Residents rate upstate New York as a safe and inexpensive place to live and work, study at Cornell finds

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Families in upstate New York reap numerous benefits, such as a strong sense of safety, moderate cost of living, proximity to jobs and relatives and numerous community amenities (parks, libraries, public events and recreational opportunities), according to a new study from Cornell University.

The study, which assessed the "family friendliness" of upstate New York, found that to maintain the same standard of living that an annual income of $50,000 buys in Rochester, for example, would take $75,000 in Los Angeles and $104,000 in Manhattan. The report, How Family Friendly is Upstate New York? is published by the Cornell Careers Institute, an Alfred P. Sloan Center for the Study of Working Families in the New York State College of Human Ecology.

"Overall, we find that people who live in family-friendly communities tend to rate their health, energy and marital satisfaction higher than others," says Phyllis Moen, professor of sociology and human development at Cornell. Moen, the Ferris Family Professor of Life Course Studies, is the director of the Cornell Careers Institute. The report is authored by Moen and Stephen Sweet and Bickley Townsend, both research associates in the institute.

The presentation of the report is the cornerstone of a conference, the Work/Life Summit 2001: Upstate New York: A Great Place to Work -- A Greater Place to Raise a Family, to be held Tuesday, Nov. 6, from 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency hotel in Rochester. The conference is sponsored by the National Council on Family Relations, the Cornell Careers Institute and 10 other organizations interested in bringing the business and labor communities together with family researchers to promote healthy work and life environments. The conference will include practical tips on how employers can improve conditions for workers.


The Cornell researchers report that among the nearly 5,000 men and women surveyed, the top reasons they chose to live in upstate New York was a job opportunity for themselves or their spouses. Friends, relatives and an attraction to upstate New York communities also were influential. In selecting which community to live, these families focused on safety, reputation of schools and presence of parks, libraries and events, followed by recreational opportunities, proximity to jobs, size of towns and proximity to spouse's job and relatives. Upstate working couples tend to rate their employers fairly high on "family friendliness," with an average rating of 78 on a 100-point scale. Employers that offer reduced work hours, flexible schedules and freedom to handle family concerns in the office, for example, tend to be ranked higher than other employers. Employees in family-friendly workplaces typically report greater career satisfaction and less negative spillover between work and family than others.

The report is intended to glean insights into how neighborhoods, workplaces, policies and services foster or hinder family-friendly environments in the region. The investigators drew on census data as well as surveys of dual-earner couples working for 12 major upstate employers representing a range of industry sectors. "Upstaters" were defined as those living in the 40 counties that stretch from the Albany area westward to the state border at Niagara Falls and Lake Erie, and north to Lake Ontario, excluding the six most northerly counties in the Adirondack State Park and metropolitan New York City.

The report also includes recommendations on how community leaders and employers can promote family-friendly environments with better work and life policies and supportive workplace culture.

"Overall, working couples in this region define their communities and workplaces as family friendly, but they see areas for improvement," says Moen. "How this region responds to the needs of its working families will be key to the life quality in that region, business growth and productivity and to upstate New York's economic, political and cultural future."

The 125-page report, How Family Friendly is Upstate New York? with 110 graphs and 21 maps, is particularly useful for employers, government decision-makers and community leaders. Single copies of the full report or an executive summary are available free from Joanne Kenyon at (607) 255-6299 or e-mail . For more information on the Work/Life Summit 2001, call (888) 781-9331 or e-mail .

The study was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the National Institute on Aging as well as the College of Human Ecology and Cornell Cooperative Extension.