Do you see RI as providing opportunities for prosperity? Families are fleeing from our borders. The equivalent of 11 cities and towns wiped off map as people vote with their feet.

Eleven Towns Wiped Off Map as RI ranks 45th on 2017 Family Prosperity Index

Eleven Towns Could be Wiped Off Rhode Island’s Map As State Ranks 45th Nationally on Updated 2017 Family Prosperity Index

 

Crippling out-migration problem demands a new policy approach. Perhaps nothing is more telling about whether Americans see a state as providing sufficient opportunities for prosperity and a better quality of life than whether or not they are flocking to or fleeing from its borders. No other measure paints a more realistic picture of whether or not a particular state is an ideal place to raise a family or build a career than how people “vote with their feet.”

In this regard, Rhode Island is losing the state-to-state migration competition. Shockingly, since 2004, the State of Rhode Island has lost the equivalent population of 11 of its 39 cities and towns to out-migration. On net, over 80,000 more Rhode Island residents chose to leave our states than residents of other states chose to move here.

While America’s population grows, the Ocean State’s population remains stagnant because of such out-migration losses. Combined with the widely reported fact that the incomes of those coming to Rhode Island are lower than those leaving, Rhode Island’s overall tax base is on an ominous downward spiral. Some would call it a “death spiral.”

Out-migration losses are a contributing factor Rhode Island’s total labor force actually experiencing a decline in recent years. Although labor force decline is a negative factor, counter-intuitively, it has improved the state’s increasingly unreliable unemployment rate metric.

Strong families are the backbone to a free and thriving society. The root of this out-migration problem can best be captured by the Family Prosperity Index (FPI). As the most in-depth research on family well-being ever conducted, the FPI compiles 60 national indexes into 30 secondary categories as part of six major categories: Economics, Demographics, Family Self-Sufficiency, Family Structure, Family Culture, and Family Health.

This out-migration problem was highlighted in the Center’s original 2016 Rhode Island Family Prosperity Index report, where the Ocean State ranked a dismal 48th among all states.

In the updated 2017 FPI , while Rhode Island improved to 45th nationally, up three spots from 2016, the state suffers from a bottom-third ranking in five of six major categories and 16 of 30 secondary categories. The state ranked in the top-third in just six of the 30 secondary categories.

Despite this mild improvement, a more disturbing long-term trend is emerging. In the past five years, Rhode Island’s score in the important major category of Family Self-Sufficiency has declined by 9.8%. Over this same period, the Ocean State also saw declines in Family Structure, Family Health, and its overall FPI score, albeit with increased scores in Economics, Demographics, and Family Culture.

Combined with a separate measure that saddles Rhode Island with the worst-ranked business climate in the  nation, this one-two punch to the gut has been insurmountable hurdles for many Ocean State families and businesses to overcome.

Todd Sandahl family

Todd Sandahl and family

Todd Sandahl is one of those 80,000 individuals who felt compelled to make the difficult personal choice to uproot his family and move to another state that offered more financial security. An electrical engineer by trade, Sandahl couldn’t find meaningful employment in Rhode Island and became tired of his long commute to Massachusetts. He decided to pack his bags and head to Colorado for more opportunities, when he saw no future in the Ocean State.

FPI: a strategic roadmap. Rhode Islanders understand that better opportunities for prosperity can only be realized if more and better businesses create more and better jobs. Connecting the dots, it appears that Rhode Island’s poor opportunity for prosperity is a major reason why more people choose to leave our state than those who choose to come.

Rhode Island’s Family Prosperity Index not only highlights the state’s many specific problems, but the FPI can also be used as a roadmap to reverse these troubling trends. There is no single “silver-bullet” solution to the Ocean State’s many shortcomings. As it took hundreds of pieces of misguided legislation and regulation over recent decades to sink the state into a hole, it will take dozens, if not hundreds, of strategically aligned positive steps to pull us out.

Clearly, a new strategic policy direction is required for our state — a direction that the political class and civil society can largely agree upon. The high levels of taxation and regulation demanded by the state’s budget have led to the subsequent negative impacts on the business community and on family finances, as illustrated by Rhode Island’s out-migration losses. Yet the state’s political leaders continue to adhere to a misguided fealty to a budget that actually harms the very people they are sworn to serve. Indeed the state budget itself, and the policies that support it, could be considered to be the enemy of the people.

The FPI shows us the way. The major lesson of the original 2016 RI FPI report is that strong families lead to a strong economy, and vice versa. The clear, empirical evidence from a detailed analysis of reams of data from government and publicly available private sources confirms that a focus on pro-family outcomes, via policies that promote work and marriage, can lead to improved economic outcomes for the entire state.

By looking to improve each of the 60 FPI indexes, one at a time, the Ocean State can begin to turn its ship around. This focus will be at the core of the Center’s ongoing public policy advocacy and will be the primary mission of the recently formed RI Families Coalition.

 

Marijuana Legalization: Constitutional Crisis and Increased Costs and Legal Jeopardy for Employers?

Click here to see our previous marijuana statement

Click here to see testimony from CEO Stenhouse

April 5, 2017. Providence, RI — Concerned about the lack of serious debate about the societal impact of legislation that would legalize recreational marijuana use, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today published a policy brief that underscores the high risks that employers would face without adequate statutory protections. The brief follows a statement last month by the Center about the potential negative impact on family culture.

“If we want to increase opportunities for meaningful work for Rhode Island families, we need every employer and every job to remain in our state,” warned Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Imposing new legal risks on the business community, without proper evaluation and accommodation, would be an irresponsible act that would further harm our already last-place business climate.”

With hearings expected on the legislation next week, according to the policy brief, the legalization of recreational marijuana would create a constitutional crisis, whereby increased usage rates, could create major legal jeopardy and new costs for employers:

  • Legal jeopardy and costs for employers
  • Workplace safety
  • Increased drug testing costs for employers
  • Increased workers’ compensation costs and liabilities
  • Difficulty in identifying, recruiting, hiring, and maintaining drug-free employees
  • Loss of employee productivity
  • Increased costs to taxpayers for social services programs for those who become or remain unemployed for marijuana related reasons

“I have professionally dealt with employees who are concerned about their own personal safety when their co-workers are stoned in the workplace,” said Michael Cerullo, an Adjunct Scholar to the Center on the issue of substance abuse. “Increased usage of marijuana will invariably lead to decreased safety and productivity in manufacturing and other work environments, and will create legal problems for employers who seek to maintain a drug-free workplace.”

Cerullo is founder of What’s the Rush RI and is one of the state’s leading activists against marijuana legalization until a more thorough examination of the data from other states can be made. He is a private practice psychotherapist. Cerullo has evaluated and treated hundreds of adolescent and emerging adults involved with DCYF, the Family Court and justice system and with residential rehab programs.

As a more prudent approach, and in order to better understand these and other issues, the Center and Mr. Cerullo support the concept of a legislative study commission to properly vet data from other states and to evaluate the potential impacts of legalization across the board. The Center recommends a two-year commission study and reporting period so as to allow for even more research to be compiled. This approach is in keeping with the prestigious Rand Corporation’s view that it will not be until 2020 that we will fully see what changes take place in use, revenue, black market activity, big marijuana industry behavior and in downstream treatment, public health and safety trends.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), November 2016: A Quiet Entry to the Holiday Season

The final Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) report from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity to be released in 2016 brings little change, leaving until next year information about how factors such as the problematic Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) will affect Rhode Island’s position nationally.

Of the 13 datapoints used for the index, only five were newly updated for the November report. Employment was down 365 from the previously recorded number, while labor force fell a substantial 1,758, although RI-based jobs increased by 300. (Note that these are calculated with pre-revision data for the prior month.) Medicaid enrollment decreased by 1,369 from August to September and SNAP by 667. The enrollment numbers for Rhode Island’s welfare programs will be a key variable to watch as 2016 data is completed early in the next year. Assuming UHIP doesn’t undermine data reporting to the federal government, the question will be whether increased information finds more current enrollees ineligible than connecting all of the program brings more people to benefits.

The first chart shows Rhode Island locked in the last position in New England on JOI. Although New England experienced a mix of improved and declining JOI scores, no states changed position in the national ranking. New Hampshire remained 1st in the nation, with Maine a distant second, at 20th. Vermont was right behind, at 21st. Connecticut narrowly held its 34th position, with Massachusetts next, at 35th.

ne-joirace-1116

The second chart shows the gap between Rhode Island and New England as well as the United States, with the Ocean State’s lag worsening slightly in both cases. Rhode Island kept pace with New England for the gap on the unemployment rate but lost ground against the national average (third chart).

rineus-joi-2005-1116 rineus-unemployment-2005-1116

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism that adequate work is available): RI remained at 39th.
  • Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI remained at 39th.
  • Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained at 47th.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), October 2016 Lagging on Long-Term Unemployment; Leading with Welfare

For the October Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) report from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, our methodology changed slightly. All numbers in the Prosperity Factor (income over taxes) are now annualized.The change made no ranking difference for Rhode Island, which remains 48th, but Vermont did move back into third place in the New England race.

Of the 13 datapoints used for the index, nine are updated for the October report, including measures of long-term employment weakness, on which Rhode Island did poorly, compared with the rest of the country. Employment was up 292 from the previously recorded number, while labor force fell 188, and RI-based jobs increased by 2,200. (Note that these are calculated with pre-revision data for the prior month, but using our new methodology.) Medicaid enrollment increased by 3,183 and SNAP by 267, although TANF dropped by 98. Long-term unemployment was down 300 people and marginally attached workers 100, but the number of Rhode Islanders working part-time against their will remained exactly the same.

The first chart at right shows Rhode Island still hopelessly the last state in New England on JOI. New England experienced a mix of improved and declining JOI scores. New Hampshire remained 1st in the nation, and Maine held firm at 20th. Vermont moved up two slots, to 21st, on Maine’s heals. Connecticut moved in the other direction, falling to 34th in the country, while Massachusetts moved up two, to 35th.

ne-joirace-1016

The second chart at right shows the gap between Rhode Island and New England as well as the United States, with the Ocean State gaining slightly on the U.S., but slipping against the region. However, Rhode Island’s gap worsened on the unemployment rate (third chart).

rineus-joi-2005-1016

rineus-unemployment-2005-1016

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism that adequate work is available): RI fell from 36th to 39th.
  • Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI remained at 39th.
  • Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained at 47th by this factor.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), September 2016: Rhode Island Slips on Income

Last month’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) report from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity noted that Rhode Island slipped back into 48th place in the nation because total taxes collected in the state increased. This month, Rhode Island remains 48th because Rhode Islanders’ personal income dropped, leaving us to pay more taxes with less income.

Of the 13 datapoints used for the index, six are updated for the September report. Employment was up 516 from the previously recorded number, labor force up 675, and RI-based jobs down 600. (Note that these are calculated with pre-revision data for the prior month.) Medicaid enrollment increased by 2,338, while SNAP decreased by 451. Personal income, including wages and various forms of investment income, dropped an annualized $589 million in the second quarter (resulting from a downward revision of first quarter data by the Bureau of Economic Analysis). All in all, the increases were smaller and the decreases larger than the month before.

As reflected in the first chart below, Rhode Island remains the last state in New England on JOI. Moreover, it was the only state in the region to experience a decrease in its JOI score. Although the other five states improved their scores, Vermont was the only one to change rankings from a national perspective (from 44th to 41st). New Hampshire remained 1st in the nation, and Maine stayed at 20th. Connecticut held 33rd in the country, with Massachusetts still close behind, at 35th.

ne-joirace-0916

The second chart at right shows the gap between Rhode Island and New England as well as the United States, which expanded once again, this month. By contrast, Rhode Island’s gap shrunk on the unemployment rate (third chart), although minimally.

rineus-joi-2005-0916

rineus-unemployment-2005-0916

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism that adequate work is available): RI remained stuck in 36th place.
  • Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI remained at 39th.
  • Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI dropped one place, behind Ohio, to 45th.

Media Alert: RI Falls Back to 48th in August JOBS & OPPORTUNITY INDEX (JOI)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 23, 2016
Drop in August “Prosperity” Drags RI Back to 48th on national Jobs & Opportunity Index

Providence, RI — Due to an increase in the ratio of tax dollars paid as compared with personal earnings, the Ocean State dropped back to 48th place in the August Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), a multi-data metric developed by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. 

Based on the release of new state and local tax collection data from the U.S. Census, Rhode Island lost ground on the national JOI metric, remaining – as it has for years – in the bottom five among all states. JOI is a broader and more accurate measure of employment and well-being than the traditionally cited and highly narrow unemployment rate, which has fluctuated more dramatically in recent years for Rhode Island, but which is not an accurate barometer of economic prosperity.

“Political leaders want us to believe that conditions are improving for families and businesses, but JOI shows this just isn’t true,” commented Research Director for the Center, Justin Katz.  “Based on August data, our Ocean State remains worst in New England for each of the three JOI factors that measure employment, income, and independence. Lawmakers must adopt broad-based reforms that can make Rhode Island a state where all Rhode Islanders, not just government and targeted special interests, can truly prosper.”

The Ocean State’s second-quarter increase in taxes collected over the first quarter compared with New York’s decrease made the difference by decreasing its “Prosperity” factor, leading Rhode Island to lose ground against the U.S. and New England averages.

Supporting the conclusions from the JOI metric, Rhode Island also ranks 48th in the Family Prosperity Index, the broadest national measure of family well-being.

For the JOI homepage, click here.

For a description of JOI and its three sub-factors, click here.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), July 2016: Ocean State Up a Step (For Now)

The notable development with the July Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) is that Rhode Island edged past New York to claim the rank of 47 out of 50 states in the nation. Eight of 13 datapoints were new this month. The Ocean State even managed to narrow its gap with the New England and U.S. averages slightly. Although, the state remained in last place in the region by a significant margin.

All updated metrics improved for Rhode Island. Employment was up 1,428 from the previously recorded number, labor force up 1,721, and RI-based jobs up 2,500. (Note that employment numbers are subject to heavy revision.) Medicaid enrollment decreased by 2,129, while TANF decreased by 805. Also updated, this month, were the alternative measures of unemployment calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, now covering the second quarter of 2016. Long-term unemployment was down 1,200, marginally attached Rhode Islanders down 700, and people involuntarily part-time employed (rather than full time) decreased 2,400.

The first chart shows the six New England states in the national race. Rhode Island was the only state to see an increase in actual overall JOI score, although New Hampshire did advance to 3rd place in the country, as North Dakota slipped. Connecticut fell three spaces, to 36th, but Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts held their spots at 17th, 19th, and 37th, respectively.

NE-JOIrace-0716

The second chart shows the gap between Rhode Island and New England and the United States. By contrast, Rhode Island’s gap increased on unemployment rate, holding steady while the New England and U.S. rates dropped a little (third chart).

RINEUS-JOI-2005-0716

RINEUS-unemployment-2005-0716

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism that adequate work is available): RI moved forward five slots to 38th place.
  • Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI remained at 39th.
  • Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI still ranks 46th, with no data points updated.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), May 2016: A Down Month in a Stagnant Trend

With Rhode Island losing both employment and labor force, in May, the state slipped to 36th in the nation for unemployment. On the broader Jobs & Opportunity (JOI) ranking, Rhode Island’s rank remained unchanged at 48 among states, despite lower scores on the two subfactors for which new data was available (five of its 13 datapoints).

On the three monthly employment datapoints, the decreases were signficant, especially using the originally reported, unrevised numbers for the prior month. Rhode Islanders reporting that they are working dropped by 533, while those working or looking for work dropped by 359. Meanwhile, the number of jobs based the state fell 2,400. The two welfare-related datapoints, were mixed (partly because they have different lags in terms of reporting months). Reliance on Medicaid increased by 2,281 people, while reliance on SNAP (food stamps) fell by 208.

The first chart shows the six New England states in the national race. All six experienced a loss of points on the JOI score, but Maine managed to move up to 21st place, as Oklahoma slipped. Connecticut held at 34, as did Vermont, at 20. New Hampshire kept its place at the lead of the nation, although Wyoming gained slightly, and Massachusetts is stuck at 37.

NE-JOIrace-0516

Overall, the gap between Rhode Island’s JOI score and the New England average grew in April (see the second chart). When it comes to the unemployment rate, Rhode Island lost ground within New England but gained nationally (third chart), illustrating the problem with using that common metric as an indicator of economic health.

RINEUS-JOI-2005-0516

RINEUS-unemployment-2005-0516

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism adequate work is available): RI remained at 43rd.
  • Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI still ranks 39th, although with a lower score.
  • Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI still ranks 46th, because no underlying data has been updated.

[Click here for a printable PDF.]

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), April 2016: Slight Improvement, but Slipping Versus Neighbors

Click Here For The .PDF
 (See the full list of state rankings!)

Although the narrow official unemployment rate that Rhode Island politicians prefer to tout puts the state at 35th in the nation, up from 36th, the broader Jobs & Opportunity (JOI) ranking of Rhode Island remained unchanged at 48 among states. With eight of its 13 datapoints’ being updated, including quarterly alternate measures of unemployment, the index did see improvement on the Job Opportunity factor for April, largely because of a reduction of the number of Rhode Islanders at the edges of the labor force, including long-term unemployed, marginally attached, and involuntary part-time.

However, with employment in the Ocean State largely stagnant for the past year, this result may very well be an indicator of the final exit of people who’ve decided that they just can’t make RI work for them. Improvements in the two welfare metrics that were updated, Medicaid and SNAP, could also be otherwise positive developments indicating a trend that is arguably negative. (Note that these metrics lag by three and two months, respectively.)

As one would expect from an index with so many values, changes from month to month are not dramatic, as seen in the first chart, which shows the six New England states in the national race. Even so, Connecticut slipped a rank, to 34, and Vermont advanced one, to 20. New Hampshire held its place at the lead of the nation; Maine kept 22nd; and Massachusetts remained at 37.

NE-JOIrace-0416

Overall, the gap between Rhode Island’s JOI score and the New England average grew in April (see the second chart). That result contrasts with the unemployment rate, with which Rhode Island gained ground within New England (third chart), illustrating the problem with using that common metric as an indicator of economic health.

RINEUS-JOI-2005-0416

RINEUS-unemployment-2005-0416

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • The Job Outlook Factor (measuring people’s optimism that adequate work is available): RI moved up five steps to 43rd.
  • The Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI still ranks 39th, with reductions in welfare rolls being canceled out by lost jobs based in the state.
  • The Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI still ranks 46th, because no underlying data has been updated.

[Click here for a printable PDF.]