CaRDI Publications

CaRDI publications provide our readers with research-based information to help foster dialogue at the local, regional and state-level, and to inform public and private decision-making around critical community and economic development issues. Our publications are written by university faculty, state agency representatives, and CCE Educators, among other partners.

These publications are free for public reproduction with proper accreditation. For questions and comments about the CaRDI publications, please contact Jennifer Jensen at

CaRDI Publications

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Community Wellbeing Indicators, Beyond GDP

Community Wellbeing
Jun 1, 2016
By Yunji Kim [1], Cornell University

Improving human wellbeing is a goal of most communities and nations around the world. But how do we measure it? Since the Great Recession, gross domestic product (GDP) and other growth-centric frameworks have been critiqued as not adequately capturing social welfare or progress. For example, while the GDP in the U.S. has recovered and continues to grow in recent years, unemployment and poverty remain above pre-Recession levels.

What we measure and how we measure it matters, because our goals are often specified and evaluated by these indicators. Scholars and policymakers have suggested alternative measures of progress, such as community wellbeing.
  Read more

The Gender-based Wage Gap in New York State

May 2016 New York Minute
May 1, 2016
New York Minute / Issue 73
by Robin Blakely-Armitage and Jan Vink, Cornell University

Wage inequality between men and women is another topic that has received attention over the past  few decades. However, since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act into law in 1963, more recent attempts to pass pay equity legislation at the federal level have not gained traction. Women working full-time in the U.S. are currently paid about 79 percent of what men are paid, with the gap larger for women of color. While the overall gender-based wage gap has narrowed slowly over time, at the current rate it will take another 100 years to completely close. Read more

The Economic Implications of Using NYS Farm Products in School Lunches

School lunch
Apr 1, 2016
Research & Policy Brief / Issue 72 / April 2016
By Brad Rickard, Todd Schmit, and Pam Shapiro, Cornell University

A significant amount of food is sourced for school lunches in New York State (NYS), which is procured at a cost of more than $366 million for 281.6 million school lunches per year. Food service directors currently source food through collective bids and pooling purchases, where they are encouraged to purchase locally- produced foods, but they are not mandated or incentivized to do so. Recently, there has been interest in finding ways to increase the proportion of local food in school lunches, which is expected to increase revenues for local farmers and related businesses. Unfortunately, the directors of school lunch programs face very tight budgets, and many are not able to spend additional money to procure local foods.

One way to encourage food service directors to procure more local foods is to offer reimbursements to compensate for the added costs of purchasing local food ingredients. A group of Cornell University researchers has evaluated the benefits and costs of potential proposals that seek to incentivize local food purchases in NYS school districts. Findings from this research suggest that if NYS lawmakers provide an additional $0.05-per- lunch subsidy incentive to food service directors that use local fruits or vegetables one day per week (e.g., “Thursday is Eat NY Day”), it would likely have an overall positive economic effect for farmers and local economies in NYS. Read more

Income Inequality in New York State

Household income in NYS
Mar 1, 2016
New York Minute / Issue 72 / March 2016 (download PDF)
by Jan Vink, and Robin Blakely-Armitage, Cornell University

The topic of income inequality has received increased attention in recent years, and has been highlighted in the current presidential campaign. But what exactly is income inequality, how is it measured, and what are some recent trends? Read more

Creative Placemaking: Linking Arts, Culture, and Community Development

Feb 1, 2016
Research & Policy Brief / Issue 71 (download PDF)
By Paula Horrigan, Cornell University

It is a familiar scenario in the downtowns of many “rust belt” cities across the Northeast: Oneida Square in Utica, New York, lacks social activity and aesthetic appeal, there are few places to sit or safely walk, and it is known around town as an unwelcoming and unsafe place. This area of Utica has seen some recent infrastructure upgrades—a roundabout, new sidewalks, and lighting—but it still falls dramatically short in the neighborhood and city’s eyes. Utica and underserved neighborhoods like Oneida Square bear a visible legacy of disinvestment, urban decay, and public spaces that prioritize automobiles over people.

Yet Oneida Square is a home to one of Utica’s most diverse downtown neighborhoods in a city hoping to benefit from the trend of people returning to cities. Cities rich in arts and culture attract people because of their quality of life, character, and opportunities for participation and investment. A growing movement called creative placemaking puts arts and culture at the center of community development efforts. Utica’s Oneida Square has been the focus of recent creative placemaking activities that have had positive effects on the neighborhood. Read more

Geographic patterns: Are NYS high school graduates “college & career ready”?

Jan 1, 2016
Issue No. 71 / New York Minute / January 2016
by Robin Blakely-Armitage and Jan Vink, Cornell University
In the November 2015 NY Minute, we compared Aspirational Performance Measures (APM) by various student characteristics in New York State (NYS). The use of APM is intended to assess college and career readiness – a measure that includes but supercedes achievement of a high school diploma. Read more

Conservation and Land Use: Linking Municipal Capacity and Biodiversity Outcomes

Conservation and land use Figure 1
Dec 16, 2015
Research & Policy Brief / Issue 70  (download PDF)

From zoning to wetland protection to decisions about  how to allocate land for open space or development, municipal governments make decisions that can significantly impact habitat and natural areas. The clear role of local decision makers in conserving biodiversity has led to calls for greater incorporation of ecology and conservation biology principles in local land use planning.

To educate and support decision makers in the 260 municipal governments of the biodiverse and populous Hudson River Estuary watershed, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s (NYSDEC) Hudson River Estuary Program and Cornell University established the Conservation and Land Use Program in 2001. The extension program provides planning tools, training, and technical and financial assistance to municipal officials in the watershed.

It is important to understand how well this type of extension programming can influence municipal land use practices to achieve meaningful conservation outcomes. Using the Conservation and  Land Use Program as its focus, a recent study examined how conservation of habitat and natural areas is incorporated into land use planning by municipal officials who have participated in the program. Read more

Engaging Municipal Officials in Improving Natural Resource-Based Planning

Engaging Municipal Officials to Improve Natural Resource-Based Planning
Dec 1, 2015
Research & Policy Brief / Issue 69  (download PDF)
By Karen Strong [1], Laura Heady [1], Shorna Allred [2], Richard Stedman [2], and Caroline Tse [2]

New York State’s (NYS) Hudson River Estuary watershed contains many unique and high-quality ecological communities. Although the watershed is only 13.5% of NYS’s land area, 85% of the state’s bird, mammal, reptile, and amphibian species occur here [i]. Situated between New York City and Albany, the watershed is also home to nearly three million people. Population growth and sprawling development patterns have stressed the watershed’s natural systems [ii]. Land use planning is a key step toward balancing future growth and development with protection of natural resources. The responsibility for conservation and planning often falls to the watershed’s 260 towns, cities, and villages.

In 2001, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation’s Hudson River Estuary Program partnered with Cornell University to address the key biodiversity threat of habitat loss and fragmentation not being met by existing laws and programs. With funding from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund [iii], extension staff at Cornell’s Department of Natural Resources developed a comprehensive outreach program called the Conservation and Land Use Program to help communities respond to the challenge of incorporating natural resource protections into land use decisions. Read more

Student characteristics: Are NYS high school graduates “college & career ready”?

NYS Public School Graduation Rates and APM, 2014/5 School Year, by student characteristics
Nov 1, 2015
Issue No. 70 / New York Minute / November 2015
by Jan Vink and Robin Blakely-Armitage, Cornell University
Graduating from high school is an achievement. But as societal and workforce needs change, traditional graduation requirements may not be sufficient preparation for college and/or the workforce as, analytical and collaborative demands have increased. New York State (NYS) recently created an aspirational Performance Measure (APM) intended to better assess college and career readiness by establishing a more rigorous standard for student achievement in English Language Arts and Math. Read more

Improving Community Communication around Controversial Issues

Informed decision making
Oct 1, 2015
Research & Policy Brief / Issue 68 (download PDF)
By Robin M. Blakely-Armitage and David L. Kay, Cornell University

Every year, in every community, local officials deliberate and make decisions about schools, roads, budget or development priorities, zoning rights, and other issues that are important to their constituents. Elected and appointed officials in New York State communities are expected to be well-informed about the often complex and sometimes controversial issues their communities face.

At the same time, trust in most traditional institutions and sources of information, including government and higher education, has declined. Decision making processes at all levels—local, state, and national—have become increasingly polarized and contentious. While universities like Cornell offer valuable resources, given this context, how can university researchers and Extension educators help local leaders access, interpret, and utilize relevant information with which to address complex or controversial issues? Read more