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Labor Market Policy Research Reports July 21 – August 3, 2012 Print
Written by Eric Hoyt   
Friday, 03 August 2012 14:30

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

Center for American Progress (CAP):

Making Our Middle Class Stronger:  35 Policies to Revitalize America's Middle Class
David Madland

Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR):

Where Have All The Good Jobs Gone?
John Schmitt, Janelle Jones

Economic Policy Institute (EPI):

U.S. Poverty Rates Higher, Safety Net Weaker Than In Peer Countries
Elise Gould, Hilary Wething

Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR):

A Clearer View of Poverty: How the Supplemental Poverty Measure Changes Our Perceptions of Who Is Living in Poverty
Jocelyn Fischer, Jeff Hayes

National Employment Law Project (NELP):

Rebuilding Our Way to a Sustainable Recovery:  Making Commercial Building Retrofit Jobs into Quality Jobs for Our Communities

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

Good Jobs and Gender Print
Written by Janelle Jones   
Friday, 03 August 2012 13:00

This week, I've looked at trends over the past 30 years in health insurance and retirement plan coverage for workers. But, what has happened to good jobs overall? In a report released this week, John Schmitt and I calculate the share of the workforce in good jobs by gender from 1979 through 2010 (the most data available).

Overall, the share of workers with a “good job” by our definition fell from 27.4 percent in 1979 to 24.6 percent in 2010, but the graph below shows large differences by gender. For women, the share in good jobs grew almost continuously, from 12.4 percent in 1979 to 21.1 percent in 2010. Over the same period, however, the men's share fell almost 10 percentage points, from 37.4 percent to 27.7 percent.

The main reason for the improvement for women was the dramatic increase in their labor force participation. The labor force participation rate for women increased from 50.9 percent in 1979 to 59.3 percent in 2007, before the Great Recession drove the rate for men and women back down. (Over, the same period, the rate for men decreased from 77.8 percent to 73.2 percent). Despite the increase in women's attachment to the labor market, however, women were still much less likely to be in a good job in 2010 than men were in the same year.

According to our definition, a good job has three components: it pays at least $18.50 per hour, offers health insurance at least partly paid by the employer, and provides some kind of retirement plan. As the overall share of good jobs declines, women and men are meeting in an awful middle.

The Supplemental Poverty Measure: Is Child Poverty Really Less of a Problem than We Thought? Print
Written by Shawn Fremstad   
Friday, 03 August 2012 10:30

The official poverty measure has numerous flaws. Most notably, what I'll call the "old PM" has defined deprivation down since the 1960s because it has not kept pace with changes in typical living standards in the United States. As a result, the old PM’s poverty threshold is far too low as a measure of the resources Americans need to meet basic needs in today's economy.

The new Supplemental Poverty Measure, what I'll call the "new PM", is often touted as providing a more accurate picture of poverty in the United States than the old PM. However, the poverty threshold established by the new PM is not adequate as a measure of basic needs. In fact, in many parts of the United States, the new PM threshold will actually be lower than the current threshold. Thus, as Mark Levinson of the SEIU wrote recently in The American Prospect, the new PM “doesn’t fix the fundamental problem" with the old PM.

That said, the new PM seems to improve on the old PM in other important, albeit less fundamental ways. In particular, it counts the Earned Income Tax Credit and various other important benefits that are not currently counted as income by the old PM, and subtracts certain work expenses and health care expenses that people are able to pay out of pocket. This certainly provides a more accurate calculation of total (post-tax, post-benefit) income minus out-of-pocket spending on child care and health care, but does it provide a more accurate picture of poverty?  

Not necessarily, particularly when we look at child poverty. To see why not, it is useful to compare how using the new PM changes the picture of poverty among children and the elderly. As the table below shows, using the old PM, the child poverty rate (22.5 percent) is more than twice as high as the elderly poverty rate (9 percent). But using the new PM, the rates look very similar because the child poverty rate drops by more than 4 points, while elderly rate jumps by nearly 7 percentage points. In essence, according to the new PM, child poverty is significantly lower than we thought, while elderly poverty is much higher. And, comparing the two groups, children are only slightly worse off in terms of having their basic needs met than the elderly.




Does This Job Come With a Retirement Plan? Print
Written by Janelle Jones   
Thursday, 02 August 2012 12:30

My post yesterday showed trends over the last three decades in employer-provided health insurance coverage, based on analysis John Schmitt and I did for a recent CEPR report. We also examined trends over the same period for employer-sponsored retirement plans.

The graph below shows that share of workers with a retirement plan has zigzagged over the last 30 years, falling from 51.7 percent in 1979 to 45.5 percent in 1987 year, before rising to 50.8 percent in 2001, before falling again to 45.5 percent by 2010.

The pattern differed by gender. Since 1979, the share of men with a retirement plan has fallen about 10 percentage points, while the rate for women has remained essentially unchanged. Since the early 2000s, women have been more likely than men to have any type of retirement plan, a substantial reversal of the pattern in the 1980s and 1990s.




Does This Job Come with Health Care? Print
Written by Janelle Jones   
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 15:45

For a CEPR report released yesterday, John Schmitt and I calculated the share of US workers that have employer-provided health insurance (where the employer pays at least part of the premium).

As the graph below shows, since 1979, the share of workers with coverage has fallen 12.9 percentage points, to just 56.8 percent by 2010 (the most recent data available). The decline in coverage has been much more drastic for men than for women. Of course, this is nothing for women to feel good about; in part, this is just because we women had a shorter distance to fall. In 1979, 62.6 percent of female workers had coverage and by 2010 that number had decreased 7.3 percentage points to 55.3 percent. For men, the share with coverage fell 16.4 percentage points, from 74.5 percent in 1979 to 58.1 percent in 2010.


Since the CPS does not measure the quality of employer-sponsored health-insurance coverage, these numbers understate the deterioration in coverage. In 1979, copays, deductibles, annual, and lifetime limits, for example, were rare.

Our new report puts these changes in health-care coverage in the context of a broader deterioration in “good jobs.” We define a good job based on three simple criteria: an earnings threshold at about $18.50 an hour, an employer-sponsored retirement plan, and employer-provided health insurance. Despite enormous increases over the last three decades in the productive capacity of the U.S. economy, we find that the share of good jobs has actually declined. One of the most important contributors to this decline was the fall in employer-provided health insurance.

CEPR News July 2012 Print
Written by Dawn Lobell   
Wednesday, 01 August 2012 13:15

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

CEPR on the Minimum Wage

July 24 marked the third anniversary of the last increase in the federal minimum wage, and CEPR marked the occasion with several op-eds and blog posts. The current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour comes to just over $15,000 a year for a full-time worker. CEPR Co-Director Dean Baker wrote this piece for Truthout and discussed it (MP3) on Sirius XM Radio’s Stand Up! with Pete Dominick. CEPR Director of Domestic Policy Nicole Woo penned this one for the U.S. News and World Report, and CEPR Senior Economist John Schmitt weighed in on the CEPR Blog.

CEPR has long argued that the current minimum wage is too low. Several news articles on the anniversary - including this one in McClatchy - cited CEPR’s work. (For a full listing of CEPR research on the topic click here)

CEPR on the Mexican Elections
CEPR Co-director Mark Weisbrot had this op-ed published in the New York Times that highlighted Mexico’s failed economic policies in the wake of the recent elections. Mark also discussed credible allegations of vote-buying and other irregularities that affected the elections in thisGuardian column, and described how problems in the 2006 elections provide important context for understanding these elections and the popular skepticism and protest against them. CEPR’s work related to Mexico’s elections, especially our June paper, “The Mexican Economy and the 2012 Elections", was cited in media coverage such as this article in The Nation and this op-ed in Foreign Policy.


Why Don't We Feel 63 Percent Richer? Print
Written by John Schmitt   
Tuesday, 31 July 2012 12:45

I don’t think the average non-economist appreciates just how much richer and more productive the U.S. economy is today than it was three decades ago. For the typical American, the large increase in economic inequality has masked most, if not all, of the progress.

Janelle Jones and I prepared the table below for a CEPR report (pdf) released today. The table assembles several indicators that all demonstrate a substantial rise in the country’s productive capacity. The share of workers with a four-year college degree or more increased from about one-fifth in 1979 to over one-third in 2010. The median age of the workforce increased by seven years. While we don’t have ideal data, the amount of physical capital (buildings, machinery, equipment, etc.) per worker is about 50 percent higher today than in 1979; and more than 60 percent of workers now use a personal computer on the job, compared to essentially zero in 1979.

The workforce today is more experienced, much better educated, and working with more –and better– capital. Largely as a result, GDP per capita was 63 percent higher in 2010 than it was in 1979.



It's Not Just Friendly's - Sun Keeps Ownership of Its Bankrupt Companies Print
Written by Eileen Appelbaum   
Friday, 27 July 2012 13:15

Mike Spector has a great piece in today’s WSJ explaining how private equity firm Sun Capital retained ownership of Friendly’s after taking the iconic ice cream parlor chain into bankruptcy. Normally, owners lose their investment in a bankruptcy. But Sun arranged for another of its affiliates to provide a loan to keep Friendly’s operating while in bankruptcy, and so became its major creditor as well as its owner. As Spector noted, ‘ That put Sun first in line to be repaid in a bankruptcy, allowing the buyout shop to reacquire Friendly's with a $75 million "credit bid"—essentially using debt owed it as currency to bid for the company.” Sun retained ownership of Friendly’s but with fewer liabilities – including getting rid of its employees’ pensions, which it off loaded onto a government agency when Friendly’s declared bankruptcy. This is not the first time a company owned by Sun has declared bankruptcy, only to emerge from bankruptcy still owned by Sun. Sun has used this tactic in other cases as well. The PE firm managed to pull off the same deal with Anchor Blue, Big 10 Tires, and Fluid Routing.  

The Disagreement Behind Planet Money's Economic Platform Print
Written by Dean Baker   
Thursday, 26 July 2012 15:45

This post is in response to a recent segment on NPR's Planet Money in which a panel of economists, which included Dean Baker, made recommendations for a dream presidential economic platform. Dean writes that disagreements between the five economists on the panel should be noted, as the resulting fake presidential candidate "will have to do a bit more work to get my vote, even if I did help to design the platform."

I do feel there were some important aspects of these issues that listeners may not fully appreciate that I would like to lay out.

First, while I fully endorse the view expressed in the segment that a tax deduction for employer provided health care makes no sense abstractly, there is a historical basis for this deduction that makes it difficult to change. Workers, and especially unionized workers, have often explicitly given up higher wages for better health care benefits. If they were to lose employer provided health care benefits, there is no guarantee that their wages would rise by a corresponding amount. While all good economists believe that there is trade-off between wages and benefits, that does not mean that the trade-off is always one-to-one and immediate.

I would be worried that if we were to eliminate the health care deduction in an environment like the current one, in which high unemployment has badly weakened workers' bargaining power, it would result in a net reduction in workers' compensation. In my view, that can't be a good thing at a time where we have already seen such a large upward redistribution of income.



Family Structure is Overrated as an Explanation of Inequality, Part 5 Print
Written by Shawn Fremstad   
Thursday, 26 July 2012 08:30

According to NYT reporter Jason DeParle: “there are suggestions that the absence of a father in the house makes it harder for children to climb the economic ladder.” To support this proposition, he cites an “unpublished analysis” of the effects of single parenthood on intergenerational income mobility that only follows children until their mid-20s.

This seems an odd choice to say the least. In a blog post, DeParle says that “there is not much that examines long-term effects [of being raised by a single parent] on a child’s chances of moving up the income ladder.” At the end of the post, he claims that the unpublished analysis he relies on is “broadly consistent with those found in a study by the Pew Mobility Project, which used a different data set.” 

Ok, so why not use data from the Pew study? Among other things, it has the benefit of being published (not in a peer-reviewed journal, but it was reviewed by peers) and available on the Internet, and written by two experienced researchers at major universities who have published in peer-reviewed journals. It also follows children beyond their mid-20. 

Perhaps because that study tells a different and more nuanced story than DeParle wants to tell. Here are some of the main findings:

  • looking at “absolute” mobility, 88 percent of children born to unmarried mothers have greater family income than their parents compared with 82 percent of children of always-married mothers (not a statistically significant difference) and 74 percent of children of ever-divorced mothers (statistically significant), this same finding holds when looking only at parents in the bottom third of the income distribution.
  • looking at “relative” mobility, among children who start in the bottom third of the income distribution, 42 percent of those born to unmarried mothers move up to the middle or top third of the income distribution as adults, compared with 50 percent of children with continuously married parents (authors don’t say if statistically significant) and 26 percent with ever-divorced parents.  


Three Years with No Increase in the Federal Minimum Wage Print
Written by John Schmitt   
Tuesday, 24 July 2012 10:00

Today makes three years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage — to $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2009. Since then, the value of the minimum wage — adjusted for inflation — has fallen about six percent.

Yesterday, a group of top economists signed a letter urging Congress to raise the minimum wage in three steps to $9.80 by 2014. They estimate that a bump in the federal minimum would benefit 29 million workers. About 20 million low-wage workers would receive direct pay increases and another 9 million, who earn just above the new legal minimum, would capture some “spillover” as employers adjusted relative wages within firms. The “vast majority” of these beneficiaries, the economists say, would be “adults in working families.”

The letter writers also argue that a boost in the minimum wage might even help on the jobs front, by providing much-needed stimulus:

“In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market. A minimum wage increase can also serve to stimulate the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings potentially raising demand and job growth.”

The economists who signed the letter include: Nobel Laureate, Joseph Stiglitz; John Bates Clark Medal winner, Daron Acemoglu; former Labor Secretary, Robert Reich; former chair of the Council of Economic Advisors, Laura Tyson; as well as, Jeffrey Sachs, Robert Frank, Richard Freeman, Lawrence Katz, Michael Reich, and Economic Policy Institute president Lawrence Mishel.

As CEPR research has demonstrated, an increase to $9.80 by 2014 would be a very modest proposal relative to any reasonable benchmark.

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.



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