JD Power and Associates 2012 Auto Insurance Study
Source: J.D. Power and Associates
Led primarily by increases in satisfaction with policy offerings and billing and payment, overall customer satisfaction with auto insurance companies has reached an all-time high, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Auto Insurance StudySM released today.
The study measures customer satisfaction with auto insurance companies across five factors: interaction; price; policy offerings; billing and payment; and claims. Overall satisfaction with auto insurance companies is 804 (on a 1,000-point scale), up 14 points from 2011. Satisfaction levels in 2012 are the highest since the study was launched in 2000.
Satisfaction increases in all factors in 2012, with significant improvements in policy offerings (+30 points) and interaction (+19 points). Satisfaction with price is essentially unchanged from 2011.
EconSouth Examines How Trucks Move the Economy
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
With trucks responsible for moving more than two-thirds of the nation’s goods, the industry is inextricably linked to the health of the U.S. economy. In “Truckonomics: An Industry on the Move,” associate editor Nancy Condon explores the factors affecting the industry.
Given trucking’s linkages to the national economy, perhaps it’s no surprise that the industry was hit hard by the 2007–09 recession. As demand plummeted, carriers were forced to lower their rates. Many smaller companies failed or were bought by larger companies.
Postrecession, the industry faces a new set of challenges, Condon explains. The consolidation that occurred during the downturn left carriers with a shortage of capacity, and the surviving carriers are operating with an aging fleet. Additionally, the industry faces tougher federal regulations and higher diesel fuel prices.
Constrained capacity has an upside for the industry, however. It’s as simple as the law of supply and demand: “Tonnage is up, capacity is down, and so trucking companies have the pricing power to raise their rates,” Condon writes. Though, the industry’s recovery ultimately hinges on overall economic performance, she concludes.
Green Technologies and Practices — August 2011
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
About three-quarters of business establishments reported the use of at least one green technology or practice during August 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Green technologies and practices (GTP) are those that lessen the environmental impact of an establishment’s operations. About 854,700 jobs, representing approximately 0.7 percent of total U.S. employment, were held by workers who spent more than half of their time involved in green technologies and practices in August 2011. Over one-quarter of these GTP jobs were in building and grounds cleaning and maintenance occupations or in installation, maintenance, and repair occupations.a
Country Analysis Brief: Colombia
Source: Energy Information Administration
The enactment of a series of regulatory reforms to make the oil and natural gas sector more attractive to foreign investors served as an incentive for rising production. In addition, the government has implemented a partial privatization of state oil company Ecopetrol in an attempt to revive its upstream oil industry. The security situation in the country also has improved over the last decade, with fewer attacks against oil and natural gas infrastructure in recent years. Expanded oil production will require further investment in transport infrastructure and refining capacity.
In 2009, Colombia consumed 1.3 quadrillion Btus of total energy. Oil constituted the largest part of this amount, followed by hydroelectricity, natural gas, and coal. The country relies upon hydropower for the bulk of its electricity needs, so it is able to export most of the coal that it produces. Natural gas consumption in Colombia has also risen over the last decade.
New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Foreclosure Mitigation: Agencies Could Improve Effectiveness of Federal Efforts with Additional Data Collection and Analysis. GAO-12-296, June 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592029.pdf
Podcast – http://www.gao.gov/multimedia/podcasts/591994
A live video chat on this report with Director Mathew Scire will be conducted at 12:30pm ET on Monday, July 2:
2. Critical Infrastructure Protection: DHS Could Better Manage Security Surveys and Vulnerability Assessments. GAO-12-378, May 31.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/591293.pdf
3. Oil Dispersants: Additional Research Needed, Particularly on Subsurface and Arctic Applications. GAO-12-585, May 30.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/591293.pdf
4. Military Base Realignments and Closures: The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s Technology Center Construction Project. GAO-12-770R, June 29.
5. Employment For People With Disabilities: Little Is Known About the Effectiveness of Fragmented And Overlapping Programs. GAO-12-677, June 29.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592075.pdf
6. Navy Training: Observations on the Navy’s Use of Live and Simulated Training. GAO-12-725R, June 29.
7. Military Base Realignments and Closures: Updated Costs and Savings Estimates from BRAC 2005. GAO-12-709R, June 29.
Source: Journal of the American Medical Association
It is unclear whether male and female physician researchers who perform similar work are currently paid equally.
To determine whether salaries differ by gender in a relatively homogeneous cohort of physician researchers and, if so, to determine if these differences are explained by differences in specialization, productivity, or other factors.
Design and Setting
A US nationwide postal survey was sent in 2009-2010 to assess the salary and other characteristics of a relatively homogeneous population of physicians. From all 1853 recipients of National Institutes of Health (NIH) K08 and K23 awards in 2000-2003, we contacted the 1729 who were alive and for whom we could identify a mailing address.
The survey achieved a 71% response rate. Eligibility for the present analysis was limited to the 800 physicians who continued to practice at US academic institutions and reported their current annual salary.
Main Outcome Measures
A linear regression model of self-reported current annual salary was constructed considering the following characteristics: gender, age, race, marital status, parental status, additional graduate degree, academic rank, leadership position, specialty, institution type, region, institution NIH funding rank, change of institution since K award, K award type, K award funding institute, years since K award, grant funding, publications, work hours, and time spent in research.
The mean salary within our cohort was $167 669 (95% CI, $158 417-$176 922) for women and $200 433 (95% CI, $194 249-$206 617) for men. Male gender was associated with higher salary (+$13 399; P = .001) even after adjustment in the final model for specialty, academic rank, leadership positions, publications, and research time. Peters-Belson analysis (use of coefficients derived from regression model for men applied to women) indicated that the expected mean salary for women, if they retained their other measured characteristics but their gender was male, would be $12 194 higher than observed.
Gender differences in salary exist in this select, homogeneous cohort of mid-career academic physicians, even after adjustment for differences in specialty, institutional characteristics, academic productivity, academic rank, work hours, and other factors.
Set in Stone: Building America’s New Generation of Arts Facilities 1994-2008
Source: Cultural Policy Center (University of Chicago)
From press release:
Civic leaders, arts organizations, donors and government officials can better plan new or expanded arts facilities by first focusing on the arts organizations’ missions and assessing demand for the projects, according to a new study from the Cultural Policy Center at the University of Chicago.
The study, “Set in Stone,” looks at a major building boom of museums, performing arts centers and theaters in the United States from 1994 to 2008. It is the first scientifically prepared study of its kind and was requested both by cultural leaders and major foundations that had, in many cases, provided support for these building projects.
The work was based on interviews with people in more than 500 organizations and drew data from more than 700 building projects, including both new facilities and major renovations. The costs of the projects ranged from $4 million to $335 million. It relied on rare, behind-the-scenes access to the discussions surrounding the buildings.
See: Report shows overspending on cultural institutions in boom years (EurekAlert!)
Skin in the Game: How Consumer-Directed Plans Affect the Cost and Use of Health Care
Source: RAND Corporation
If half of Americans with employer-sponsored insurance switched from a traditional health plan to a consumer-directed health plan, annual health care costs would fall by an estimated $57 billion.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Texas had eight of the 15 most rapidly growing large cities between Census Day (April 1, 2010) and July 1, 2011, according to population estimates for all of the nation’s incorporated cities and towns and minor civil divisions released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.
“These estimates provide our first look at how much the total population has changed in each of our nation’s cities since we conducted the 2010 Census,” Census Bureau Director Robert Groves said. “These numbers provide further evidence of a continuation of the trend of rapid population growth in Texas we observed between the 2000 and 2010 censuses.”
Although Texas dominated the list as a whole, the fastest-growing large city was outside the state. Among cities with populations of 100,000 or more in 2010, New Orleans, still rebounding from the effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, ranked first, growing by 4.9 percent to 360,740. This puts the city’s population at 79.2 percent of the pre-Katrina July 1, 2005, estimate of 455,188.
One of Texas cities that made the list of fastest-growing cities — Round Rock — broke the 100,000 mark since the 2010 Census. Another, nearby Austin, cracked the 800,000 mark. (See Table 1 for complete list.)
Looking at the highest numerical growth, New York topped the list, adding nearly 70,000 people since the 2010 Census. Again, Texas was well-represented, with six cities among the top 15, including Houston, San Antonio and Austin, which ranked second, third and fourth, respectively. California checked in with three cities, including Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose; Phoenix; Denver; Charlotte, N.C.; New Orleans; and Washington also made the list. (See Table 2 for a complete list.)
New York continued to be the nation’s most populous city by a large margin, with 8.2 million residents in 2011, followed by Los Angeles and Chicago. The 15 most populous cities remained unchanged since the 2010 Census. However, Austin, Texas, moved up from 14th to 13th in total population, supplanting San Francisco. (See Table 3 for complete list.)
US Election Note: International Trade Policy after 2012
Source: Chatham House
The 2012 presidential election is occurring as the US economy emerges from a significant recession. While trade is a small part of the campaign debate, it remains an emotional ‘wedge issue’ for the electorate. This paper lays out the likely trade policy of either a second-term Barack Obama administration or an incoming Mitt Romney administration.
Collective behavior in the spatial spreading of obesity
Source: Scientific Reports
Obesity prevalence is increasing in many countries at alarming levels. A difficulty in the conception of policies to reverse these trends is the identification of the drivers behind the obesity epidemics. Here, we implement a spatial spreading analysis to investigate whether obesity shows spatial correlations, revealing the effect of collective and global factors acting above individual choices. We find a regularity in the spatial fluctuations of their prevalence revealed by a pattern of scale-free long-range correlations. The fluctuations are anomalous, deviating in a fundamental way from the weaker correlations found in the underlying population distribution indicating the presence of collective behavior, i.e., individual habits may have negligible influence in shaping the patterns of spreading. Interestingly, we find the same scale-free correlations in economic activities associated with food production. These results motivate future interventions to investigate the causality of this relation providing guidance for the implementation of preventive health policies.
New GAO Reports and Testimonies
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Freedom of Information Act: Key Website Is Generally Reliable, but Action Is Needed to Ensure Completeness of Its Reports. GAO-12-754, June 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592011.pdf
2. Defense Management: Steps Taken to Better Manage Fuel Demand but Additional Information Sharing Mechanisms Are Needed. GAO-12-619, June 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592023.pdf
3. Internal Revenue Service: Status of GAO Financial Audit and Related Financial Management Recommendations. GAO-12-695, June 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592016.pdf
1. Mission Iraq: State and DOD Face Challenges in Finalizing Support and Security Capabilities, by Michael J. Courts, acting director, international affairs and trade, before the Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-12-856T, June 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/591998.pdf
2. Residential Appraisals: Regulators Should Take Actions to Strengthen Appraisal Oversight, by William B. Shear, director, financial markets and community investment, before the Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity, House Committee on Financial Services. GAO-12-840T, June 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592001.pdf
3. Information Security: Cyber Threats Facilitate Ability to Commit Economic Espionage, by Gregory C. Wilshusen, director, information security issues, before the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, House Committee on Homeland Security. GAO-12-876T, June 28.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592009.pdf
4. Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Observations on the Organization and Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration, by Gene Aloise, director, natural resources and environment, before the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, House Committee on Armed Services. GAO-12-867T, June 27.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/591975.pdf
Presentation by the Comptroller General
1. Partnership and Collaboration: Meeting the Challenges Across All Levels of Government, by Gene L. Dodaro, Comptroller General of the United States, before the 19th Biennial Forum of Government Auditors, Alexandria Virginia. GAO-12-882CG, June 27.
Source: Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies
The shocking attacks on the United States by al-Qaeda terrorists on September 11, 2001 changed the course of history. It was a cataclysmic event, like the assassination of President Kennedy or the attack on Pearl Harbor: everyone can recall exactly what they were doing when they got the news or first saw the footage on CNN. An eventful ten years have passed since then. Americans became painfully aware that they were not untouchable anymore: the myth of Fortress America collapsed in an hour of mayhem. The US launched a war on terror, attacked Afghanistan and Iraq, and warned Iran and North Korea. The Bush administration gradually lost its support, and Republicans were voted out of power in favor of America’s first black president, Barack Obama in 2008. Subsequent attacks on the US were prevented, but her allies (especially Britain and Spain) proved less fortunate. Al-Qaeda was reduced to a regional, Middle Eastern terrorist organization, but anti-American sentiments continue to flourish all around the world. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden were liquidated, but both incidents raised just as many questions about America’s alliances as they answered. At home, a “9/11 truth movement” emerged, and conspiracy theories about the attacks continue to abound. Much to the amazement of the outside observer, many Americans tend to believe in fantastic and elaborate conspiracy theories1 rather than the official findings of the 9/11 Commission, whose final report was published in 2004. What follows are: 1) a historian’s take on America’s rise as a European colonizer in the Middle East; 2) an explanation of how the US subsequently became the target of Middle Eastern terrorism; 3) an evaluation of anti-Americanism and well-founded criticism leveled at the United States; 4) a review of the nature and scope of 9/11 conspiracy theories; and 5) an overview of what happened in the past ten years.