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Building a Better America—One Wealth Quintile at a Time

September 2, 2014 Comments off

Building a Better America—One Wealth Quintile at a Time (PDF)
Source: Perspectives on Psychological Science

Disagreements about the optimal level of wealth inequality underlie policy debates ranging from taxation to welfare. We attempt to insert the desires of ‘‘regular’’ Americans into these debates, by asking a nationally representative online panel to estimate the current distribution of wealth in the United States and to ‘‘build a better America’’ by constructing distributions with their ideal level of inequality. First, respondents dramatically underestimated the current level of wealth inequality. Second, respondents constructed ideal wealth distributions that were far more equitable than even their erroneously low estimates of the actual distribution. Most important from a policy perspective, we observed a surprising level of consensus: All demographic groups—even those not usually associated with wealth redistribution such as Republicans and the wealthy—desired a more equal distribution of wealth than the status quo.

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Financial Literacy in Higher Education : The Most Successful Models and Methods for Gaining Traction

September 2, 2014 Comments off

Financial Literacy in Higher Education : The Most Successful Models and Methods for Gaining Traction (PDF)
Source: Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organizations

The need for financial literacy education on college campuses is of paramount importance to the future financial health and stability of today’s young adu lts. As college costs continue to rise well above the rate of inflation, students are relying heavily on student loans to finance their education. Estimated at $1 trillion by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, stu dent loan debt has grown to twice what it was in 2007 and now surpasses revolving credit debt such as car loans and credit cards, and comprises the second largest form of consumer debt behind mortgages.

Seven in ten college graduates in 2012 had student loans, and the average debt among them was $29,400 a ccording to an annual survey by The Project on Student Debt . Rising student loan debt and default rates make it harder for these graduates who are just star ting out in their careers to obtain car loans, mortgages and other types of spending that fuel the economy. Adding to this financial stress is the fact that job prospects, while improving, are still challenging for many graduates. The unemployment rate of recent college graduates with bachelor’s degree is almost 13% according to a 2013 release by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. This doesn’t take into account the many other graduates who are working in jobs that are low – paying or do not require a college degree, or who have stopped looking for work.

It is important to focus on improving the financial management skills, attitudes and behaviors right from the start of the college experience as financial issues and the need to work a re often cited as the number one reason why students drop out of college ( Ross, et al., 2012) . A recent survey, Money Matters on Campus (2013), found that 28% of 40,000 first – time college students already had a credit card, and most had more than one. About 25% had outstanding bal ances in excess of $1,000 and 5% owed more than $5,000. These early signs of financially risky behavior at the outset of the college experience only add to the pressure of staying enrolled and completing a degree. For too many, however, the outcome is disheartening. Nearly 30% of college students who took out loans dropped out of school according to a report by Education Sector (Nguyen 2012 ), and these dropouts are four times more likely to default on their loans than students who graduate.

The downward spiral of mental disorders and educational attainment: a systematic review on early school leaving

September 2, 2014 Comments off

The downward spiral of mental disorders and educational attainment: a systematic review on early school leaving
Source: BMC Psychiatry

Background
Most psychiatric disorders present symptom patterns that cause severe impairment on the emotional, cognitive and social level. Thus, adolescents who suffer from a mental disorder risk finding themselves in a downward spiral caused by the reciprocal association of psychological symptoms and negative school experiences that may culminate in early school leaving. In addition to previous collective work that mainly focused on school refusing behaviour among children and was presented as an expert?s opinion, the following systematic review fills the knowledge gap by providing a structured overview of the bidirectional association between mental health and secondary school dropout based on a sound methodology and with a particular focus on mediating factors.

Methods
Four electronic databases were searched from January 1990 until June 2014. Selected references were assessed for study details, main results, mediating factors and methodological limitations. Standardized risk of bias assessment was conducted.

Results
Mood and anxiety disorders seemed to have a less consequential direct effect on early school leaving than substance use and disruptive behaviour disorders. The association between externalizing disorders and educational attainment was even stronger when the disorder occurred early in life. On the other hand, internalizing disorders were reported to develop as a consequence of school dropout. Only few studies had addressed gender differences, with discrepant results. Socio-economic background, academic achievement and family support were identified as significant mediating factors of the association between mental disorders and subsequent educational attainment.

Conclusions
Findings suggested a strong association between mental health and education, in both directions. However, most studies focused on mediating factors that could not be targeted by intervention programs.

Electioneering Rules for Private Foundations and Public Charities

September 2, 2014 Comments off

Electioneering Rules for Private Foundations and Public Charities
Source: Packard Foundation, Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and Moore Foundation

The legal staff at the Packard Foundation, Gates Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and Moore Foundation developed this free, resource, which covers the basic legal rules around the electioneering prohibition. It takes about ninety minutes to complete and features “Maya,” a program officer that helps participants through the course. Participants can also return to the training at any time for a refresher and click on the individual modules to refer back to specific topics.

Canadians rank highly when it comes to public science knowledge, attitudes, and engagement, finds Expert Panel

September 2, 2014 Comments off

Canadians rank highly when it comes to public science knowledge, attitudes, and engagement, finds Expert Panel
Source: Council of Canadian Academies

A new expert panel report, Science Culture: Where Canada Stands, released today by the Council of Canadian Academies, helps to paint the clearest picture of Canada’s science culture and science culture support system in 25 years. The expert panel who conducted the assessment found Canadians excel in public science knowledge, attitudes, and engagement; however they also determined there is room for improvement in some areas, including skills development.

The Expert Panel based their findings from a review of relevant literature, a new public survey of 2,000 Canadians. The report does not provide policy recommendations but rather provides evidence and insights for policy-makers and others looking to strengthen science culture, and for Canadians to better understand what science culture is, and what it means for our country.

The Evolution of Rotation Group Bias: Will the Real Unemployment Rate Please Stand Up?

September 2, 2014 Comments off

The Evolution of Rotation Group Bias: Will the Real Unemployment Rate Please Stand Up? (PDF)
Source: Princeton University (Krueger, et al.)

This paper documents that rotation group bias — the tendency for labor force statistics to vary systematically by month in sample in labor force surveys — in the Current Population Survey (CPS) has worsened considerably over time. The estimated unemployment rate for earlier rotation groups has grown sharply relative to the unemployment rate for later rotation groups; both should be nationally representative samples. The rise in rotation group bias is driven by a growing tendency for respondents to report job search in earlier rotations relative to later rotations. We investigate explanations for the change in bias. We find that rotation group bias increased discretely after the 1994 CPS redesign and that rising nonresponse is likely a significant contributor. Survey nonresponse increased after the redesign, and subsequently trended upward, mirroring the time pattern of rotation group bias. Consistent with this explanation, there is only a small increase in rotation group bias for households that responded in all eight interviews. An analysis of rotation group bias in Canada and the U.K. reveal no rotation group bias in Canada and a modest and declining bias in the U.K. There is not a “Heisenberg Principle” of rotation group bias, whereby the bias is an inherent feature of repeated interviewing. We explore alternative weightings of the unemployment rate by rotation group and find that, despite the rise in rotation group bias, the official unemployment does no worse than these other measures in predicting alternative measures of economic slack or fitting key macroeconomic relationships.

Ancestral exposure to stress epigenetically programs preterm birth risk and adverse maternal and newborn outcomes

September 2, 2014 Comments off

Ancestral exposure to stress epigenetically programs preterm birth risk and adverse maternal and newborn outcomes
Source: BMC Medicine

Background
Chronic stress is considered to be one of many causes of human preterm birth (PTB), but no direct evidence has yet been provided. Here we show in rats that stress across generations has downstream effects on endocrine, metabolic and behavioural manifestations of PTB possibly via microRNA (miRNA) regulation.

Methods
Pregnant dams of the parental generation were exposed to stress from gestational days 12 to 18. Their pregnant daughters (F1) and grand-daughters (F2) either were stressed or remained as non-stressed controls. Gestational length, maternal gestational weight gain, blood glucose and plasma corticosterone levels, litter size and offspring weight gain from postnatal days 1 to 30 were recorded in each generation, including F3. Maternal behaviours were analysed for the first hour after completed parturition, and offspring sensorimotor development was recorded on postnatal day (P) 7. F0 through F2 maternal brain frontal cortex, uterus and placenta miRNA and gene expression patterns were used to identify stress-induced epigenetic regulatory pathways of maternal behaviour and pregnancy maintenance.

Results
Progressively up to the F2 generation, stress gradually reduced gestational length, maternal weight gain and behavioural activity, and increased blood glucose levels. Reduced offspring growth and delayed behavioural development in the stress cohort was recognizable as early as P7, with the greatest effect in the F3 offspring of transgenerationally stressed mothers. Furthermore, stress altered miRNA expression patterns in the brain and uterus of F2 mothers, including the miR-200 family, which regulates pathways related to brain plasticity and parturition, respectively. Main miR-200 family target genes in the uterus, Stat5b, Zeb1 and Zeb2, were downregulated by multigenerational stress in the F1 generation. Zeb2 was also reduced in the stressed F2 generation, suggesting a causal mechanism for disturbed pregnancy maintenance. Additionally, stress increased placental miR-181a, a marker of human PTB.

Conclusions
The findings indicate that a family history of stress may program central and peripheral pathways regulating gestational length and maternal and newborn health outcomes in the maternal lineage. This new paradigm may model the origin of many human PTB causes.

See: Stress during pregnancy can be passed down through generations (EurekAlert!)

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