In May 2019, the Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) at Towson University released independent research on human development disparities across the state of Maryland. This research showed how life expectancy, educational attainment, and income varies widely from one neighborhood to the next. Thus, while Maryland is one of the nation’s wealthiest states, not all Marylanders experience this reality.

Based on the results of our research, RESI convened four round tables to discuss potential policy responses to these disparities. These discussions brought together local experts on a variety of topics, including food insecurity, public education, access to employment, and public transit.

Throughout these discussions, participants shared thoughtful insights into the issues, their causes, and potential steps local leaders can take to help reduce those disparities. Based on these round tables, RESI developed four policy briefs that present potential policy solutions to help address these disparities. We recently presented these policy briefs at our annual Economic Outlook Forum.

Missed the event? Read a summary of each brief below:

The Economic Impact of Increasing Maryland’s High School Graduation Rates

Participants in the public education roundtable discussed numerous topics, including the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission. One of the commission’s goals is to make Maryland public schools “world class.” What would it mean if Maryland’s high school graduation rate was the best in the country?

  • Maryland’s high school graduation rate would increase by 4.1 percentage points.
  • Each new high school graduate would increase their lifetime earnings by over $1.8 million.
  • The class of 2021 would earn an additional $4.4 billion in lifetime earnings across the 2,432 new graduates.
  • By 2040, RESI estimates that increased annual earnings to all new graduates would exceed $1.4 billion, while overall state income would increase by nearly $2.5 billion.

Read our policy brief on the impact of higher graduation rates in Maryland.

The Economic Impact of the Summer SNAP Program

To combat childhood food insecurity, round table participants suggested expanding the Summer SNAP program, which increases SNAP (formerly known as Food Stamps) benefits to children during school breaks (when they are not receiving free or reduced price meals at school). Current state funding for Summer SNAP (there is a matching component for local counties) is set to $200,000. However, the original obligation in the bill was $2 million in state funding. What would the benefit to Maryland be of this $2 million amount, regardless of local matching?

  • RESI estimates that every dollar allocated to Summer SNAP leads to $1.18 in economic output.
  • Funding Summer SNAP at $2 million supports 16 jobs which earn an average of nearly $44,000 each.
  • For every dollar of funding into Summer SNAP, seven percent flows back to state and local governments as tax revenues.
  • Compared to alternative uses of this funding, Summer SNAP supports 13 percent more jobs, 11 percent more wages, and 4 percent more tax revenue.
  • These figures do not account for long-term benefits such as improved education and health outcomes.

Read our policy brief on Summer SNAP.

Increasing Job Accessibility by Increasing Bike Commuting

In some Baltimore City neighborhoods, as many as 80 percent of households lack access to a car. For these households, having alternative means of transportation is critical. While public transportation is most frequently in the discussion, it is relatively difficult to create new fixed rail lines or redesign bus systems. Round table participants highlighted bike commuting as a complimentary form of transit to help Baltimore City residents gain access to a job. RESI compared potential job access by bike and by public transit across the Baltimore metro area to identify priority areas for bike infrastructure investment.

  • RESI found that in many neighborhoods, access via bicycle outperforms public transportation.
  • For a half hour door-to-door commute, residents of the area can access over twice as many jobs by biking as they could by relying on public transit.
  • Biking’s advantages relative to public transit are most prominent in an “inner ring” of neighborhoods in west and east Baltimore City – many of the neighborhoods where households rely on alternative transit modes the most.
  • The number one barrier to increased bike usage is safety. Constructing new separated bike lanes in west and east Baltimore City will increase the number of jobs residents can access, thereby improving economic outcomes for residents.

Read our policy brief on the benefits of an increased focus on bike commuting in Baltimore.

Public-Private Partnerships for Workforce Development

During the access to employment round table, participants commented on the effectiveness of public-private partnerships (P3)for workforce development. These partnerships match resources from state and local governments up with employers who have immediate needs for skilled workers and who can provide training and hiring. RESI examined best practices from four partnerships across the country and found the following:

  • The types of industry partners impact a new P3 greatly. Before launching a new P3, it is critical to understand available partners to know how the program will be funded and organized.
    • Major anchor employers offer stability, name recognition, and can often help financially support a program.
    • Partnering instead with a larger number of small businesses increases the overall flexibility of the P3, as workers can learn a broader range of skills.
  • Providing wraparound services is critical. Often, participants in P3 programs need help with childcare, transportation, and their work schedules. Without providing solutions, a new P3 may not be able to attract many participants who need the program most.
  • If possible, providing financial support to participants helps minimize the impact of missing work for a training program. If a participant needs to choose between paying rent or attending a class, it is likely that they will miss the class, even if the class offers the promise of a better income in the future.
  • During the job training program, organizers should offer academic support services, such as guidance counselors or mentors to ensure students are best prepared for success.

Read our policy brief on best practices for public-private partnerships in the region.