Research Findings

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Although national employment is on the upswing, the pace and quality of economic recovery that we are experiencing are troublesome. Low-wage jobs are growing more quickly than high-wage jobs, with mid-wage jobs trailing even further behind. In fact, while lower-wage industries constituted only 22 percent of recession job losses, they are responsible for 44 percent of recovery growth.

Given these conditions, it is not surprising that economic development and jobs were covered in nearly every mayor's annual state of the city address this year (98%, Figure 1). Budget and finance issues were a close second (83%), while issues concerning public safety (78%), transportation (75%) and education (70%) were also covered by more than two of every three mayors.

Figure 1: Percentage of speeches with coverage/significant coverage of topics  

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To better understand the priority issues of our nation's mayors, we examine the extent to which mayors devote significant coverage or significant portions of their speech to discussing specific strategies related to these issues. From this perspective, economic development and jobs (67%) still hold strong at the number one spot, with more diversity of priorities across other issues. Public safety (50%), budget and finance (35%) and education (32%) also received noteworthy attention, while health care (9%), energy (9%) and immigration (2%) were given less coverage.

Issues of economic development and jobs, budget and finance, public safety, education and transportation were the top five priority issues across nearly all population segments (Figure 2). Jobs, education and housing were much more prevalent topics in the speeches of larger city mayors, whereas public safety was the leading priority issue in cities with populations of less than 50,000. Health care, energy and immigration were not given significant attention in any small city speeches.    

Figure 2: Percentage of speeches with significant coverage of topics by population  

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Turning to regional variations, at least 60 percent of mayors across all regions dedicated a significant portion of their speeches to economic development and jobs (Figure 3). Discussions of health care and energy issues were also relatively consistent across each geographic region, ranging from 8 to 10 percent and from 5 to 13 percent, respectively. Regional differences across other issues, such as transportation, education, environmental issues and housing, were more pronounced.

Figure 3: Percentage of speeches with significant coverage of topics by geographic region  

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