ILR School

Buffalo Commons

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Buffalo Commons is:

  • a collaborative, physical space
  • an online hub of innovative research, engaged learning and civic activity
  • a network of partners and researchers dedicated to the advancement of social and economic progress and the promotion of knowledge for the public good.

On DC@ILR, Buffalo Commons is the online resource exchange connecting researchers, practitioners, partners and communities. This repository of public knowledge, ideas, and tools for citizen engagement is a modern expression of a democratic ideal—a shared space in which every member of the community has an equal interest. This action-oriented research hub is maintained by Cornell in Buffalo and the Partnership for the Public Good. Since 2007, the partnership has produced civic research, policy, and tools dedicated to effecting lasting, positive change in Buffalo Niagara. Created with the help of educators, students, volunteers, interns, and independent researchers, this rich body of reports, policy briefs, and fact sheets can be found in the Buffalo Commons.

Cornell in Buffalo

Cornell in Buffalo is an engaged learning center anchored by the interchange of applied knowledge and resources between Cornell University and the Buffalo, NY community. Comprised of Cornell ILR School, High Road Fellowships, the Worker Institute, and Cornell Cooperative Extension. Cornell in Buffalo is located in Buffalo's historic Market Arcade building.

For questions, comments, and inquiries about the Buffalo Commons, or if you are interested in conducting Buffalo-based or focused work, contact


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 424
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    Toward Digital Equity: New York's Recent Progress on, and Remaining Barriers to, Universal Broadband Internet Access
    Weaver, Russell (Cornell University, ILR School, Buffalo Co-Lab Initiative, 2024-05)

    [Excerpt] According to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), digital equity is “a condition in which all individuals and communities have the information technology capacity needed for full participation in our society, democracy, and economy.” Achieving that condition requires a commitment to digital inclusion activities that are specifically designed to “ensure that all individuals and communities, including the most disadvantaged, have access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).” As the New York State Library’s Achieving Digital Equity in New York State: An Outline for Collaborative Change report notes, such activities require five elements:

    1. Affordable, robust broadband Internet service;
    2. Internet-enabled devices that meet the needs of the user;
    3. Access to digital fluency training;
    4. Quality technical support; and
    5. Applications and online content designed to enable and encourage self-sufficiency, participation, and collaboration.

    This brief explainer and fact sheet explores New York State’s progress on, and outstanding challenges with respect to, digital inclusion commitment #1: providing affordable, robustbroadband Internet service to all residents and households across the state.

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    New York State's Minimum Wage is not Keeping Pace with the Rising Cost of Living
    Weaver, Russell (Cornell University ILR and Buffalo Co-Labs, 2024-03)
    This data brief argues that the federal minimum wage has seemingly lost its power to lift workers out of poverty and into a decent standard of living. To fill this federal-level gap, New York State (NYS) has taken noteworthy measures to raise its statewide minimum wage on multiple occasions over the past two decades, to the point where NYS currently has one of the highest wage floors in the nation. Despite this progress, however, existing minimum wages in NYS have failed to keep pace with fast-rising costs of living. On that backdrop, this brief leverages data from the Cornell ILR Wage Atlas to estimate the potential impacts of the “Raise the Wage Act” that is currently under consideration in the NYS Legislature. The Raise the Wage Act proposes to, first, increase the wage to a level that better reflects recent patterns of inflation and economic productivity; and, second, to index that higher wage to inflation and economic productivity moving forward, so that annual increases will ensure that minimum wage workers either keep their existing purchasing power or see that power grow with productivity. By examining the expected impacts of various potential minimum wage targets under the Raise the Wage Act on aggregate earnings, the authors conclude that the legislation – and, more directly, the productivity-adjusted minimum wage that the legislation aims to impose – has the potential to substantially increase the amount of disposable income, consumer spending, and, consequently, jobs throughout the State of New York.
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    The Status of Child Care in New York State
    Creighton, Cathy; Peraza, Steve; Weaver, Rusty (Cornell University ILR Buffalo Co-Lab, 2024-03)
    The release of “The Status of Child Care Across New York State;” marks the third phase in an action research project on the true cost of child care, coordinated by Cornell University’s ILR Buffalo Co-Lab between 2021 and 2024. In each of these phases, Buffalo Co-Lab partnered foundations, elected officials, nonprofit organizations, child care providers, and advocates to determine the “true” cost of child care. As a result of the first phase of the project, the initial influx of NYS funding helped to stabilize the child care industry during and immediately after the pandemic. This report utilizes quantitative analyses of economic and demographic data and qualitative focus group responses to show an unevenly changing child care landscape, with minor gains in aggregate capacity over the past 2.5 years, and meaningful losses in many areas across the state, especially in upstate counties and low-income communities, where child care deserts and near-deserts already existed. In addition to presenting the bleak economic status of the child care industry in NYS, this report showcases one of the proposed solutions for the crisis facing child care: a workforce compensation fund (rather than temporary wage stabilization grants).
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    Building Responsible Projects in New York City: Assessing the Impact of Prevailing Wage Benefits on Workers, Contractors, and the New York City Economy
    Weaver, Russell; Brady, Anne Marie (Cornell University, ILR School, The Workers Institute, 2023)
    [Excerpt] Extant literature on prevailing wage (PW) laws notes that such laws generate societal benefits in the form of upward pressure on wages and benefits for non-union workers, as well as protection of local construction industries (workers, workers’ families, and employers alike) from the wage and benefit erosion that could happen if external competition entered the local market from lower-wage geographies and persistently undercut local firms. This research report illustrates how, beyond these and related benefits, PW laws might make union construction labor more cost effective than non-union construction labor for PW jobs. Such an outcome could have significant upsides. Among other things, supporting union firms: increases those firms’ ability to take on, train, and pay new apprentices, thereby paving the way for a future experienced, high-quality workforce; gives those firms more capacity to hire additional qualified workers at journey and provisional levels, thereby putting upward pressure on union density in the industry; and, arguably, puts pressure on non-union firms to raise wages and benefits to levels that are more competitive with their union counterparts. In other words, insofar as PW laws contribute to stronger unions and better compensated workers, they are “high road” policies that can lead to greater shared prosperity in local economies over time.
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    The True Cost of Child Care: Erie County NY (Final Report)
    Creighton, Catherine; Fleron, Lou Jean; Weaver, Russell (Cornell University ILR Buffalo Co-Lab, 2022-09)
    This Phase Two of a collaborative action research report illuminates both kinds of costs: current operational monetary costs per child at the enterprise or institutional level, and indicators of broader social costs of the existing child care system itself in Erie County and New York State. Undertaken by Cornell ILR Buffalo Co-Lab and Erie County’s Live Well Erie Emergency Child Care Task Force, the year-long project has provided vital empirical information for advocates, care providers, child care service organizations, and local government agencies, as well as to New York State elected officials through the 2022 budget debates and decisions.
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    The True Cost of Child Care: Erie County NY
    ILR Buffalo Co-Lab (2022)
    This preliminary report presents the data and information gathered and analyzed in phase one of the Cornell ILR ̶Erie County action research project. Phase two will complete the project in Q1 2022 by providing further analysis and application to county and state policies for improving child care locally and across the state.
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    Reflections on Progress at Work
    Fleron, Lou Jean; Gray, Lois Spier (1996-01-01)
    [Excerpt] Today, we enter our second half century, facing a new millennium of opportunity. We pause to celebrate with pride our ILR Extension heritage, from its roots in Buffalo. We pay tribute to colleagues before us and partners with us who have made this fifty years of progress at work.
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    Buffalo Child Care Means Business: Full Study Report
    Fleron, Lou Jean; Breen, Lauren; Grogan, Regina L.; Dimitrov, Danielle (2006-01-01)
    [Excerpt] Buffalo Child Care Means Business presents the economic and business case for making Buffalo's children the focus of economic development. The 2006 survey of 117 businesses located in downtown Buffalo, New York, documents the business sector's present and projected reliance upon high quality child care services as a necessary component to optimum workplace recruitment, productivity and stability. This promising study highlights research specific to the Buffalo region measuring the cost the community bears as a result of low quality child care and early education. It draws upon nationally recognized economic development strategies to offer recommendations for a strategic child care plan integral to the City of Buffalo's overall strategic initiatives to strengthen downtown's attractiveness to successful enterprises. The early development needs of Buffalo's children must be front and center if the potential economic power of broadly successful education is to be realized. With business, government, education and child care leaders at the table, Buffalo's economic renaissance can be built on individual and social foundations that last a lifetime.
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    Erasing Red Lines: Part 3 - Building Community Wealth
    Weaver, Russell (2019-12-19)
    Erasing Red Lines of discrimination and inequality from our map is a monumental task that will require transformational systems-change. As community-based organizations are demonstrating the possibilities of alternative systems in specific geographic places, the questions of (1) how to bring those efforts to scale, and (2) how public policies might change in response to the lessons learned from those efforts, require greater attention. Building on the previous installment of this series, this report engages with aspects of these two questions by: (a) further unpacking some of the beliefs, values, and goals that define the current economic system; (b) summarizing and synthesizing selected ideas from the literature to describe mental models that might underwrite a “next system”; and (c) relating a public policy case study from Buffalo, NY, in which a City-run program was redesigned to be a vehicle for bottom-up community empowerment as opposed to a tool for top-down command-and-control. The case study shows how the program redesign implicitly reflects, and explicitly embraces, some of the “next system” mental models that are outlined in the report. For these and other reasons, the program has received (inter)national recognition, and researchers have argued that it might offer budding insights for how local governments can begin reorienting their existing policies away from goals of growth that support the status quo, and toward goals of equity and community wealth-building. The report concludes with a summary of the case study’s practical lessons for policy development moving forward.
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    Erasing Red Lines: Epilogue - Where Do We Go From Here?
    Weaver, Russell (2020-01-28)
    While the Erasing Red Lines reports spoke of “distressed communities” and places experiencing “decline,” the core message—threaded through all three reports—is that patterns of “distress” and “decline” are products of a flawed and discriminatory political economic system. The formal act of mid-20th Century redlining was chosen to animate this core message because it is tangible and recognizable, and because its legacy is still so visible on the map today. Yet, to conclude that redlining is the sole reason, or even the main reason, for contemporary patterns of spatial inequality would be to misread the reports. Rather, redlining is merely one, albeit (in)famous, example of a biased system at work, reinforcing its biases. On that note, how should the reports be used? And where do we go from here? This Epilogue tries to succinctly answer these two questions by recapping the essential themes, tools, and takeaways from Erasing Red Lines.