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Rochester’s ‘Report Card’: poverty still a major challenge 

The overall “well being” of the nine-county Greater Rochester area is improving in some areas, but it’s deteriorating in some troubling areas. And the City of Rochester continues to face challenges related to concentrated poverty.

Those are among the findings in the latest Community Report Card from ACT Rochester, which compiles data on key indicators of community health to help identify the region’s problems and spur action. The organization has gathered and assessed community data annually for 10 years.

ACT Rochester released its new report this morning at a gathering of government, business, non-profit, faith community, and education representatives. And while there was positive news in this year’s report, “for the first time in eight years,” said ACT’s executive director, Ann Johnson, “the Report Card shows our region performing worse than New York State” in half of the eight major areas that the organization tracks.

Those four areas were the economy, education, health, and public safety.  The area performed slightly worse than the state in economic security and better or equal to the state in factors related to children and youth, community vitality (art, leisure, voter participation, charity), and housing.

Areas in which the nine-county region performed better than the state average included prenatal care, teen pregnancy, voter registration, library use, and home ownership rate.

Some of the more dramatic statistics reflect the current national opioid crisis: Admissions to heroin substance-abuse treatment rose 211 percent in the region from the 2000-2007 period to 2017. And in the counties outside of Monroe, the increase was 500 percent, with 2,500 treatment admissions in 2017 in those counties.

As has been the case in previous reports, there were especially troubling signs in the data for the City of Rochester data. For instance:
  • In the 2013-2017 period, 73 percent of families with children under 18 were headed by a single parent. The regional average was 39 percent.
  • The child poverty rate in the city was 52 percent during the 2013-2017 period, and it has increased since 2014. The region’s child-poverty rate was 20 percent.
  • Babies in the City of Rochester had the highest rate of low birth weight – less than 5.5 pounds – averaging about 11 percent since 2000. The region’s rate, 7.5 percent, was about the same as the statewide rate.
  • An average of 11 percent of Rochester youth between the ages of 16 and 19 were neither working nor going to school, about double the county’s rate and almost double that of the nine-county region.
  • Twenty-five percent of Rochester households didn’t have a car in the 2013-2017 survey period. The regional average was 10 percent.
  • The median household income for Rochester was $32,300 during the 2013-2017 period, far lower than the region’s level of $55,000. And Rochester’s median household income level had decreased 19 percent since 2000. And the region’s median household income during that period was below the national level ($57,700) and below the state’s ($62,800).
  • Only 14 percent of the eighth-graders in Rochester City School District schools passed the eight-grade math exam or the Regents math test in 2018. The regional average was 45 percent; the state, 48 percent.
  • Rochester’s median home price was $79,400 in 2013-17, a 13 percent decline since 2000. The region's median home value was $133,200. That, too, had declined, although only by 2 percent. The state’s median was $214,390.
ACT Rochester’s full Report Card is online at
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