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July/August 2012

Inside This Issue:


Pennsylvanians Share Attitudes on Renewable Energy
Public and policy interest in renewable energy has grown nationwide in recent years. According to the results of recent research sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a majority of Pennsylvanians said they would like more of their electricity to come from renewable sources and would be willing to pay more to achieve higher renewable energy production.

The research on Pennsylvanians’ attitudes toward renewable energy was conducted by Dr. Clare Hinrichs, Dr. Richard Ready, John Eshleman and James Yoo of Pennsylvania State University.

The research found that Pennsylvanians highly rate hydropower, solar electricity and wind power, followed by nuclear power and natural gas, for electricity generation.

It also found that the average household in Pennsylvania is willing to pay $55 per year to increase wind and other renewable production (excluding biomass combustion) by an amount equal to 1 percent of Pennsylvania electricity consumption.

Research background
To learn more about rural and urban Pennsylvanians’ attitudes on renewable energy, their views on the impacts of renewable energy generation facilities and their willingness to pay for renewable energy, the researchers conducted focus group interviews, a mail survey and case study focus groups in five rural communities in 2010 and 2011.

The two focus group sessions were conducted in 2010 in Huntingdon and Pittsburgh and included six and 10 participants, respectively. The surveys were mailed to 1,600 Pennsylvania residents and yielded a 50.4 percent response rate. And the rural case study focus groups included a community with an established wind energy operation, a community where a new wind energy operation had been proposed, a community with an established biomass energy operation and a community with a proposed biomass energy operation. A fifth community, with no existing or known proposed utility-scale renewable energy operation, was used as a “control” community.

Results
In the Huntingdon and Pittsburgh focus groups, participants mentioned a variety of renewable energy options, with wind, solar, and biomass (specifically methane digestion) receiving particular attention. The Huntingdon group spoke more specifically about particular types of renewable energy and generally demonstrated greater knowledge about renewable energy options.

The Pittsburgh group focused its discussion more toward the benefits and drawbacks, community-level implications, and political process of renewable energy proliferation more generally.

The survey data indicated that Pennsylvania residents prefer some electricity technologies over others. Hydropower, solar electricity, wind power, and improved efficiency were all highly rated by respondents. Nuclear power and natural gas were rated next highest. Biomass combustion, conventional coal, and coal with carbon capture and sequestration were ranked next highest. Waste coal was the lowest-ranked technology.

The survey results also showed that Pennsylvania residents are in favor of increasing the percentage of electricity generated from renewable sources, even if such an increase will cost them money. Further, they believed that the costs of achieving this goal should be shared by all Pennsylvania residents. They indicated that the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS) Tier I requirements (Act 213 of 2004) were good policy for the state, and supported increasing the Tier I requirements above what is required by current law.

In terms of social acceptance of renewable energy development and generation in one’s own community, a minority of Pennsylvania residents believed that it would be undesirable to live near a solar or wind energy facility. About 50 percent believed that it would be undesirable to live near a biomass combustion facility. Even though most Pennsylvania residents are not concerned about the negative aspects of living near renewable energy facilities, a majority of residents believe that citizens do not have adequate opportunity to participate in decisions regarding the siting of renewable energy facilities.

The survey results also found that Pennsylvania residents are willing to pay money to achieve higher renewable electricity production. Overall, the average household in Pennsylvania was willing to pay $55 per year to increase wind and other renewable production (excluding biomass combustion) by an amount equal to 1 percent of total electricity use in the state, and was willing to pay $42 per year to increase solar generation by the same amount. The average household was not willing to pay anything to increase electricity production from biomass combustion.

For job impacts, the respondents rated natural gas and conventional coal highest, which suggests that the respondents understood the importance of these two resources for employment in the state.

Several common themes emerged from the focus group case studies. One was the idea of “energy independence,” which tended to be the first benefit of renewable energy that participants chose to mention. Another was the participants’ interest in energy efficiency and conservation as an energy strategy deserving greater individual, household, community and state attention. And another was the concern about the general absence of a sound, long-term, comprehensive energy policy at the state or federal level.

Policy considerations
Based on the research results, the researchers developed several considerations for policy makers, including the following.

Report available
For a copy of the report, Pennsylvanians’ Attitudes Toward Renewable Energy, call or email the Center at (717) 787-9555 or info@rural.palegislature.us or visit www.rural.palegislature.us.


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Examination of County Veterans Offices
There were more than 1 million veterans in Pennsylvania during 2005-2009, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. While the number of veterans is projected to decline to fewer than 530,000 by 2030, the needs of veterans are expected to increase as injuries that would not have been survivable in previous wars are now bringing many more veterans home with severe needs.

To examine how rural County Veterans Affairs Offices (CVAOs) in Pennsylvania are meeting the needs of veterans, researchers from Penn State Harrisburg’s Institute of State and Regional Affairs completed research that inventoried, compared, and analyzed services provided by CVAOs. The research, which was sponsored by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, included in-depth interviews with stakeholders, focus groups with veterans and their family members, and a survey of the 67 county veteran affairs directors.

The research found that some of the same issues that were identified in the 2007 and 1994 reports on veterans’ services, commissioned by the Pennsylvania Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, continue today. The most persistent of which is that the state requires county commissioners to appoint a director of Veterans’ Affairs, whose duty is to oversee those obligations assigned to the county by law, but fails to provide any direct funding to support the mandate. Another is that while the county veterans affairs directors are appointed by and report to the county commissioners, they are serving what is essentially a state and federal program, which makes accountability, monitoring and measuring of program outcomes difficult. 

One area of progress in the last few years has been the higher number of county veterans affairs directors that have been trained and accredited, mostly by the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA). In previous studies, training and accreditation were identified as significant systemic problems. 

All stakeholders involved in the study said that much more could be done to serve veterans and that additional funding is needed. One suggestion for increasing resources included creating a Pennsylvania Veteran Foundation, funded through special state lottery ticket sales.

Veterans and their family members expressed high satisfaction with the services they were receiving from CVAOs, though they indicated that improvements in service delivery are needed.

The survey of county veterans affairs directors showed that the biggest determinants of providing a full range of services and recovering a larger proportion of federal benefits are having a full-time director and adequate budget and staffing.

Policy considerations from the research include: changing the management and reporting structure of CVAOs to achieve more effective and efficient service delivery to veterans; having the state DMVA conduct regular needs assessments of veterans to better understand how to best serve their needs; and having the DMVA provide regular re-accreditation training sessions to ensure that county veterans affairs directors are receiving the same information, in the same format, in a timely and consistent manner.

For a copy of the research results, Examination of Rural County Veterans Affairs Offices, call or email the Center at (717) 787-9555 or info@rural.palegislature.us or visit www.rural.palegislature.us.

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Chairman’s Message
Imagine for a moment – How many times per day do you flip a light switch, turn on an appliance or check your email? It’s almost instinctive. Rarely, do we think about the energy that fuels that light bulb, appliance or mobile device – or how it is even generated.

Now, think about the role of rural Pennsylvania in supplying and generating that same energy. Since the 1800’s, rural Pennsylvania has played a key part in contributing to our most urgent energy needs. From the discovery of oil in Venango County, to the harvesting of timber in Lycoming County, to the mining of coal fields in Schuylkill County, rural Pennsylvania has a long history in both supplying and generating energy throughout the commonwealth. 

Today, rural Pennsylvania is again at the forefront of a new energy milestone with the development of Marcellus Shale natural gas. In this issue of Rural Perspectives, the Center highlights research results on Pennsylvanians’ attitudes in regard to natural gas and renewable energy technologies in our state. (A copy of the research results is available by contacting the Center or visiting the website at www.rural.palegislature.us.)

Also included in this edition is a Center-sponsored analysis of Census Bureau data that takes an in-depth look at rural senior citizens who are in the labor force. The article, “Working Senior Citizens,” is part of a new series called Rural Snapshot, which was first introduced back in January. This series is taking a look at various segments of our rural population to understand how our population may or may not be changing.

 Back by popular demand, we’ve also included “Did You Know…” in this edition. We’ve heard from several readers over the past few months about how they missed reading this series and the quick facts it provided on a wide variety of topics. Did You Know… In 2010-11, Wine and Spirit shops located in rural Pennsylvania sold more than $81.8 million in table wines and $56.6 million in vodka?

Lastly, be sure to check out the Conferences section on Page 7. Some favorite upcoming events include Ag Progress Days in August in Rock Springs and the Pennsylvania Downtown Center Annual Conference in September in State College. Be sure not to miss these worthwhile and educational events!

On behalf of the Center for Rural Pennsylvania board and staff, we hope you have a safe, healthy and enjoyable summer!

Senator Gene Yaw

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Rural Snapshot: Working Senior Citizens
Senior citizens make up about 5 percent of the rural labor force, according to 2010 data from the U.S. Census Bureau. To take a more in-depth look at rural senior citizens who are in the labor force, the Center for Rural Pennsylvania analyzed data from the 2006 and 2010 American Community Survey, Public Use Microdata Sample (ACS-PUMS). 

Number of Working Seniors
In rural Pennsylvania, there were an estimated 101,483 people age 65 and older in the labor force in 2010. These working seniors made up 5 percent of the total rural labor force. In urban Pennsylvania there were an estimated 209,104 working seniors, who made up 5 percent of the total urban labor force.

From 2006 to 2010, the number of rural working seniors increased 23 percent. During the same period, rural workers under 65 increased only 1 percent. Among urban workers, there was a 21 percent increase in working seniors and a 3 percent increase in younger workers.

Pennsylvania has a slightly higher percentage of working seniors than the nation. In 2010, 4 percent of America’s senior citizens were in the labor force. The four states with the highest percentages of working seniors were Vermont, South Dakota, Hawaii, and Nebraska, each with more than 5.2 percent of working seniors in the labor force. The three states with the lowest percentages of working seniors were Georgia, Alaska, and Utah. In each of these states less than 3.5 percent of the labor force was comprised of senior citizens.

From 2006 to 2010, the number of seniors in the U.S. labor force increased 20 percent. The three states with the highest increases were Hawaii, Alaska, and Vermont, each with an increase of more than 35 percent. The three states with the smallest increases were Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Iowa. In each of these states, there was an increase of less than 5 percent, except in Iowa, which had a 2 percent decline in working seniors. Pennsylvania had a statewide increase of 22 percent.

Characteristics of Working Seniors
Age: In 2010, the average age of rural working seniors was 70. Fifty-seven percent of working seniors were 65 to 69 years old, 36 percent were in their 70s and 6 percent were 80 years old and older. In 2006, the average age of rural working seniors was also 70; however, 55 percent were 65 to 69 years old, 40 percent were in their 70s and 5 percent were 80 years old and older. 

The average age of urban working seniors was 70.6 years old in 2006 and 70.1 years old in 2010.

Gender: In 2006 and 2010, the majority of rural working seniors were male. However, from 2006 to 2012, there was a decrease in the percentage of male working seniors and an increase in the percentage of female working seniors. In 2006, 59 percent of rural working seniors were male and 41 percent were female. In 2010, 56 percent were male and 44 percent were female. During this same period, female urban working seniors went from 43 percent to 46 percent, while males went from 56 percent to 54 percent.

In 2010, rural male working seniors had higher educational attainment levels than females: 28 percent of males had an associate’s degree or higher compared to 20 percent of females.

Household Type: Among rural working senior householders in 2010, 57 percent lived in a married-couple household, 30 percent lived alone, and 13 percent lived in some other type of household. Among urban working senior householders, 52 percent were married, 34 percent lived alone and 14 percent lived in some other type of household. 

In the majority of married couple households, only the husband worked (54 percent). In 8 percent of these households, only the wife worked, and in 38 percent both the husband and wife worked.

In 2010, 4 percent of rural working senior families had related children in their home. The urban rate was higher at 7 percent. The Census Bureau identified 3 percent of rural and urban senior working householders as “multigenerational,” meaning that these households had three or more generations of parents and children living at home.

Educational Attainment: In 2010, 20 percent of rural working seniors had a bachelor’s degree or higher. Among urban working seniors, nearly 30 percent had a bachelor’s degree or higher. 

Working rural seniors with a bachelor’s degree or higher earned about $8,000 less per year than urban working seniors with similar educational attainment levels ($24,183 for rural working seniors and $32,444 for urban working seniors).

Full-Time/Part-Time Workers: Fifty-seven percent of rural working seniors worked part-time, or less than 35 hours a week, while 43 percent worked full-time, or 35 or more hours a week. Full-time rural working seniors who worked year-round (50 or more weeks per year) earned a median income of $33,755. Part-time workers who worked year-round earned a median income of $10,580.

In comparison, 51 percent of urban working seniors were employed part-time and 49 percent were employed full-time. Full-time urban working seniors who worked year-round earned a median income of $39,297 and part-time workers who worked year-round earned a median of $12,091.

Getting To Work: Eighty-five percent of rural working seniors drive to work. It takes these individuals about 21 minutes, on average, to get to their place of employment. Eight percent of rural working seniors work at home, 6 percent walk to work and 1 percent use public transportation.

Among urban working seniors, 81 percent drive, 8 percent work at home, 4 percent walk, and 7 percent use public transportation. The average drive time for urban working seniors is 22 minutes.

Employment by Sector: Most rural working seniors (58 percent) were employed in the private sector; 12 percent worked for a nonprofit organization; 9 percent worked for a local, state or federal government agency; and 20 percent were self-employed.

Among urban working seniors, 57 percent were employed in the private sector; 16 percent worked for a nonprofit organization; 10 percent worked for a government agency; and 17 percent were self-employed.

Poverty and Income: Rural working seniors were less likely to live in poverty than non-working rural seniors. In 2010, 2 percent of rural working seniors were in poverty compared to 8 percent who were not working. There was a similar pattern among urban seniors: 2 percent of urban working seniors were in poverty compared to 9 percent who were not working.

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Fast Fact: Change in the Use of Land Use Planning Tools by Pennsylvania Municipalities, 1995 and 2012

Fast Fact: Change in the Use of Land Use Planning Tools by Pennsylvania Municipalities, 1995 and 2012

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Did You Know....

 

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Just the Facts: Women in Local Government
How many Pennsylvania elected local government officials are women? According to June 2012 data from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Governor’s Center for Local Government Services, 14 percent of elected officials are female and 86 percent are male in Pennsylvania’s 1,651 rural municipalities.

In the state’s 910 urban municipalities, 21 percent of elected officials are female and 79 percent are male.

A closer examination of rural municipalities indicates that boroughs and cities have a higher percentage of female officials (24 percent) than townships (6 percent). Rural municipalities with less than 500 residents have a higher percentage of female officials (21 percent) than those with populations over 500 (12 percent).

Among all 1,651 rural municipalities, 1,057 (64 percent) have no women officials and 594 (36 percent) have at least one women official.

Among the 910 urban municipalities, 271 (30 percent) have no women officials and 639 (70 percent) have at least one women official.

There are, however, 67 rural municipalities and 57 urban municipalities where women make up more than 50 percent of elected officials.

Municipalities with One or More Elected Female Official, 2012

Data source: Governor’s Center for Local Government Services.

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