Fall Issue of The Connecticut Economy Tackles Some Timely Topics

Prospects of an end to the recession have raised hopes but also important questions about the state’s economy. The latest issue of The Connecticut Economy: A University of Connecticut Quarterly Review was unveiled at the UConn Stamford Campus on September 11th at the Fairfield County Economic Summit and Outlook, sponsored by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA).

Featured articles include Bruce and Robert Blakey’s assessment of the potential statewide impacts of employment cuts in Fairfield County’s financial services sector. With Fairfield County accounting for 38% of Connecticut’s personal income and nearly 47% of the state’s income tax revenue, any significant “downsizing” of this critical sector also spells trouble for the rest of the state. Fortunately, Fairfield County has demonstrated its economic resilience in past recessions and seems determined to “reinvent” itself, as described in A Forward Look by Mike Freimuth, Stamford’s Director of Economic Development.

Concerns about traffic congestion in urbanized areas and the push for a “greener” Connecticut have prompted proposals to extend the state’s commuter rail system. Executive Editor Steven Lanza and UConn undergraduate Bryan Murphy explore the potential benefits of rail expansion by examining the effects of the current network on home prices. They show that, after controlling for other factors, households are willing to pay about 5% more for homes in towns with a commuter rail station. These “capitalized” benefits of existing stops may be useful to policymakers in estimating the potential benefits of new commuter links.

Art Wright jumps into the health care reform fray by studying the sources of variation in Medicare spending per enrollee across states, over the period 1991-2004. Medicare has been seen as a model for the controversial “public option” in reform proposals, as well as an example of the problems that might accompany further public involvement in health care. Wright’s study shows that the sources of large spending differences in the Medicare program are not easy to discern. The distribution of doctors seems to be an important factor, but the nature of the relationship is complex.

Connecticut has been wrestling with a large budget deficit that requires expenditure and tax adjustments. Dennis Heffley teams up with former grad students MaryJane Lenon (PhD, 1989)—currently MBA Director at Providence College—and Raymond Salani III (MA, 2008) to examine the effects of the tax mix on non-federal revenues per head. Using data for all 50 states and 12 fiscal years, their panel-data analysis suggests that states may have few options to increase the tax take by simply adjusting their tax mix. The few apparent “targets of opportunity” tend to be politically unpopular with voters or risk offending special interests.

For free access to this and other issues of The Connecticut Economy, visit: http://cteconomy.uconn.edu/.