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Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens (PDF)
Source: Perspectives on Politics (forthcoming)

Each of four theoretical traditi ons in the study of Am erican politics – which can be characterized as theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, Economic Elite Domination, and two types of interest group pluralism, Majoritarian Pluralism and Biased Pluralism – offers different predictions about which sets of actors have how much influence over public policy: average citizens; economic elites; and organized interest groups, mass-based or business-oriented.

A great deal of empirical research speaks to the policy influence of one or another set of actors, but until recently it has not been possible to test these contrasting theoretical predictions against each other within a single statistical model. This paper reports on an effort to do so, using a unique data set that includes measures of the key variables for 1,779 policy issues.

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

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Education Under Attack, 2014

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Education Under Attack, 2014
Source: Global Coalition to Protect Education From Attack

This global study charts the scale and nature of attacks on education; highlights their impact on education – including on students, teachers and facilities; and documents the ways that governments, local communities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and UN agencies try to reduce the impact of such violence and prevent future attacks.

In doing so, it provides the most extensive documentation of attacks on education to date. Following earlier studies that UNESCO published in 2007 and 2010, it not only examines attacks on schools, as previous research has done, but also considers military use of education facilities and more closely examines attacks on higher education.

The study’s four main aims are to: better inform international and national efforts to prevent schools, universities, students, teachers, academics and other education staff from being attacked; encourage the investigation, prosecution and punishment of the perpetrators of attacks; share knowledge about effective responses; and help those who have been attacked to recover and rebuild their lives – as Malala is doing – by providing recommendations for action that the international community, governments and armed non-state groups should adopt and implement.

Chocolate Milk Consequences: A Pilot Study Evaluating the Consequences of Banning Chocolate Milk in School Cafeterias

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Chocolate Milk Consequences: A Pilot Study Evaluating the Consequences of Banning Chocolate Milk in School Cafeterias
Source: PLoS ONE

Objectives
Currently, 68.3% of the milk available in schools is flavored, with chocolate being the most popular (61.6% of all milk). If chocolate milk is removed from a school cafeteria, what will happen to overall milk selection and consumption?

Methods
In a before-after study in 11 Oregon elementary schools, flavored milk–which will be referred to as chocolate milk–was banned from the cafeteria. Milk sales, school enrollment, and data for daily participation in the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) were compared year to date.

Results
Total daily milk sales declined by 9.9% (p<0.01). Although white milk increased by 161.2 cartons per day (p<0.001), 29.4% of this milk was thrown away. Eliminating chocolate milk was also associated with 6.8% fewer students eating school lunches, and although other factors were also involved, this is consistent with the notion of psychological reactance.

Conclusions
Removing chocolate milk from school cafeterias may reduce calorie and sugar consumption, but it may also lead students to take less milk overall, drink less (waste more) of the white milk they do take, and no longer purchase school lunch. Food service managers need to carefully weigh the costs and benefits of eliminating chocolate milk and should consider alternative options that make white milk more convenient, attractive, and normal to choose.

CRS — What Is the Farm Bill? (updated)

April 22, 2014 Comments off

What Is the Farm Bill? (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The farm bill is an omnibus, multi-year piece of authorizing legislation that governs an array of agricultural and food programs. Titles in the most recent farm bill encompassed farm commodity price and income supports, farm credit, trade, agricultural conservation, research, rural development, bioenergy, foreign food aid, and domestic nutrition assistance. Although agricultural policies sometimes are created and changed by freestanding legislation or as part of other major laws, the farm bill provides a predictable opportunity for policy makers to comprehensively and periodically address agricultural and food issues. The farm bill is renewed about every five years.

64,613 Software Engineers Join Class Action Hiring Conspiracy Lawsuit against Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe

April 22, 2014 Comments off

64,613 Software Engineers Join Class Action Hiring Conspiracy Lawsuit against Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe
Source: AllGov.com

The biggest legal story out of Silicon Valley these days involves more than 64,000 software engineers collectively suing several high-tech giants over their collusion to keep workers’ salaries down.

The class-action lawsuit, with 64,613 plaintiffs, targets Google, Apple, Intel and Adobe for secretly agreeing not to poach each other’s engineers and to share salary information in an effort to control salaries.

The collusion reportedly began in 2005, when Apple’s Steve Jobs approached Google’s top executive, Eric Schmidt, about working together to hold down salaries.

After getting Google on board, Jobs “strong-armed” Adobe into joining the secret pact, according to court documents. The documents show that Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen was reluctant to go along until Jobs threatened to poach Adobe engineers.

Facts for Features — Mother’s Day: May 11, 2014

April 22, 2014 Comments off

Facts for Features — Mother’s Day: May 11, 2014
Source: U.S. Census Bureau

The driving force behind Mother’s Day was Anna Jarvis, who organized observances in Grafton, W.Va., and Philadelphia on May 10, 1908. As the annual celebration became popular around the country, Jarvis asked members of Congress to set aside a day to honor mothers. She succeeded in 1914, when Congress designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

NTIA Releases 3 Case Studies Examining Impact of Broadband Grants Program on Connecting Libraries

April 22, 2014 Comments off

NTIA Releases 3 Case Studies Examining Impact of Broadband Grants Program on Connecting Libraries
Source: National Telecommunications and Information Administration

In 2010, as part of the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), NTIA awarded more than $200 million in matching grants to establish or upgrade public computer centers (PCCs) throughout the United States. More than 2,000 of those centers are operated by public libraries, from Maine to Arizona. These grants complement the $3.4 billion in infrastructure investments that have allowed BTOP grant recipients to connect more than 1,300 libraries nationally with ultra-fast broadband, providing a significant down-payment on President Obama’s ConnectED initiative.

Today we are releasing the first three of 15 PCC and broadband adoption case studies. These focus on the impact of grants in Delaware, Texas and Michigan. The release coincides with an important hearing on libraries and broadband, sponsored by the federal Institute for Museum and Library Services, or IMLS. The case studies were conducted for NTIA by an independent research firm, ASR Analytics, which analyzed the impact these PCCs are having in their local communities.

What kinds of impact are these expanded libraries having in their communities? The case studies, based on site visits, interviews, and publicly available data from the awardees’ quarterly reports to NTIA, tell a story of increased demand for library services that have helped the country continue to turn the corner on the economic recovery. The libraries are meeting an urgent need by giving people access to information and job skills they need to be competitive in a 21st century workplace.

I Used to Work at Goldman Sachs! How Firms Benefit From Organizational Status in the Market for Human Capital

April 21, 2014 Comments off

I Used to Work at Goldman Sachs! How Firms Benefit From Organizational Status in the Market for Human Capital (PDF)
Source: Strategic Management Journal (forthcoming)

How does employer status benefit firms in the market for general human capital? On the one hand, high status employers are better able to attract workers, who value the signal of ability that employment at those firms provides. On the other hand, that same signal can help workers bid up wages and capture the value of employers’ status. Exploring this tension, we argue that high status firms are able to hire higher ability workers than other firms, and do not need to pay them the full value of their ability early in the career, but must raise wages more rapidly than other firms as those workers accrue experience. We test our arguments using unique survey data on careers in investment banking.

See: The Hiring Advantage of High-status Firms (Knowledge@Wharton)

CRS — Same-Sex Marriage: A Legal Background After United States v. Windsor

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Same-Sex Marriage: A Legal Background After United States v. Windsor (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The issue of same-sex marriage generates debate on both the federal and state levels. Either legislatively or judicially, same-sex marriage is legal in more than a dozen states. Conversely, many states have statutes and/or constitutional amendments limiting marriage to the union of one man and one woman. These state-level variations raise questions about the validity of such unions outside the contracted jurisdiction and have bearing on the distribution of state and/or federal benefits. As federal agencies grappled with the interplay of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the distribution of federal marriage-based benefits, questions arose regarding DOMA’s constitutionality and the appropriate standard (strict, intermediate, or rational basis) of review to apply to the statute.

In United States v. Windsor, a closely divided U.S. Supreme Court held that Section 3 of DOMA, which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriage, violated due process and equal protection principles. As such, federal statutes that refer to a marriage and/or spouse for federal purposes should be interpreted as applying equally to legally married same-sex couples recognized by the state. However, the Court left unanswered questions such as (1) whether samesex couples have a fundamental right to marry and (2) whether state bans on same-sex marriage are constitutional.

Ending poverty requires more than growth, says WBG

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Ending poverty requires more than growth, says WBG
Source: World Bank

While economic growth remains vital for reducing poverty, growth has its limits, according to a new World Bank paper released today. Countries need to complement efforts to enhance growth with policies that allocate more resources to the extreme poor. These resources can be distributed through the growth process itself, by promoting more inclusive growth, or through government programs, such as conditional and direct cash transfers.

In addition, the paper notes, it is imperative not just to lift people out of extreme poverty; it is also important to make sure that, in the long run, they do not get stuck just above the extreme poverty line due to a lack of opportunities that might impede progress toward better livelihoods.

Characteristics of the Population With Consumer-Driven and High-Deductible Health Plans, 2005–2013; and Labor-force Participation Rates of the Population Ages 55 and Older, 2013

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Characteristics of the Population With Consumer-Driven and High-Deductible Health Plans, 2005–2013; and Labor-force Participation Rates of the Population Ages 55 and Older, 2013 (PDF)
Source: Employee Benefit Research Institute

Characteristics of the Population With Consumer-Driven and High-Deductible Health Plans, 2005–2013

  • The population of adults within consumer-driven (CDHPs), high-deductible (HDHP) and traditional health plans was split about 50–50 between men and women in 2013.
  • The CDHP population was more likely than traditional-plan enrollees to be in households with $150,000 or more in income in every year except 2006, 2009 and 2010. They were also more likely to be in households with $100,000–$149,999 in income in most years.
  • CDHP enrollees were roughly twice as likely as individuals with traditional coverage to have college or post-graduate educations in nearly all years of the survey.
  • CDHP enrollees have consistently reported better health status than traditional-plan enrollees, exhibiting better health behavior than traditional-plan enrollees with respect to smoking and (except for 2010 and 2011), exercise, and sometimes obesity rates.

Labor-force Participation Rates of the Population Ages 55 and Older, 2013

  • The labor-force participation rate for those ages 55 and older rose throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, when it began to level off but with a small increase following the 2007–2008 economic downturn.
  • For those ages 55–64, the upward trend was driven almost exclusively by the increased labor-force participation of women, whereas the male participation rate was flat to declining. However, among those ages 65 or older, the rate increased for both males and females over that period.
  • This upward trend in labor-force participation by older workers is likely related to workers’ current need for continued access to employment-based health insurance and for more years of earnings to accumulate savings in defined contribution (401(k)-type) plans and/or to pay down debt. Many Americans also want to work longer, especially those with more education for whom more meaningful jobs are available that can be performed into older ages.
  • Younger workers’ labor-force participation rates increased when that of older workers declined or remained low during the late 1970s to the early 1990s. But as younger workers’ rates began to decline in the late 1990s, those for older workers continuously increased. Consequently, it appears either that older workers filled the void left by younger workers’ lower participation, or that higher older-worker participation limited the opportunities for younger workers or discouraged them from participating in the labor force.

Poverty and Crime: Evidence from Rainfall and Trade Shocks in India

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Poverty and Crime: Evidence from Rainfall and Trade Shocks in India
Source: Harvard Business School Working Papers

Does poverty lead to crime? We shed light on this question using two independent and exogenous shocks to household income in rural India: the dramatic reduction in import tariffs in the early 1990s and rainfall variations. We find that trade shocks, previously shown to raise relative poverty, also increased the incidence of violent crimes and property crimes. The relationship between trade shocks and crime is similar to the observed relationship between rainfall shocks and crime. Our results thus identify a causal effect of poverty on crime. They also lend credence to a large literature on the effects of weather shocks on crime and conflict, which has usually assumed that the income channel is the most relevant one.

Attitudes toward Health Insurance and Their Persistence over Time, Adults, 2001–2011

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Attitudes toward Health Insurance and Their Persistence over Time, Adults, 2001–2011
Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

Highlights

In 2011, 12.1 percent of adults agreed with the statement “I’m healthy enough that I really don’t need health insurance,” in contrast to only 9.0 percent of adults in the prior decade (2001). In addition, 24.3 percent of adults agreed with the statement “Health insurance is not worth the money it costs” in 2011 relative to 21.8 percent of adults in 2001.

An examination of the persistence in attitudes over a two-year interval also revealed substantial shifts in preferences within individuals over time. For years 2010 and 2011, 12.6 percent of the same individuals indicated “health insurance is not worth the money it costs” in both years, in contrast to 9.8 percent for the 2001–2002 period. In addition, 5.2 percent of the same individuals indicated “I’m healthy enough that I really don’t need health insurance” in 2010 and 2011 in contrast to 3.2 percent for 2001–2002.

In both 2001 and 2011, uninsured adults ages 18–64 were substantially more likely to indicate they were healthy and did not need health insurance, relative to their insured counterparts. They were also more likely to indicate that health insurance was not worth its cost, relative to those with coverage.

Educational Outcomes at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Eclectic or Cohesive?

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Educational Outcomes at Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Eclectic or Cohesive?
Source: Sage Open

This study assessed variability in Historically Black Colleges and Universities’ (HBCUs) educational outcomes. Analyses were conducted on two nationally representative databases via hierarchical linear and nonlinear modeling. Intraclass correlation coefficients for HBCUs were compared with those of (a) a random sample—theorized to have no systematic similarity in educational outcomes to HBCUs and (b) a sample of other Predominately Black Institutions (PBIs). Findings indicate that HBCUs’ educational outcomes were generally more cohesive than those of the random sample, and this cohesiveness followed a different pattern than the cohesiveness of outcomes at other PBIs. On the whole, then, this study suggests that educational outcomes at HBCUs are cohesive and distinct from other institutional groups.

Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Learning by Thinking: How Reflection Aids Performance
Source: Social Science Research Network

Research on learning has primarily focused on the role of doing (experience) in fostering progress over time. In this paper, we propose that one of the critical components of learning is reflection, or the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience. Drawing on dual-process theory, we focus on the reflective dimension of the learning process and propose that learning can be augmented by deliberately focusing on thinking about what one has been doing. We test the resulting dual-process learning model experimentally, using a mixed-method design that combines two laboratory experiments with a field experiment conducted in a large business process outsourcing company in India. We find a performance differential when comparing learning-by-doing alone to learning-by-doing coupled with reflection. Further, we hypothesize and find that the effect of reflection on learning is mediated by greater perceived self-efficacy. Together, our results shed light on the role of reflection as a powerful mechanism behind learning.

Global Consumer Technology Trends: Cross Market Briefing

April 21, 2014 Comments off

Global Consumer Technology Trends: Cross Market Briefing (PDF)
Source: Consumer Electronics Association

Consumer electronics (CE) and technologies are popular with consumers across the globe. Fueled by Internet infra-structure and the proliferation of mobile connected devices (especially smartphones and tablets), people around the world are more connected than ever. As such, increased connectivity has significant implications for policymakers, businesses and citizens alike. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) recently conducted consumer research in 13 markets on four continents representing approximately 29% of the world’s population (approximately 2.1 billion people) and 49% of the world’s GDP (approximately $35.4 trillion) to understand both current trends and the future outlook of consumer technologies. The survey was conducted online and all results are based on online adult consumers. Internet access varies by nation and is often driven by a nation’s wealth and infrastructure development. Household Internet penetration is highest (in the 90% range) in several Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden and Denmark) and in the U.K. (85%) and Finland (84%). However, less than half of Russian (46%) and Chinese (23%) households have Internet access, likely due to poor infrastructure and lower household incomes.

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Taxpayer $1,259 a Year, Small Businesses $3,923

April 18, 2014 Comments off

Offshore Tax Havens Cost Average Taxpayer $1,259 a Year, Small Businesses $3,923
Source: U.S. Public Interest Research Group

As hardworking Americans file their taxes today, it’s a good time to be reminded that ordinary taxpayers pick up the tab for special interest loopholes in our tax laws. A new U.S. PIRG report released today revealed that the average American taxpayer in 2013 would have to shoulder an extra $1,259 in state and federal taxes to make up for the revenue lost due to the use of offshore tax havens by corporations and wealthy individuals.

Every year, corporations and wealthy individuals avoid paying an estimated $184 billion in state and federal income taxes by using complicated accounting tricks to shift their profits to offshore tax havens. Of that $184 billion, $110 billion is avoided specifically by corporations.

UNODC — Global Study on Homicide 2013 (released 4/10/14)

April 18, 2014 Comments off

Global Study on Homicide 2013
Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
From press release (PDF):

Almost half a million people (437,000) across the world lost their lives in 2012 as a result of intentional homicide, according to a new study by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Launching the Global Study on Homicide 2013 in London today, Jean-Luc Lemahieu, Director for Policy Analysis and Public Affairs, said: “Too many lives are being tragically cut short, too many families and communities left shattered. There is an urgent need to understand how violent crime is plaguing countries around the world, particularly affecting young men but also taking a heavy toll on women.”

Globally, some 80 per cent of homicide victims a nd 95 per cent of perpetrato rs are men. Almost 15 per cent of all homicides stem from domestic violence (63,600). However, the overwhelming majority – almost 70 per cent – of domestic violence fatalities are women (43,600). “Home can be the most dangerous place for a woman,” said Mr . Lemahieu. “It is particularly heart-breaking when those who should be protecting their loved ones are the very people responsible for their murder.”

Over half of all homicide victims are under 30 years of age, with children under the age of 15 accounting for just over 8 per cent of all homicides (36,000), the Study highlighted.

Recent Declines in Adolescent Inhalant Use

April 18, 2014 Comments off

Recent Declines in Adolescent Inhalant Use (PDF)
Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

+ In 2012, almost 650,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 used inhalants in the past year.

+ Past year inhalant use among adolescents generally has been declining since about 2006; most recently, rates decreased from 3.3 percent in 2011 to 2.6 percent in 2012.

+ Rates of past year inhalant use among adolescents decreased between 2011 and 2012 for several demographic groups, including males, whites, those living in the Northeast and West, and those living in metropolitan areas.

Barriers to Psychiatric Care among Military and Veteran Populations in the US: The Effect of Stigma and Prejudice on Psychological and Pharmacological Treatment

April 18, 2014 Comments off

Barriers to Psychiatric Care among Military and Veteran Populations in the US: The Effect of Stigma and Prejudice on Psychological and Pharmacological Treatment
Source: International Journal of Advances in Psychology

This paper addresses the importance of understanding veterans’ individual beliefs and the effects of stigma on pharmacological and psychological treatment among active military personnel and veterans. The discussion can assist treating clinicians in reducing barriers to treatment and increasing compliance with effective psychological and pharmacological interventions for this population. The author has conducted more than 3000 interviews with veterans from World War II (WWII), the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Gulf War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who applied for service connected Veterans Administration compensation due to mental health conditions. A summary of the responses from veterans regarding their reaction to psychiatric treatment is given and compared to the findings of other provided preliminary studies regarding the effect of individual beliefs and stigma on treatment compliance.

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