stuff happens.”

Matthew Rink can be reached at 870-1884 or by email.