Two economics professors used a collection of eclectic data to paint a picture of housing and health issues faced by Lodi residents.
Dr. Bill Herrin and Dr. Michelle Amaral are both professors of economics at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. Herrin's work focuses on econometrics and household migration, while Amaral focuses on microeconomics of health.
Herrin shared comparisons of the workforce in Lodi, Stockton and the nation at large, along with Lodi's numbers in 2006. The percentages are based on three-year averages from 2006-08 and 2009-11:
- The construction industry was able to maintain itself in Lodi. Construction workers made up 7.3 percent of the workforce in 2006-08, and held that number through 2009-11.
- The financial and real estate sector made good strides. That sector held 4.9 percent of the workforce from 2006 to 2008, and improved to 6.6 percent between 2009 and 2011.
- The education, health and social services sector holds a smaller portion of the workforce in Lodi than in Stockton and the nation. It has held about 20.1 percent of the workforce since 2006.
- The health care industry alone makes up 9 percent of the total labor force in Lodi. Lodi Memorial Hospital is the second-largest employer. General Mills is the first.
Herrin also discussed some data on household income and poverty indicators:
- The mean household income has decreased in Lodi from $48,346 in 2006-08 to $47,434 in 2009-11.
- The number of homes on supplemental security income, which provides help to disabled people, has increased from 5.4 percent in 2006-08 to 6.1 percent in 2009-11.
- More households in Lodi are now receiving food stamps, up from 7.2 percent in 2006-08 to 10.7 percent in 2009-11.
- More households are now below the poverty line than previously: 10.5 percent in 2006-08 and 14.4 percent in 2009-11.
Herrin shared information about how many Lodians have health insurance: 24.7 percent of employed people do not have insurance. For unemployed people, that statistic is 46.8 percent.
The cost of renting homes in Lodi is very steep, said Herrin. More than 65 percent of renters spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing.
Herrin was puzzled by the lack of homes for sale in Lodi, since foreclosure rates in this area are among the highest in the country. In both Lodi zip codes, 1 in 131 homes were in foreclosure in October. Many vacant houses are being held off the market for some reason.
Herrin cautioned the audience to use business forecasting with caution.
"There's a wide band of uncertainty around any kind of forecast. If we act on a forecast as if it were the truth all the time, you run the risk of saying silly things like, 'Housing prices only go up,'" he said.
Most of Amaral's talk focused on details of the Affordable Care Act, which won't be fully in force until 2018. But many changes are coming in 2014.
In 2005 to 2009, the number of people under 65 without health insurance was growing. But there was a decrease in 2010-11. Amaral said that was due to parents adding more dependents under age 26 to their insurance plans.
"It did have an impact. Did it save money? That's a whole different talk," she said.
Most people get their health coverage from an employer, Amaral said, since it can be difficult to find an affordable plan as an individual.
The health care mandate pools many people together to make plans affordable, from the healthy to the not-so-healthy. But requiring everyone to buy insurance will raise the cost of care, because more people will be visiting doctors and nurses more often. Amaral also predicted a shortage of health care providers.
Amaral said that one risk of requiring health insurance is called a moral hazard. If people know health insurance will pay for their care, they are more likely to behave recklessly and get hurt.
For businesses, it will be interesting to see how the mandate plays out, said Amaral. Penalties for not providing insurance to employees is about $2,000 per year, per person. That is much less than the cost of health insurance for employees. It is possible that businesses will just choose to pay the penalty.
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