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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 Robin Blakely-Armitage at

CaRDI Publications

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New York flood

Building Community Consensus for Flood Risk Adaptation

Jun 18, 2020

Research & Policy Brief Issue 90 /  June 2020
By Kristin Marcell (Hudson River Estuary Program, NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation & NYS Water Resources Institute) and Bennett Brooks (Consensus Building Institute)

City street with row of houses

Tackling Zombies: New Approaches for Sustainable Housing

Jan 8, 2020

Research & Policy Brief Issue 87 /  December 2019
By Heidi Mouillesseaux-Kunzman, Cornell University, Helene Caloir, Local Inititatives Support Corporation, Derek Crossman, City of Utica and Diane Shoemaker, Rust to Green Utica

Comparing Millennials to Baby Boomers in New York State

Comparing Millennials to Baby Boomers in New York State

Feb 9, 2018

Much has been written about how Millennials differ from previous generations, especially with regards to social media, consumption patterns, social mores, technology and more. The term Millennial generally refers to the demographic cohort born in years ranging from the early 1980s to the late 1990s. Using 2015 data from the U.S. Census Bureau for New York State, we compare Millennials to younger Baby Boomers, a cohort aged 25-34 years old in 1990. We discover significant differences.

Overdose Deaths Involving Opioids, US 2000-2015

Opioids in our Communities: Drug Overdose Deaths in New York State

Nov 28, 2017

Drug overdose deaths have risen steadily in recent years, becoming the leading cause of death in the United States. More than 60% of overdose deaths involve the use of opioids. In New York State (NYS), drug overdose deaths increased by 20% between 2014 and 20152, but declined again between 2015 and 2016. While drug use and drug overdoses have long been viewed as primarily an urban issue, drug overdose death rates in large central metropolitan areas were surpassed in 2008 by rates in less densely populated areas. Opioid and other drug use has been linked to several factors, including social, cultural, and economic stressors.

Interstate job changes in and out of New York State, by Industry (2010-2015 Q3)

Exploring Job-to-Job Flows In and Out of New York State

Jul 20, 2017

Issue Number 78/June 2017. Robin Blakely-Armitage and Jan Vink, Cornell University

When people change jobs, they often do so in order to increase earnings, particularly younger workers. Other job transitions are due to firm relocation, firings or other separations, and may occur to or from unemployment status. In the United States, there is a tremendous amount of worker reallocation, with significant movement across state lines. The Census Bureau provides data on job transitions (job-to-job flows) and has recently developed a user-friendly interface to track these movements. This unique data allows a comprehensive look at the reallocation of workers across different sectors and regions of the U.S. economy. Connecting employment by industry and the flows of workers across state lines provides valuable information for economic and workforce development initiatives. The left side of the chart below shows the number of people leaving their jobs in a particular industry and moving away from New York State (NYS), compared to the number of people moving to NYS and entering a job in that same industry (right side). For example, between 2010 and the 3rd quarter of 2015, about 28,000 people working in manufacturing in NYS left the state to work elsewhere, compared to 22,500 who moved to NYS and were hired into manufacturing jobs. For more data and tools on job-to-job transitions, please visit:

Roadside ditches

Re-plumbing New York State’s Roadside Ditches: Identifying a Critical Role for Decision-Makers

May 31, 2017

By Rebecca Schneider, Anthony Johnson, David Orr, Shorna Allred, and Sara Davis, Cornell University, Issue Number 78/May 2017

The quantity and quality of New York State’s (NYS) water resources have significant consequences for our economy, community well-being, and overall environmental sustainability. Recent analysis has highlighted the critical role that roadside ditches play in flooding, water pollution, and stream dry-outs. In NYS, networks of ditches crisscross the landscape, intercepting runoff from adjacent watersheds, rapidly shunting it farther down in the stream channel network where it is discharged as a high velocity faucet1. These inputs increase the magnitude of stream heights and peak water discharges by as much as 300 percent, contributing to flooding. Ditches are also highly efficient and rapid conduits of sediments, nutrients, de-icers, and fecal coliforms from adjacent land activities to downstream drinking water supplies2. Ditches are a significant source of sediment to streams and lakes when highway staff overscrape them and leave the bottom substrates exposed and unvegetated. As pressures from climatic extremes increase, the need for more thoughtful management of water resources and the role of roadside ditches is essential.

Tompkins County map

Data Profiles to Better Understand Your Community

Apr 17, 2017

Issue 77/April 2017
by Jan Vink and Robin Blakely-Armitage, Cornell University
Data can help us better understand the past, current and future trends facing our communities. This information is vital for community leaders interested in responding to challenges, building capacity, and maximizing opportunities. Sharing community-level data can help foster discussions about these trends, shape a community’s goals and priorities, and determine how to best measure progress. Creating a community profile to initiate such discussions is a good first step, but with the wealth of data now available on-line, the task can be overwhelming and even intimidating. Fortunately, new data tools, interfaces, and programs exist that simplify the process for many new users.

Highlighted map of New York state

Local Government Capacity to Respond to Environmental Change: Insights from Towns in New York State

Apr 14, 2017

By Lincoln R. Larson ● T. Bruce Lauber ● David L. Kay ● Bethany B. Cutts, Environmental Management, 12 April 2017
Local governments attempting to respond to environmental change face an array of challenges. To better understand policy responses and factors influencing local government capacity to respond to environmental change, we studied three environmental issues affecting rural or peri-urban towns in different regions of New York State: climate change in the Adirondacks (n = 63 towns), loss of open space due to residential/commercial development in the Hudson Valley (n = 50), and natural gas development in the Southern Tier (n = 62). 

Leaseholder perceptions of "Fracking" in Norther Pennsylvania

Fractured Promises or Flourishing Dreams? Leaseholder Perceptions of “Fracking” in Northern Pennsylvania

Apr 13, 2017

By David Kay, Dylan Bugden, and Rich Stedman, Cornell UniversityWhat is the Issue?
Recently, new oil and gas reserves in the U.S. Northeast’s Marcellus shale region were unlocked through “high volume hydraulic fracturing” (“fracking”) of subsurface rock. As technology evolved and prices increased, these resources became economically accessible, drawing industry to the region. Chesapeake Energy Corporation, one of the leading natural gas companies, initiated what they referred to as a “land grab” in a race to lock up access to the valuable resource. Other companies followed suit.
In the Northeast, mineral rights are typically owned by private

US Flag

Planning for the 2020 Census: Counting New Yorkers Where they Live

Mar 31, 2017

Issue Number 76/February 2017
by Jan Vink and Robin Blakely-Armitage, Cornell University

Since 1790, the United States has conducted a census of the population every ten years, as required by the U.S. Constitution. The upcoming 2020 census will be the nation’s 24th. The goal of the Decennial Census is to count everyone once, only once, and in the right place. This means that the Census is not just about counting people, it’s about counting people where they live.

Household income graph

Post-Recession Financial Strategies for Households: How to Deal with Debt

Dec 15, 2016

For two decades prior to the Great Recession, U.S. households steadily amassed significant amounts of debt and eroded their liquid asset holdings. By 2007, households were increasing debt at a rate equivalent to 6% of aggregate consumption every year. The Great Recession, which hit the U.S. and global economy in 2007, had an enormous impact on U.S. household finances. The financial crisis caused large drops in income with American median household income  declining by over 4%.

Greenmarket influence graph

Defining the Rural Wealth Impacts of Regional Food Systems

Sep 27, 2016

Policymakers increasingly view local and regional food systems as a priority for supporting rural development in America. Between 2009 and 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) invested more than $1 billion in over 40,000 local food systems projects.1 However, our ability to assess the impacts of these investments is still limited. Most existing measurement efforts focus on short-term economic impacts, but growth-focused indicators shed little light on changes to wider notions of wealth and wellbeing in rural communities. If researchers can develop more comprehensive ways to measure the broader impacts of local and regional food systems, policymakers and extension educators can more effectively design and target rural community development support.

Group of people in front of lake

Living with Water: Integrating Community Sustainability and Resilience

Aug 2, 2016

What is the Issue?
Over half of the world’s human population now lives in urban areas, and an estimated 30% to 40% of greenhouse gases produced worldwide are attributed to cities. While cities are major drivers of environmental and social change in global systems, their geography and density also make them vulnerable to stressors ranging from climate change and pollution to chronic poverty and crime. The problem is particularly acute in thousands of smaller U.S. cities that lack the technical and fiscal capacity to strengthen their aging social and infrastructure systems. Understanding the resilience of cities can help inform and guide local governments onto a more sustainable trajectory of development.

Community Wellbeing

Community Wellbeing Indicators, Beyond GDP

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.

School lunch

The Economic Implications of Using NYS Farm Products in School Lunches

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.


Creative Placemaking: Linking Arts, Culture, and Community Development

Feb 1, 2016

Research & Policy Brief / Issue 71
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.

Conservation and land use Figure 1

Conservation and Land Use: Linking Municipal Capacity and Biodiversity Outcomes

Dec 16, 2015

Research & Policy Brief / Issue 70

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.

Engaging Municipal Officials to Improve Natural Resource-Based Planning

Engaging Municipal Officials in Improving Natural Resource-Based Planning

Dec 1, 2015

Research & Policy Brief / Issue 69 
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.

Informed decision making

Improving Community Communication around Controversial Issues

Oct 1, 2015

Research & Policy Brief / Issue 68
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?

Evaluating visitor experiences in NYS parks

Analyzing Online Reviews: New Tools for Evaluating Visitor Experiences

Aug 1, 2015

Research & Policy Brief / Issue 67
By By Hari Prasad Udayapuram and Srinagesh Gavirneni, Cornell University

The New York State (NYS) park system consists of 214 parks and historic sites, over 2,000 miles of trails, 67 beaches, and 8,355 campsites. It attracts approximately 60 million visitors every year. The State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation is responsible for operating and maintaining the state park system, and one of its strategic priorities is to “Increase, Deepen, and Improve the Visitor Experience”. Visitor feedback is integral to achieving this objective, but traditional feedback methods – public meetings, web-based surveys and comment cards – are often tedious, expensive, and limited by low participation. Public online review platforms such as TripAdvisor, offer a large volume of visitor feedback that could vastly improve how NYS park managers and other community leaders concerned with tourism or business development currently understand and improve visitor experiences.

Sprawl image

An Opportunity to Make NY Smarter about Smart Growth

Jun 1, 2015

Issue 66 / Research & Policy Brief / June 2015
By Russell Glynn and David Kay, Cornell University

Urban sprawl and its negative impacts have become a potent catalyst for new policy action—often termed “smart growth” policies—over the  last decade. At its worst, sprawl has drained urban and  village centers of key employment and retail opportunities while marginalizing the poor, degrading  farmland and open  space, and promoting growth in private vehicle use among those able to “buy in” to suburban living. New York State (NYS), arguably the creator of the development pattern now associated with the term, took decisive action against publicly subsidized sprawl with passage of the State Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act in 2010.

Map of New York State with counties highlighted

NYS Communities and Changes to the American Community Survey

May 1, 2015

by Robin Blakely-Armitage and Jan Vink, Cornell University
In an effort to save money, the Census Bureau will eliminate its three-year American Community Survey (ACS) data program. The ACS is a survey that tracks changing economic and social conditions for a wide range of geographies, and communities and organizations use this data for grant writing, program valuation, and tracking general well-being. Data is collected on an on-going basis and tabulated for 1, 3, and 5 year periods. Up until the present, depending on population size, communities have had access to 1-year (communities 65,000+), 3-year (communities 20,000+), and 5-year tabulations (communities of all sizes). Access is more limited for smaller geographies because it takes a longer period to accumulate a sufficient sample size to produce statistically meaningful data.

CaRDI Report #17

NYS's Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act of 2010: Implementation and Significance for Local Government

Mar 1, 2015

Issue Number 17 / May 2015
By Heidi Mouillesseaux-Kunzman [1], David Kay [1], Eleanor Andrews [2], Zoe McAlear [3], and Russell Glynn [3]

Smart growth is a response to sprawl that has been increasingly implemented in policy over the past several decades. As an example of this policy innovation, New York State enacted the Smart Growth Public Infrastructure Policy Act of 2010 (SGPIPA). This document collects several related reports on the way that this law has been implemented in the years since its passage.

Median household income graph

Broadband's Contribution to Economic Health in Rural Areas. Research & Policy Brief, Issue 64.

Feb 1, 2015

The diffusion of broadband Internet access across America during the 2000s brought with it a significant amount of concern that rural areas might be left behind in terms of the availability, adoption, and benefits of this technology. While much has been made about the potential benefits of broadband for rural communities, the presence of a rural – urban broadband “digital divide” is well documented in the economic literature.

The Importance of Farm Labor in the NYS Yogurt Boom

The Importance of Farm Labor in the NYS Yogurt Boom

Oct 1, 2014

By Mary Jo Dudley, Cornell University
While there has been a great deal of discussion about how New York State (NYS) can take advantage of the yogurt boom, little attention has been paid to ensuring the labor supply required to support an increased demand for milk.