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Why Don't More Young People Go To College? Print
Written by John Schmitt   
Monday, 23 July 2012 09:45

Heather Boushey and I have a piece in the new issue of Challenge that asks why more young people don’t follow the advice of economists and go to college. We think two factors are particularly important.

First of all, while it is certainly the case that the average college graduate earns a lot more than the average high school graduate, a small, but important share of workers with college degrees actually earn less than the average high school graduate in the same age range – even before factoring in the cost of college. We argue that many young people on the fence about attending college or not might be taking their cues from those who are on the low end, not the middle or high end, of the college-graduate earnings pool.

Second, while the payoff to college definitely grew a lot between 1980 and 2000 (though not really since then), it is also the case that the cost of college has increased even more. Financial aid has offset only a part of this increase in tuition and fees. The shift in financial aid from grants to loans has exacerbated concerns about cost, since many young people and their families worry about being saddled with large, long-term debt, especially when more than 40 percent of those who start college don’t complete their degree within six years.

You can read the whole piece (behind a paywall) here.

This post originally appeared on John Schmitt's blog, No Apparent Motive.

Labor Market Policy Research Reports July 14 – 20, 2012 Print
Written by Eric Hoyt   
Friday, 20 July 2012 15:00

Here’s a roundup of labor market research reports released in the past week:

Center for Economic and Policy Research

Caring for Caregivers in Retirement: Social Security Works for Direct Care Workers
Shawn Fremstad

National Employment Law Project

Big Business, Corporate Profits, and the Minimum Wage

Try to Knock Us Out of First Place Print
Written by Dawn Lobell   
Friday, 20 July 2012 14:00


In case you haven’t heard, CEPR was once again the most cost-effective think-tank in 2011. That’s right: CEPR ranked first in media hits per budget dollar of all major think-tanks, based on an analysis of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s 2011 think tank media citation rankings and organizational budgets. CEPR outpaced all other think-tanks with 1.3 media citations per ten thousand budget dollars. CEPR had also been first in hits per dollar in the five years from 2004-2008.*

We’re proud of our ability to do so much with so little, but sometimes we fantasize about what we could do with a budget even half the size of those other think-tanks (well, since CEPR brags on getting the numbers right, the truth is that our budget is LESS than half of the others). So we are asking you, our friends and supporters, to challenge us to remain number one. Donate to CEPR today and help us to increase the size of our budget, and in return we will promise to continue to use our resources wisely.  That means more of what you value most about CEPR:  our research, analysis, media work, outreach, columns and blogs.

We think that we can stay in first place, even with more money.  We welcome the opportunity to prove it to you.

Thanks for your support,
Dean Baker, Mark Weisbrot and CEPR staff

*CEPR did not do this analysis for the years 2009 and 2010 because Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), which produces the measure of think tank media citations that is the basis of this analysis, did not compile its list in those years.

Income-Related Inequalities in Health Care Print
Written by Shawn Fremstad   
Friday, 20 July 2012 08:30
In this new working paper, Marion Devaux and Michael de Looper of the OECD examine income-related inequalities in health care use in 19 OECD countries, including the United States. David Rosnick and Dean Baker have given the OECD a well-deserved thrashing for their analysis of the causes of income inequality, but this one, on a different subject, looks sound on initial viewing.) 

The figure below from the report shows the distribution of doctor vists in the previous 12 months across income quintiles, adjusted for need. The U.S. shows up at the bottom as the most unequal, that is, the between difference in visits between those in the highest-income quintile and those in the lowest one (Denmark's numbers are based on a different survey recall period, so OECD warns that they're not comparable to the rest).  


The chart below, also from the report, shows the relationship between health inequity and the share of health expenditures that are public ones. Especially with the U.S. in the mix, as public expenditures increase as a share of total expenditures, inequity in doctor visits declines. 


All in all, just one more reason to make all states implement the Affordable Care Act's provision extending Medicaid eligibility to all Americans with incomes below 133 percent of the poverty line.

Family Structure is Overrated as an Explanation of Family Income Inequality, Part 4 on DeParle's Marriage Plot Print
Written by Shawn Fremstad   
Thursday, 19 July 2012 14:00

The basic assumption undergirding Jason DeParle's piece is that changes in family structure have been one of the primary drivers of growth in family income inequality over the last several decades. What is never considered is whether the causation moves in the other direction, that is, whether income and wage inequality drive some of the trends in family structure.

In a fascinating paper published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives, researchers Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine provide some evidence on this and other questions related to teen childbearing. Kearney and Levine have done the most important and interesting research on teen pregnancy in the last decade, so it is striking that DeParle doesn't cite them in his piece. The JEP article is particularly worth reading because it summarizes findings from much of their work on the issue in an accessible way.

Looking at the relationship between state-level income inequality, which they measure using the 50-10 income ratio, and teen childbearing rates, Kearney and Levine conclude find that "women with low socioeconomic status have more teen, nonmarital births when they live in higher-inequality locations, all else equal." Specifically, "income inequality can explain a sizable share of the geographic variation observed in the teen childbearing rate, on the order of 10 to 50 percent." They also find the difference is due not to differences in state-level rates of teen sexual activity or pregnancy rates, but rather because the most disadvantaged teens in the high-inequality states are much less likely to have abortions. Finally, when they compare income inequality with teen childbearing at both the county level and across countries, their results on the linkage between inequality and teen births are similar.

This table, from their paper, divides states into three categories based on level of income inequality. The red box, which I've added, highlights the high-inequality states, which, as you can see, are all high teen birth rate states also.



What explains the link between inequality and teen childbearing? Kearney and Levine's hypothesis is that: "[I]f girls perceive their chances at long-term economic success to be sufficiently low even if they 'play by the rules,' then early childbearing is more likely." I think there is probably more going on here in terms of differences between high-inequality states and low-inequality ones that contributes to the difference in teen childbearing rates (although Kearney and Levine do look at some other factors like religiousity and partisan orientation, none of which produces any changes in their results). Here, again, Naomi Cahn and June Carbone's Red Families vs. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture seems relevant. Regardless of the precise explanation for it, the connection Kearney and Levine find between income inequality and teen childbearing is an important one that deserves both future investigation and attention from media outlets like the New York Times.

Finally, Kearney and Levine are careful to note that theirs is an explanation of geographic disparities in teen childbearing, not trends over time. Teen pregnancy rates have declined over time. My guess is that feminism and Supreme Court decisions made in the 1960s and 1970s (including Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade, overturning laws that prohibited contraceptives and abortion) have played an important role in that trend.

Low-Wage Workers Are Older and Better Educated Than Ever – Infographic Edition! Print
Written by Janelle Jones   
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 15:00

In April, John Schmitt and I published a CEPR report describing how the experience and education upgrading of the workforce has not received the labor market rewards it deserves. And while I think we did an excellent job, it turns out we left out an important piece: an amazing infographic! That’s where Colin Gordon steps in. Earlier this week, Colin used the report’s data to create an interactive figure that shows the increased educational attainment of low-wage workers. For each state, you can look at the different education categories – less than high school, high school, some college, and at least a four-year degree – for two time periods, 1980 and 2010.

My personal favorite is to toggle between 1980 and 2010 with only the high school and some college categories selected. In 1980, those extra classes after high school really mattered, as seen by the wide distribution along both axes. However, by 2010, the data converges into one large data point, showing that returns to a few years of post-high school education without a four-year degree is doing very little for low wage workers.
Family Structure is Overrated as an Explanation of Inequality, Part 3 on DeParle's Marriage Plot Print
Written by Shawn Fremstad   
Wednesday, 18 July 2012 12:00

Sociologist Loïc Wacquant writes that "binary oppositions are well-suited to exaggerating differences, confounding description and prescription, and setting up overburdened dualisms that erase continuities, underplay contingency, and overestimate the internal coherence of social forms."

It's written in jargony academese, but I think it gets to the heart of the problem with Jason DeParle's piece on family structure and inequality, which is built on the definitely overburdened dualism of unmarried vs. married mothers. 

Just one example, DeParle writes that: "Married couples are having children later than they used to, divorcing less and investing heavily in parenting time. By contrast, a growing share of single mothers have never married, and many have children with more than one man."

But a closer look at the evidence suggests DeParle overgeneralizes here.



Family Structure is Overrated as an Explanation of Inequality, Part 2 on DeParle Print
Written by Shawn Fremstad   
Tuesday, 17 July 2012 09:30

In Sunday's New York Times, Jason DeParle contrasts the economic security of Jessica Shairer, a single mother of three who works at a child care center in Ann Arbor and makes under $25,000 (despite having an A.A. degree, being a manager, and working six years with the same employer), with that of her boss, Chris Faulkner, who is married to a man who appears to makes around $60,000. (DeParle says Ms. Faulkner makes $25,000 a year, and that her family income is near "the 75th percentile", so their total income is probably around $85,000).

DeParle's uses Shairer and Faulker to tell a story that pins a big chunk of the rising income inequality among families with children on changes in family structure. As the story's title puts it, when Deparle looks at Shairer and Faulkner, he sees "Two Classes, Divided by 'I Do.'" As I pointed out in my previous post, the reality-based, rather than anecdotal, evidence for his framing is weak. Yes, the increase in single-parent families between 1975-1985 had some affect on inequality among families with children, but long-term increases in women's employment and educational attainment far outweight any effect family structure trends have had.

When I read DeParle's story, the big questions that came up for me mostly had to do with gender inequality and how poorly we compensate workers like Ms. Shairer (and Ms. Faulkner for that matter) whose job it is to take care of children, seniors, and people with disabilities. 



Family Structure is Overrated as an Explanation of Inequality Print
Written by Shawn Fremstad   
Monday, 16 July 2012 08:30

In a front-page piece in Sunday's New York Times, reporter Jason DeParle touts family structure as a neglected factor in the increase in income inequality. I don't have a lot of faith in some of the researchers DeParle cites (like Scott Winship, who has previously argued that growth in inequality isn't such a big deal because "the cost of living has risen less for the poor and middle class than for upper-income households"!!). But DeParle also cites a more credible source, sociologist Bruce Western, who he says "found that the growth in single parenthood in recent decades accounted for 15 to 25 percent" of the increase in income inequality among families with children in the last several decades. 

But when I turned to Western's published research on this issue, I found it to be somewhat more complicated than DeParle's story suggests. In research published in the American Sociological Review, Western and his co-authors separated the correlated effects of education, single-parenthood, and maternal employment.

Western's Table 4 summarizes his findings—I've pasted it below, along with a bar chart of the percent of change in family inequality explained by each of his factors.  So, yes, as you can see, an increase in the percentage of single parents between 1975-2005 did contribute to an increase in family income inequality, but note that the increase in women's employment offsets basically all of the family structure effect (the percent change for each is circled in the top red oval in the last column of the table). If women's employment (and educational attainment) had stayed flat over the last three decades, perhaps a story like DeParle's would have merited the NYT's front page, but it hasn't and it doesn't. Moreover, note how the effect of the increase in single parenthood on inequality is concentrated in 1975-1985. So, not exactly front-page news in 2012.



Labor Market Policy Research Reports, July 7 – 13, 2012 Print
Written by Eric Hoyt   
Friday, 13 July 2012 14:45

Here’s a roundup of labor market research reports released in the past week:

Center for Economic and Policy Research

Missing the Story: The OECD's Analysis of Inequality
David Rosnick and Dean Baker

National Employment Law Project

Report: Lessons Left Unlearned: Unemployment Insurance Financing After the Great Recession
Mike Evangelist

National Women’s Law Center (NWLC):

Third Anniversary of the Recovery Shows Job Growth for Women Slowed by Public Sector Job Losses

People Living Below the Income Poverty Line Today are Better Educated than Ever Print
Written by Shawn Fremstad   
Wednesday, 11 July 2012 14:30

John Schmitt and Janelle Jones' Low Wage Workers Are Older and Better Educated than Ever, a CEPR report published in April, found that ... well, their title really says it all. The report got me interested in looking at whether working-age adults with incomes below the federal poverty line are also much better educated than in the past. Not surprisingly, the answer is "yes, much better educated." As the chart below shows, among middle-aged workers living below the income poverty line, nearly one-third had at least some college or a Bachelor's Degree in 2010, more than twice the share in 1979. And the share without a high school diploma has fallen by nearly half. A take-away point: Increasing educational attainment by itself is not at all sufficient to reduce inequality and income poverty — we need stronger labor market institutions, particularly ones that increase workers' bargaining power to address these issues.  


Technical stuff: 1979 figures are calculated from published Census tables for the 1980 March CPS. I calculated the 2010 figures using the Census CPS Table Calculator. The figures in the table use the alternative poverty measure in the calculator that allows the addition of the EITC, SNAP and other benefits not currently counted in the official poverty measure. That said, the figures don't change significantly if these benefits aren't counted and the official measure is used.

Poor Sales, Not High Wages, Worry Small Businesses Print
Written by Eric Hoyt   
Tuesday, 10 July 2012 13:30

Lawmakers at the federal and state level are talking seriously about increasing the minimum wage.  Business interests have been vocal in their opposition.  In a May 17 press release, for example, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), an organization that often acts as a front for larger corporate interests, stated: “[The] NFIB is strongly opposed to raising the minimum wage, especially in the midst of an unemployment crisis. Small business owners warn that . . . there’s no way for them to absorb higher mandatory wages without cutting jobs.”  Even a brief analysis of the NFIB’s own survey reveals a very different picture.

While the NFIB warns that minimum wage increases would create serious cost problems for small businesses, few of their members list "labor costs" as their "most important problem."  Instead, what we see from the NFIB survey results is that the percentage of small businesses listing labor costs as their most important problem has hovered consistently between 3% and 5% since the beginning of the recession in December 2007.  In the most recent data, the percentage fell to 2%, its lowest level since the start of the recession. 



Job Loss and the Recovery Print
Written by Alan Barber   
Monday, 09 July 2012 14:47

The June jobs report shows the unemployment level remained unchanged, at 8.2 percent. And it’s not just the April and June reports that look bad. The unemployment rate has been above 8 percent for the last 41 months. Millions continue to struggle trying to find full-time work, settling on a part-time job or just giving up all together. The big problem, not just for President Obama, but for whoever ends up in the White House in January of 2013 -- and probably 2017 for that matter -- is that if nothing is done, things probably won’t get much better for some time to come.

My CEPR colleagues John Schmitt and Tessa Conroy pointed out back in 2010 that the economy was in a pretty deep ditch. Looking at job creation under different scenarios, they concluded that even at a moderately fast pace of job creation, the economy won’t return to the levels it should be at until sometime in 2021. 

A recent chart from the University of Iowa’s Colin Gordon sheds further light on the hole the economy is in by comparing the rate of recovery from recessions dating back to 1948.

job loss and recovery in postwar recessions

As can be seen in the chart, the number of jobs lost and the duration of this recovery are significantly worse than the aftermath of any of the most recent recessions.

This isn’t to say that nothing can be done to speed up the current recovery. As EPI’s Josh Bivens wrote last month, the government could “…finance job-creating measures like aid to distressed households and states and infrastructure investment”. Another option is work-sharing, in which employers cut back on hours but unemployment benefits make up half the difference in lost pay. Either way, one thing is clear: if nothing is done, it will take years for the economy to create enough jobs to get back to its potential.

Labor Market Policy Research Reports June 30 – July 6, 2012 Print
Written by Eric Hoyt   
Friday, 06 July 2012 14:15

Here’s a roundup of labor market research reports released in the past week:

Economic Policy Institute:

Black Metropolitan Unemployment in 2011:  Las Vegas's Rates Rise Significantly
Algernon Austin

Hispanic Metropolitan Unemployment in 2011:  Providence, RI, Again Tops the List
Algernon Austin

Schwarz Center for Economic Policy Analysis:

Near Retirees' Defined Contribution Retirement Account Balances
Joelle Saad-Lessler and Teresa Ghilarducci

Results are in for CEPR’s 'Pledge to Help Beat the Press' Drive Print
Written by Dawn Lobell   
Friday, 06 July 2012 11:30

In January, we asked our friends and supporters to pledge a donation to CEPR for every time the Washington PostNew York TimesWall Street Journal and National Public Radio reported that eurozone countries are facing sovereign debt crises because of a pattern of profligate spending that led to unsustainable deficits. We figured that if the reporters couldn’t be counted on to get the story straight, at least CEPR could earn some much needed revenue from their inaccuracies.

The results are in, and the four media sources misrepresented the cause of the eurozone crisis a total of 57 times from February through June.  The individual totals are as follows:

New York Times – 23
Washington Post – 21
Wall Street Journal – 8
NPR – 5



Wall Street Tax Eclipses Other Deficit Reduction Options Print
Written by Nicole Woo   
Thursday, 05 July 2012 11:19

Most Americans will never see a million, let alone billions, of dollars in their lifetimes.  So it’s easy to get lost among various federal budget options in the billions of dollars. 

To help, here’s a handy chart that shows the financial transaction tax (a.k.a. the Wall Street or Robin Hood Tax) compared to 4 other revenue options that are often mentioned in the budget debates.  As you can see, the Joint Committee on Taxation’s estimate of $352 billion over 9 years from the FTT swamps the other options.


This is not to say that the FTT is the end-all solution to budget deficits.  But this does support the argument that it should be seriously considered, along with the other options, when policy makers and the media discuss deficit reduction.

Notes on the chart:

  • Revenue estimates are for 2013-2021, except for the Obama bank tax estimate, which is for 2014-2022.
  • “Buffett” rule:  JCT estimate of “Paying a Fair Share Act” (S. 2059, H.R. 3903), which assumes the Bush tax cuts expire.  Citizens for Tax Justice’s higher estimate assumes the extension of the Bush tax cuts.
  • Carried interest loophole:  Treasury Department’s explanation of the Administration’s FY 2013 revenue proposal to “tax carried (profits) interests as ordinary income.” This is estimate is lower than prior-year versions due to the new clarification that only “investment partnerships” would be affected.
  • Obama bank tax: OMB’s estimate in The Budget for Fiscal Year 2013 for imposing “a financial crisis responsibility fee.”
  • Oil, gas and coal subsidies:  Treasury Department’s explanation of the Administration’s FY 2013 revenue proposal to “eliminate fossil fuel preferences.”
  • Financial transaction tax: JCT estimate of “Wall Street Trading and Speculators Tax Act” (S. 1787, H.R. 3313). 
Labor Market Policy Research Reports June 22 – 29, 2012 Print
Written by Eric Hoyt   
Friday, 29 June 2012 15:00

Here’s a roundup of labor market research reports released in the past week:

Center for Economic and Policy Research:

Attacking the Treasury View, Again
Dean Baker

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Studies Show Earned Income Tax Credit Encourages Work and Success in School and Reduces Poverty
Jimmy Charite, Indivar Dutta-Gupta, and Chuck Marr

Introduction to Unemployment Insurance
Hannah Shaw and Chad Stone

CEPR News June 2012 Print
Written by Dawn Lobell   
Friday, 29 June 2012 14:15

The following highlights CEPR's latest research, publications, events and much more.

CEPR on the Eurozone
CEPR Co-Directors Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot issued a statement calling for action by the U.S. Federal Reserve to contain the eurozone crisis by intervening in the Spanish bond market. Mark's column in The Guardian notes that the Spanish government and European authorities are taking advantage of the crisis to impose unpopular policy changes. Mark discussed these issues in an interview with the Real News and he discussed alternatives to austerity on The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann. Mark was also interviewed by Canada’s Business News Network, video here.

Mark has emerged as a leading expert on the eurozone crisis, most recently countering claims by IMF Director Christine Lagarde and others that Latvia’s economic policies have been a success story. He penned this Guardian op-ed in response to Lagarde’s claims, followed by this piece for Al Jazeera. He was also quoted in this piece that appeared in Toronto’s Globe and Mail.

Dean weighs in with theseposts in "Beat the Press." And CEPR’s Senior Research Associate Ha-Joon Chang contributed to the austerity critique with this widely-circulated Guardian op-ed and a video interview with the Social Europe Journal, where he discussed the EU fiscal treaty’s incompatibility with an economic growth agenda./p>



AAPI Workers Less Unionized than Overall Workforce in 46 States Print
Written by Nicole Woo   
Friday, 29 June 2012 09:10

Earlier this year, CEPR released Size and Characteristics of States’ Union Workforces, which includes Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) workers as a share of the overall and unionized workforces in each state and DC.  A figure in that brief shows unionization rate (the share of the workforce that is either a union member or covered by a collective bargaining agreement) by state for the overall workforce.

The new figure below looks at AAPI workers in the same way.  Again using Current Population Survey data, CEPR calculates the unionization rate for AAPI workers in each state.  The top five most-unionized states for AAPI workers are Hawaii (25.4%), Alaska (19.8%), New York (15.9%), California (15.8%), and Washington (15.5%).  In 46 of the 51 states (including DC), the AAPI unionization rate is lower that that of the overall workforce.  Nationally, the AAPI unionization rate is 12.1%, compared to 13.3% for the overall workforce.

For a table and a map showing the top states of residence for AAPI workers, take a look at last summer's Diversity and Change: Asian American and Pacific Islander Workers.

Does Private Equity Save Jobs in Tough Times? Print
Written by Eileen Appelbaum   
Thursday, 28 June 2012 12:30

The New York Times DealBook ran a piece by Richard Farley, who advises banks on leveraged buyout financing, that claims workers are better off in difficult economic times working for private equity-owned firms. Private equity, he argues, saves jobs. Farley makes two points to support his claim.

First, he notes that PE-owned firms are no more likely than other companies with similar credit ratings to experience financial distress. Fair enough. It’s the high debt load, not PE-ownership, that increases the risk of default. Indeed, a study of 2,156 highly leveraged companies, half owned by private equity and half not, found high rates of default in both during the last three economic contractions. A quarter of these firms defaulted between 2007 and the first quarter of 2010. The important point, however, is that high debt is typical of private equity buyouts of operating companies. It’s the companies that private equity acquires in a leveraged buyout – and not the private equity firms- that are saddled with these high debt loads, making them vulnerable to failure in tough times. Management fees and dividend recapitalizations that transfer money from the operating companies to their PE owners assures that PE will profit regardless of the company’s success.

Second, Farley points to a study by Moody’s that shows that PE-owned companies that default on their debt are less likely to declare bankruptcy. Though Farley doesn’t mention it, the Moody’s study attributes this to private equity’s greater ability to get lenders to exchange distressed debt for new debt due a few years in the future. These ‘amend and extend’ deals – less flatteringly referred to as ‘amend and pretend’ – allow equity sponsors to restructure the balance sheets of distressed companies they own to protect their equity stake. Distressed debt exchanges from 2008-2010 are coming due now and, according to a separate Moody’s study, a large percentage of these have failed. This is fueling an otherwise puzzling uptick in corporate bankruptcies since the fall of 2011.

Delaying bankruptcy is not the same as saving jobs.

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