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21 Extraordinarily Creative People Who Inspire Us All: Meet the 2014 MacArthur Fellows

September 19, 2014 Comments off

21 Extraordinarily Creative People Who Inspire Us All: Meet the 2014 MacArthur Fellows
Source: MacArthur Foundation

MacArthur today named its 2014 class of MacArthur Fellows, recognizing 21 exceptionally creative individuals with a track record of achievement and the potential for significant contributions in the future.

Fellows will each receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $625,000, paid out over five years. The Fellowship comes with no stipulations or reporting requirements, and allows recipients maximum freedom to follow their own creative visions.

The MacArthur Fellows work in diverse fields and often across multiple disciplines.

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Global Billionaires Political Power Index

September 18, 2014 Comments off

Global Billionaires Political Power Index
Source: Brookings Institution

Darrell West’s Global Billionaires Political Power Index is a ranking of the top global billionaires in terms of overall political power. There are a number of existing rankings that rate the net worth of billionaires, but no one has assessed their overall political influence globally or in particular countries around the world. Kings, queens, dictators, or authoritarian heads of state were not considered because of the difficulty of ascertaining their wealth. Gauging wealth is impossible in some places even though it is suspected that certain leaders are billionaires. Families of government leaders who have gained extensive wealth were also left out because it is hard to gauge their specific holdings.

Doctors, Military Officers, Firefighters, and Scientists Seen as Among America’s Most Prestigious Occupations

September 11, 2014 Comments off

Doctors, Military Officers, Firefighters, and Scientists Seen as Among America’s Most Prestigious Occupations (PDF)
Source: Harris Interactive

When shown a list of occupations and asked how much prestige each job possesses, doctors top the Harris Poll’s list, with 88% of U.S. adults considering it to have either “a great deal of prestige” (45%) or to “have prestige” (44%).

After doctors, the rest of the top ten occupations seen as prestigious include military officers (78%), firefighters (76%), scientists (76%), nurses (70%), engineers (69%), police officers (66%), priests/ministers/clergy (62%), architects (62%), and athletes (60%).

Princeton, Williams Take Top Spots in U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings

September 9, 2014 Comments off

Princeton, Williams Take Top Spots in U.S. News Best Colleges Rankings
Source: U.S. News & World Report

The benefits of graduating from college are huge: better job prospects, higher wages and lower unemployment. The drawbacks to dropping out are just as massive: time spent outside the labor market and accrued student debt without better job opportunities to help with repayment.

Over the past 20 years, more than 31 million students have dropped out of colleges, according to a recent report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. That’s why choosing a college that fits academically and financially is so important.

Enter the 2015 U.S. News Best Colleges rankings, released today.

This year’s 30th edition of Best Colleges includes data on nearly 1,800 colleges and universities. Eligible schools are ranked on up to 16 measures of academic excellence, including graduation rates, selectivity and freshmen retention, to help families compare schools, narrow their searches and make informed decisions. The 2015 rankings methodology remains the same as the 2014 edition’s.

The top three schools among National Universities, schools that emphasize research and offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs, reprised their performances from last year. Princeton University remained at No. 1, with Harvard University in second and Yale University at No. 3. While a few universities shifted places, the schools ranked in the top 10 all remained the same, except that Dartmouth College, which tied for the 10th spot last year, dropped to No. 11.

There was more movement further down the list. For example, Pennsylvania State University—University Park fell 11 places, moving from a tie at No. 37 to No. 48, where it tied with four other schools. Northeastern University in Boston and the University of California—Irvine both rose seven spots, from a three-way tie at No. 49 last year to a five-way tie at No. 42 this year.

The world’s 300 largest pension funds – year end 2013

September 3, 2014 Comments off

The world’s 300 largest pension funds – year end 2013
Source: Towers Watson

Total assets of the world’s largest 300 pension funds grew by over 6% in 2013 (compared to around 10% in 2012) to reach a new high of almost US$15 trillion (up from US$14 trillion in 2012). The P&I / Towers Watson global 300 research is conducted in conjunction with Pensions & Investments, a leading US investment newspaper.

Latin American and African funds had the highest five-year combined compound growth rate of over 16% (albeit from a low base) compared to Europe (12%), North America (around 6%) and Asia-Pacific (around 5%).

Defined benefit (DB) funds account for 67% of total assets, down from 75% five years ago. During 2013, DB assets grew by around 3%, compared to reserve funds (15%), defined contribution (DC) plans (over 9%) and hybrids (over 8%).

Sovereign funds continue to feature strongly in the ranking with 27 of them accounting for 28% of assets and totalling around US$4.2 trillion. The 113 public sector funds in the research had assets of US$5.8 trillion in 2013 and account for 39% of the total. Private sector industry funds (61) and corporate funds (99) account for 14% and 19% respectively of assets in the research.

Where More Americans Die at the Hands of Police

August 29, 2014 Comments off

Where More Americans Die at the Hands of Police
Source: The Atlantic (Richard Florida)

The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown at the hands of a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer has reintroduced police-related killings as a topic of major national debate. Brown is just the latest in a long line of young, unarmed black men killed by law enforcement agents.

It’s been widely reported that roughly 400 Americans die at the hands of police per year. And yet, that figure is likely a significant underestimate, as Reuben Fischer-Baum details at FiveThirtyEight.

We ask a slightly different question: Where are Americans more likely to die at the hands of police or while under arrest?

With the help of my colleagues Charlotta Mellander and Nick Lombardo of the Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI), we mapped data from two sources: “arrest related deaths” from the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, and from the FBI’s annual Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) on “felons killed by police.” We also got input from three leading American criminologists: Alfred Blumstein and Daniel Nagin, my former colleagues at Carnegie Mellon, and John Roman of the Urban Institute.

It’s important to reiterate that both data sources suffer from serious deficiencies, not the least of which is under-reporting. Roman worries about “reporting bias,” particularly the possibility that “more responsible agencies”—those least likely to use force in the first place—”are more likely to report, and less responsible agencies are less likely to report.” But he also adds that what looks like missing data may not be. “It might be that few policing agencies have an officer-involved shooting and the agencies that don’t simply don’t report any data,” he writes in an email.

But, taken together and in light of their limits, the maps are broadly suggestive of the geography of U.S. police killings as well as the states where arrests are likely to result in more deaths. As Roman puts it: “It is important to shine a light on the subject. Because there is such limited data, our ability to define the scope of the problem greatly limits our ability to form an appropriate response.”

How Poor Are America’s Poorest? U.S. $2 A Day Poverty In A Global Context

August 28, 2014 Comments off

How Poor Are America’s Poorest? U.S. $2 A Day Poverty In A Global Context
Source: Brookings Institution

In the United States, the official poverty rate for 2012 stood at 15 percent based on the national poverty line which is equivalent to around $16 per person per day. Of the 46.5 million Americans living in poverty, 20.4 million live under half the poverty line. This begs the question of just how poor America’s poorest people are.

Poverty, in one form or other, exists in every country. But the most acute, absolute manifestations of poverty are assumed to be limited to the developing world. This is reflected in the fact that rich countries tend to set higher poverty lines than poor countries, and that global poverty estimates have traditionally excluded industrialized countries and their populations altogether.

An important study on U.S. poverty by Luke Shaefer and Kathryn Edin gently challenges this assumption. Using an alternative dataset from the one employed for the official U.S. poverty measure, Shaefer and Edin show that millions of Americans live on less than $2 a day—a threshold commonly used to measure poverty in the developing world. Depending on the exact definitions used, they find that up to 5 percent of American households with children are shown to fall under this parsimonious poverty line.

These numbers are intended to shock—and they succeed. The United States is known for having higher inequality and a less generous social safety net than many affluent countries in Europe, but the acute deprivations that flow from this are less understood. A crude comparison of Shaefer and Edin’s estimates with the World Bank’s official $2 a day poverty estimates for developing economies would place the United States level with or behind a large set of countries, including Russia (0.1 percent), the West Bank and Gaza (0.3 percent), Jordan (1.6 percent), Albania (1.7 percent), urban Argentina (1.9 percent), urban China (3.5 percent), and Thailand (4.1 percent). Many of these countries are recipients of American foreign aid. However, methodologies for measuring poverty differ wildly both within and across countries, so such comparisons and their interpretation demand extreme care.

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