Rochester, NY

Rochester, New York has become one of the American cities we have visited most often in recent years. This reflects our son's graduate work at the University of Rochester, and meeting the woman we are now pleased tp have as our daughter-in-law.
We have enjoyed opportunities to walk through the parks along the Genesee River, Eire Canal, and Lake Ontario. It's a great place to think about history while enjoying the views and the weather, if one is careful to visit only during the better parts of the year.
My own thoughts go back to Dad's camera store, with Kodak's logo on almost everything.
Kodak just about ain't no more, with a spate of bankruptcy and a great downsizing from more than 60,000 local employees in 1982 to fewer than 2,500 recently. However, George Eastman's name is on a world class School of Music, and his statue remains in the center of the main campus.
Not all of Rochester is commendable.
The murder rate has ranged between 14 and 25 annually per 100,000 population over the period 2000-2012, compared to the national rate of 5 per 100,000.
Rochester is not in the league of Detroit with its murder rate of 40 per 100,000, but it does resemble Cleveland's rate of 19 per 100,000. Like those other Midwestern Rust Belt capitals, Rochester's population has declined-- from 332,000 in 1950 to 210,000 in a recent year.
Data from the younger generation, with a high school graduation rate of 43 percent (compared to a state average of 73 percent) does not bode well for the city's future.
Rochester is far from the city it once was. Not only has the population declined and its major employer imploded, but the composition of the population has gone from nearly all white in 1940 (97.6 percent) to 42 percent African American and 16 percent Hispanic in 2010.
As in the case of most other large American cities, there are suburbs that are leafy, family oriented, and with few African Americans, Hispanics, or economically disadvantaged. Overall, the suburbs have about three times the population of the central city, and much better social indicators. While the city high school graduation rate was 43 percent, that of Brighton was 92 percent, Pittsford 96 percent, Henrietta.89 percent, and Irondequoit 94 percent.
Rochester makes a case study for those fascinated by the goods and bads of the United States, including its positive and negative dynamism. At one time it was at the focus of technical innovation, the Silicon Valley of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Kodak and Western Union were early names, then came Xerox and Bausch and Lomb. None of them proved capable of maintaining the dominance in their sectors, and the impact of two on the English language. Many used Kodak as a synonym for a camera, or the pictures resulting. Xerox still serves for some people as a verb to photocopy. Kodak may claim credit for inventing digital photography, but allowed the bonanza to slip out of its hands. None of those names that got their start in Rochester are anything like they used to be. Only Kodak maintains its headquarters in the city
Teenage pregnancy accompanies Rochester's other social indicators. About 7 percent of girls 15 to 19 years of age give birth each year, while the comparable figures for suburban towns is 1 percent and 2 percent for New York State as a whole. County health officials note that their actions have reduced the rate of city teenage girls giving birth, from 13 percent in 1990.
Infant mortality is part of the picture, with data for African Americans and Hispanics similar to those for Third World countries. One article compared the data for Rochester to Jamaica and Albania.
Race and ethnicity may be the most obvious markers of undesirable social indicators, but they are misleading as well as prejudicial. Black and Hispanic students living in the better suburbs graduate from high school at rates close to, or identical with White students.
Such findings point to the weight of income and education of family members, more than race or ethnicity, as setting individuals on more or less desirable paths. Yet they do nothing to obliterate the gaps between central city and suburban Rochester (and many other cities), marked by sharp differentials in the bad and good indicators of life.
Recent surveys have cited Rochester for its slow growth, or continued decline as compared to other large cities. Nonetheless, unemployment rates score at about the national and New York State averages in the range of 5-6 percent unemployment.
The apparent dissonance between relative low unemployment, high crime rates and other dismal social indicators appears to be explained by high rates of poverty. While the New York State average is about 16 percent, it is more than double that in the city of Rochester (33 percent) with a childhood poverty rate even higher (51 percent). Thus, a large incidence of people living in Rochester may be working, but at jobs that are part-time and irregular, as well as low-wage.
A professional with a decent income can live well in the better neighborhoods or suburbs of Rochester, no matter their racial or ethnic background, just as such people can live well in the metropolitan areas of Cleveland, Detroit, and other places with unsavory inner cities.
The fortunate can achieve the best available in western democracies of health care, housing, education, culture and other amenities. Not better than their counterparts in Western Europe and a few other places, but equivalent. The worst of Rochester, Cleveland, Detroit and elsewhere is as bad as it gets in western democracies, and as dismal as in much of the Third World. The advantages of American inner cities is the ease of movement. For kids with an eye toward stable, productive, and comfortable lives, along with parents to nurture, prod, and protect them, it's only a bus ride to a better school, and later to higher education and a good neighborhood.
Unfortunately, not many of the inner city kids get on those buses.