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Special Reports

Publications produced by the Cleveland Fed and partnering organizations that explore community development issues in greater depth.


Uncertain Terms: What Small Business Borrowers Find When Browsing Online Lender Websites

Barbara J. Lipman, Ann Marie Wiersch

This report discusses findings of a study conducted by the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland to assess the information presented to prospective borrowers on small business online lender websites. The study considers the information that is important to prospective borrowers and the availability of such information on lender websites for the purposes of understanding and comparing product costs and features. The study includes a systematic analysis of the content on online lender websites, such as where and how credit products’ costs and other details are disclosed, how much product information is made available before website visitors are asked to supply the owner’s personal or business information, and the extent to which visitors are tracked.
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Understanding the Disconnect between Economic Development and Workforce Development Systems

Kyle Fee, Drew Pack

The economic development field encourages business and job growth, while workforce development ensures individuals have the education, skills, and training needed to obtain jobs. This report provides perspectives on alignment as well as challenges and opportunities for greater alignment between the two systems, using stakeholder input from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s Fourth District.
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Click, Submit 2.0: An Update on Online Lender Applicants from the Small Business Credit Survey

Ann Marie Wiersch, Barbara J. Lipman, Scott Lieberman

Responses to the 2018 Small Business Credit Survey shed light on the types of small firms using online lenders, their application experiences, and credit outcomes. Among the main findings: Firms that apply at online lenders are more likely to be smaller, have lower credit scores, report more financial challenges, and be less profitable than firms that apply at only traditional lenders. In addition, black-owned and Hispanic-owned firms are more likely than white-owned and Asian-owned firms to report they applied at an online lender. Furthermore, online-lender applicants are more likely than traditional-lender applicants to apply for smaller amounts of financing and to seek funding to cover operating expenses. Finally, online-lender applicants reported greater success obtaining credit than traditional-lender-only applicants, despite having lower credit scores, and they are less satisfied with their lenders. ( PDF PDF icon )


Connectivity is Critical: What We Learned from Three Rural Counties

Matt Klesta, Bonnie Blankenship

No county is without its challenges, but the Cleveland Fed’s Community Development Department has found that those in rural counties in particular face a unique set difficulties. After studying three of our region’s most economically challenged counties, we learned that connectivity—both virtual (broadband access) and physical (roads and public transportation)—is critical in rural counties. (PDF PDF icon  )


Opportunity Occupations Revisited: Exploring Employment for Sub-Baccalaureate Workers Across Metro Areas and Over Time

Kyle D. Fee, Keith Wardrip, Lisa A. Nelson

This report updates a 2015 publication investigating regional economic opportunity for workers without a four-year college degree. In this study, researchers from the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Cleveland find that opportunity employment — defined as employment accessible to workers without a bachelor’s degree and paying above the national annual median wage, adjusted for regional differences in consumer prices — accounts for 21.6 percent of total employment but ranges from a high of 34.0 percent to a low of 14.6 percent in the metro areas analyzed. The report illustrates how the local mix of occupations, employers’ educational expectations, and the cost of living combine to expand or limit local opportunity relative to national conditions, and it finds that some of the largest opportunity occupations became more accessible to sub-baccalaureate workers as the labor market tightened. ( PDF PDF icon  )


Browsing to Borrow: “Mom & Pop” Small Business Perspectives on Online Lenders

Barbara J. Lipman, Ann Marie Wiersch

The Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland conducted a study of small business owners’ perceptions of online lenders and the business owners’ understanding and interpretation of the information that online lenders use to describe their credit products. The study found that while perceptions of online lenders were mixed, participating small businesses agreed that there is a need for clear disclosure of online lenders’ product costs and terms... ( PDF PDF icon  )


The State of Urban Manufacturing: Cincinnati City Snapshot

Mark Foggin, Lisa A. Nelson, Ann Marie Wiersch

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland and the Urban Manufacturing Alliance (UMA) partnered for a study of the urban manufacturing sector in Cincinnati to learn more about the city’s manufacturing environment. The study included analysis of industry data and anecdotal data from more than 100 of the city’s manufacturing firms. Findings of the study revealed positive expectations, barriers to growth, and helpful recommendations for addressing challenges... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Neighborhood Change in the Fourth Federal Reserve District

Kyle Fee

This special report provides a description of neighborhood change in the four largest cities of the Fourth Federal Reserve District, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1970 to 2010. The analysis relies on a statistical method of categorizing neighborhoods into a typology that is based on various quantitative characteristics of the residents and the housing stock. The typology captures the distribution of neighborhood types found in each city and provides a way to track how those neighborhoods have changed. Multiple variables are used to create each typology based upon the belief that urban neighborhoods are composites of many factors and that the methods used to study them should reflect that. In general, this analysis shows that from 1970 to 2010, most neighborhoods tended to remain the same from decade to decade. However, the overall rate of neighborhood change has increased in all four of the cities studied during the past two decades, with Cincinnati and Pittsburgh experiencing the greatest change from the 1990s to the 2000s... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Click, Submit: New Insights on Online Lender Applicants from the Small Business Credit Survey

Ann Marie Wiersch,  Barbara Lipman,  Brett Barkley

How do small businesses that apply to online alternative lenders compare to those that apply to traditional financial institutions only? And in what ways do their experiences with lenders differ? This analysis draws from data in the Federal Reserve’s 2015 Small Business Credit Survey to examine these questions. Among the main findings: Firms using online lenders tend to be smaller, younger, and less profitable than firms using traditional lenders, and are more likely to be minority-owned. Furthermore, firms that sought credit from online lenders reported lower overall approval rates—despite the perception among many small-business owners that they have a higher chance of being funded by an online lender. Finally, successful applicants reported lower levels of satisfaction with their online lenders, citing in particular concerns with high interest rates... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Addressing Employment Needs through Sector Partnerships: Case studies from across the Federal Reserve's Fourth District

Kyle Fee,  Matt Klesta,  Lisa Nelson

In this special report we examine five sector-based partnerships in the Fourth District, formed at various times over the past decade or so to help address the job-skills mismatch facing employers in the health care, IT, advanced manufacturing, and marine mechanics industries. A fifth partnership formed to help retrain former coal workers for employment in other industries. While these initiatives differ in goals and in how they operate, they all involve employers from a particular industry collaborating with representatives from local and regional economic development offices, educational institutions, and nonprofits in order to meet the needs of jobseekers, the industry, and the region’s economy. And overall, sector-based partnerships appear to be working, with evaluations identifying successful outcomes for both workers and employers in the form of increased wages, reductions in turnover, and increased productivity... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Identifying Opportunity Occupations in the Nation’s Largest Metropolitan Economies

Keith Wardrip, Kyle Fee,  Lisa Nelson,  Stuart Andreason

Are there well-paying jobs for people without a 4-year college degree? What and where are these jobs? How do employer preferences differ from education requirements for good jobs? This report summarizes research conducted by the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Atlanta on employment opportunities for workers with lower levels of formal education. Opportunity occupations are jobs generally considered accessible to someone without a bachelor’s degree and that pay at least the national annual median wage, adjusted for differences in local consumption prices. Focusing on the 100 largest metropolitan economies in the US, the researchers identify the most prevalent opportunity occupations in these economies; highlight differences across metropolitan areas; and, by using data extracted from online job advertisements, explore how employer preferences for education affect access to decent-paying employment... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Demystifying the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) for Community and Economic Developers: A Primer

Joseph Ott

Effective July 1, 2015, provisions of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or WIOA, went into effect. What changes has this legislation prompted, and how might they help improve outcomes for workers, employers, and communities alike? In this primer, Senior Policy Analyst Joseph Ott highlights key reforms of the WIOA along with implications for policy makers and practitioners... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Alternative Lending through the Eyes of “Mom-and-Pop” Small-Business Owners: Findings from Online Focus Groups

A Special Report of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland; Barbara Lipman, Federal Reserve Board of Governors, and Ann Marie Wiersch, Cleveland Fed, Co-authors

Nonbank or alternative lenders offer small-dollar credit products including cash advances, lines of credit, and various types of loans. Many provide the funds in days or even hours, expedience made possible with data-driven technologies and new approaches to underwriting, pricing, loan delivery, and servicing. While the industry holds promise for expanding access to credit, it also raises potential risks for small-business borrowers as these products can be considerably more expensive than traditional credit. This report details the results of and key findings from online focus groups held among small-business owners from across the country... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Applying Research to Policy Issues in Distressed Housing Markets: Data-Driven Decision Making

Thomas J. Fitzpatrick IV, O. Emre Ergungor,  Kyle Fee,  Daniel Hartley,  Francisca G.-C. Richter,  Youngme Seo,  Stephan Whitaker,  Mary Zenker

This compilation of housing research by economists and analysts at the Cleveland Fed explores policy issues around Ohio’s distressed housing markets. Policy considerations based on the body of research include: a foreclosure fast track; eliminating minimum bid requirements; reducing harmful speculation; expanding access to land banks; and improving data collection and access. Supporting research includes technical working papers that focus on foreclosure-related vacancy rates, housing price dynamics, and issues around population density. While focused on Ohio’s housing markets, this body of work holds potential implications for housing markets across the country... ( PDF PDF icon  )


A WIB Turns to Demand: Helping Job Seekers by Servicing Employers

Joel Elvery,  Lisa Nelson, Francisca G.-C. Richter

This report describes the “demand-facing” model of the Ohio Means Jobs|Cleveland-Cuyahoga County (OMJ|CC) Workforce Investment Board (WIB).  Detailing the innovative aspects of the OMJ|CC model, this publication highlights some of their successes around placement, retention, and wages. For other WIBs looking to achieve more efficient and effective outcomes, OMJ|CC offers a replicable model... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Workforce Development Listening Sessions in Pennsylvania

A Joint Publication of the  Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Cleveland;  Joseph C. Ott, Contributing Writer

In the summer of 2013, the Federal Reserve Banks of Philadelphia and Cleveland held five regional listening sessions on workforce development in cities across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The sessions were held with representatives from the educational and employment sectors to discern workforce development trends and issues concerning young people 16 to 24 years of age... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Workforce Development Challenges in Ohio

Mary Helen Petrus

This report summarizes outreach visits conducted by the Cleveland Fed in 2013 with workforce development providers across the State of Ohio. The report details specific challenges and some promising approaches for improving outcomes for both employers seeking skilled workers and job seekers finding appropriate employment... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Strengthening Communities with Neighborhood Data

A Publication of the  Urban Institute;  Lisa Nelson, Contributing Writer

This collection describes the evolution of the availability and use of community level data and provides examples in which data has been used to improve governance and inform policy to strengthen communities. The Cleveland Fed’s Lisa Nelson, author of the essay “Cutting through the Fog: Helping Communities See a Clearer Path to Stabilization,” describes the evolution of the NEO CANDO data system that has been an essential tool in neighborhood improvement initiatives throughout Northeast Ohio... ( PDF PDF icon  )


What Counts: Harnessing Data for America’s Communities

A Joint Publication of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the  Urban Institute;  Lisa Nelson, Advisory Committee Member

This compilation of essays outlines the evolution of the community information field, describes opportunities and challenges around the use of data for community development, and offers examples of how data can be used for community development and policy. Relevant for practitioners, policymakers, funders and technical experts, this book offers a roadmap for those looking to use data in building stronger communities... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Policy Considerations for Improving Ohio’s Housing Markets

Staff Report of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

This report, which highlights five policy considerations for improving Ohio’s housing markets, couples key findings from the Cleveland Fed’s housing research together with outreach insights gleaned from Ohio bankers, community development practitioners, and other market participants. It provides a framework for weighing the pros and cons of programs aimed at stabilizing the housing sector in distressed markets. This report is an Ohio-centric companion to the nationally focused housing market report issued by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in January 2012... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Putting Data to Work: Data-Driven Approaches to Strengthening Neighborhoods

A Publication of the Board of Governors of the  Federal Reserve System;  Lisa Nelson and  Anne O’Shaughnessy, Contributing Editors

This report illustrates ways in which communities are using data to inform policy and decision making around neighborhood stabilization. It highlights examples of communities that have used data to target neighborhood investments, to identify properties at high risk of vacancy and abandonment, and to implement strategies for discouraging harmful investing. This publication offers examples, best practices and replicable strategies for data-driven neighborhood stabilization efforts... ( PDF PDF icon  )


REO & Vacant Properties: Strategies for Neighborhood Stabilization

A Joint Publication of the  Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, and the  Federal Reserve Board of Governors;  Mary Helen Petrus, Project Director;  Anne O’Shaughnessy, Managing Editor;  Lisa Nelson, Content Editor,  Thomas J. Fitzpatrick IV, Contributing Writer

This report focuses on how policymakers and community development practitioners can help stabilize neighborhoods most at risk for decline. The publication contains articles that aim to shed light on the scope of the problem around the country and to showcase some methods for dealing with the challenge of vacant and REO properties. Featuring strategies that include land banking and maintaining occupancy despite delinquencies (see, for example, “How Modern Land Banking Can Be Used to Solve REO Acquisition Problems,” by Thomas Fitzpatrick), this collection provides context and solutions for communities impacted by the foreclosure crisis... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Facing the Foreclosure Crisis in Greater Cleveland: What Happened and How Communities are Responding

Produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland in partnership with  Case Western Reserve University and  Cleveland State University ;  Anne O’Shaughnessy  and  Francisca G.-C. Richter, Contributing Writers

The foreclosure crisis ranks among the most significant challenges facing American cities today. This report is Cleveland’s story, from how the housing crisis unfolded and progressed in Cuyahoga County to the local responses employed by community groups and local governments. Highlighted are some of these responses, including innovative uses of the NEO CANDO neighborhood data system, a county-wide land bank, and other collaborations addressing various spillovers of the crisis... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Revisiting the CRA: Perspectives on the Future of the Community Reinvestment Act

A Joint Publication of the  Federal Reserve Bank of Boston  and the  Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

This publication compiles a range of perspectives on the past and future of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). With contributions from researchers, regulators, community development practitioners and financial service industry representatives, this publication presents opinions and research, as well as suggested reforms and alternatives, meant to encourage debate around the future of the CRA. ... ( PDF PDF icon  )


The Enduring Challenge of Concentrated Poverty in America: Case Studies from Communities Across the US

A Joint Project of the  Community Affairs Offices of the Federal Reserve System and the Metropolitan Policy Program at the  Brookings Institution;   Lisa Nelson  and  Anne O’Shaughnessy, Editors

This report profiles a diverse set of 16 high-poverty communities, including two areas in the Fourth District: Cleveland’s Central neighborhood and Martin County, Kentucky. This compilation combines quantitative and qualitative research in a report that contributes to our understanding of the dynamics of poor people living in poor communities, and the policies that will be needed to bring both into the economic mainstream ... ( PDF PDF icon  )


Spatial Analysis of the Impact of Vacant, Abandoned, and Foreclosed Properties

Research conducted by Visiting Scholar Brian A. Mikelbank

This research considers jointly the impacts of two challenges often analyzed separately—vacant and abandoned properties, and residential foreclosures—in the context of the single-family housing market of Columbus, Ohio. While the specific regression coefficients estimated for Columbus will pertain to that market only, the relevance of the demonstrated modeling approach applies universally. The relationship between the geographies of the two issues and the links between them in the substantive process of housing decline make the approach demonstrated here critical if the role of either vacant/abandoned properties or foreclosure is to be accurately understood in any local housing market ... ( PDF PDF icon  )