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Who Pays Taxes in America in 2014?

April 16, 2014 Comments off

Who Pays Taxes in America in 2014?
Source: Citizens for Tax Justice

All Americans pay taxes. Everyone who works pays federal payroll taxes. Everyone who buys gasoline pays federal and state gas taxes. Everyone who owns or rents a home directly or indirectly pays property taxes. Anyone who shops pays sales taxes in most states.

The nation’s tax system is barely progressive. Those who argue that the wealthy are overtaxed focus solely on the federal personal income tax, while ignoring the other taxes that Americans pay. But, as the table to the right illustrates, the total share of taxes (federal, state, and local) that will be paid by Americans across the economic spectrum in 2014 is roughly equal to their total share of income.

Many taxes are regressive, meaning they take a larger share of income from poor and middle-income families than they do from the rich. To offset the regressive impact of payroll taxes, sales taxes and even some state and local income taxes, we need federal income tax policies that are more progressive.

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Health Care — Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws

April 16, 2014 Comments off

Report Card on State Price Transparency Laws (PDF)
Source: Catalyst for Payment Reform and Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute

Some states have robust price transparency laws and regulations, requiring them to create a publicly available website with price information based on real paid claims information; but in reality, the public can’t readily access that information because the website is poorly designed, or poorly functioning. Given that so many state-mandated websites are inadequate, once we included websites into our review and grading, no state received an “A” in this year’s Report Card. Unfortunately, New Hampshire—a state that received an A in last year’s Report Card—dropped to an F this year, because its website is inoperative and may remain so for an extended period.

Several states have “voluntary price transparency websites,” hosted by hospital associations, foundations, or nonprofits. While these sites can be a valuable resource to consumers, if they are not legislated they can be short-lived, dependent on the good will and resources of the organization that hosts them. For this reason, we did not factor in these websites when awarding the 2014 state grades; however, we did provide a review of them in Appendix I for comparison purposes.

Mental Health Professionals’ Attitudes and Expectations About Adoption and Adopted Children

April 16, 2014 Comments off

Mental Health Professionals’ Attitudes and Expectations About Adoption and Adopted Children
Source: National Council for Adoption

Many researchers have documented heavy use of clinical services by adoptees, but little is known about how much training mental health professionals actually receive about adoption, or their beliefs about adoption and adopted people. It is important to understand mental health professionals’ expectations for their adopted clients.

Previous research has shown that teachers treat students differently if they have high expectations for those students. In other studies, some adoptive parents have told us it was necessary to educate their child’s counselor about issues related to adoption. We have therefore investigated adoption-related expectations and training on adoption issues among mental health professionals. In this article, we will review some of the most current published information about the adjustment of adopted children, and present our own findings regarding clinicians’ beliefs and expectations for their adopted clients.

Boomers and Physical Fitness: An AARP Bulletin Survey

April 15, 2014 Comments off

Boomers and Physical Fitness: An AARP Bulletin Survey
Source: AARP

Aimed at exploring the U.S. Boomers’ perceptions and behavior around physical health and fitness, this survey was conducted via telephone by AARP Research, on behalf of the AARP Bulletin, in January 2014, among a national representative sample of 760 Boomers (ages 49-67 years).

Key findings include:

  • Over four-in-ten (43%) Boomers rate their physical health excellent or very good while three-in-ten (29%) rate it fair or poor.
  • Two-thirds (67%) of Boomers say physical fitness exercise is a priority for them today.
  • “It keeps me mobile, not dependent on others (48%), “I enjoy it/it’s fun” (30%), “I have always had this as a priority” (26%), “Doctor recommended it as a must” (26%), and “It makes me feel younger” (25%) are the top-five reasons why physical fitness exercise is a priority for them today.
  • While asking the reasons to those who say physical fitness exercise is not a priority for them today, the highest proportion reported “I don’t have time” (30%), followed by “I am disabled/physically impaired” (22%), “I have chronic illness/I am sick” (21%), and “I have other more important priorities” (20%).
  • About one-in-six (16%) Boomers are currently a member of a health, fitness, or exercise club. Use of personal fitness mobile apps is infrequent among Boomers – only 7% reported using them over the past five years.

AARP Online Travel Study

April 15, 2014 Comments off

AARP Online Travel Study
Source: AARP Research

Those who are 50 or older take about six non-business related overnight trips of at least 50 miles from home per year.

The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails

April 14, 2014 Comments off

The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails
Source: Treatment Advocacy Center
From Executive Summary:

Prisons and jails have become America’s “new asylums”: The number of individuals with serious mental illness in prisons and jails now exceeds the number in state psychiatric hospitals tenfold. Most of the mentally ill individuals in prisons and jails would have been treated in state psychiatric hospitals in the years before the deinstitutionalization movement led to closing the hospitals, a trend that continues even today.

The treatment of mentally ill individuals in prisons and jails is critical, especially since such individuals are vulnerable and often abused while incarcerated. Untreated, their psychiatric illness often gets worse, and they leave prison or jail sicker than when they entered. Individuals in prison and jails have a right to receive medical care, and this right pertains to serious mental illness just as it pertains to tuberculosis, diabetes, or hypertension. This right to treatment has been affirmed by the US Supreme Court.

“The Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in Prisons and Jails” is the first national survey of such treatment practices. It focuses on the problem of treating seriously mentally ill inmates who refuse treatment, usually because they lack awareness of their own illness and do not think they are sick. What are the treatment practices for these individuals in prisons and jails in each state? What are the consequences if such individuals are not treated?

To address these questions, an extensive survey of professionals in state and county corrections systems was undertaken. Sheriffs, jail administrators, and others who were interviewed for the survey expressed compassion for inmates with mental illness and frustration with the mental health system that is failing them. There were several other points of consensus among those interviewed:

  • Not only are the numbers of mentally ill in prisons and jails continuing to climb, the severity of inmates’ illnesses is on the rise as well.
  • Many inmates with mental illness need intensive treatment, and officials in the prisons and jails feel compelled to provide the hospital-level care these inmates need.
  • The root cause of the problem is the continuing closure of state psychiatric hospitals and the failure of mental health officials to provide appropriate aftercare for the released patients.

2013 Open Doors Report

April 14, 2014 Comments off

2013 Open Doors Report
Source: Institute of International Education
From press release:

The 2013 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange, released today, finds the number of international students at colleges and universities in the United States increased by seven percent to a record high of 819,644 students in the 2012/13 academic year, while U.S. students studying abroad increased by three percent to an all-time high of more than 283,000.

In 2012/13, 55,000 more international students enrolled in U.S. higher education compared to 2011/12, with most of the growth driven by China and Saudi Arabia. This marks the seventh consecutive year that Open Doors reported expansion in the total number of international students in U.S. higher education. There are now 40 percent more international students studying at U.S. colleges and universities than a decade ago, and the rate of increase has risen steadily for the past three years. International students make up slightly under four percent of total student enrollment at the graduate and undergraduate level combined. International students’ spending in all 50 states contributed approximately $24 billion to the U.S. economy.

The number of U.S. students who studied abroad for academic credit increased by three percent to 283,332 students in 2011/12, a higher rate of growth than the one percent increase the previous year. More U.S. students went to Latin America and China, and there was a rebound in those going to Japan as programs reopened in Fall 2011 after the earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. Study abroad by American students has more than tripled over the past two decades, from approximately 71,000 students in 1991/92 to the record number in 2011/12. Despite these increases, fewer than 10 percent of all U.S. college students study abroad at some point during their undergraduate years.

Discipline Disparities Series – Briefing Papers

April 12, 2014 Comments off

Discipline Disparities Series – Briefing Papers
Source: Discipline Disparities Research-to-Practice Collaborative

Disparities in the use of school discipline by race, gender, and sexual orientation have been well-documented, and continue to place large numbers of students at risk for short- and long-term negative outcomes. In order to improve the state of our knowledge and encourage effective interventions, the Discipline Disparities Research to Practice Collaborative, a group of 26 nationally known researchers, educators, advocates, and policy analysts, came together to address the problem of disciplinary disparities. Funded by Atlantic Philanthropies and Open Society Foundations, the Collaborative has spent nearly three years conducting a series of meetings with groups of stakeholders – advocates, educators, juvenile justice representatives, intervention agents, researchers, and policymakers–in order to increase the availability of interventions that are both practical and evidence-based, and to develop and support a policy agenda for reform to improve equity in school discipline.

The project has funded eleven new research projects to expand the knowledge base, particularly in the area of intervention, and commissioned papers from noted researchers presented at the Closing the School Discipline Gap Conference. A culminating report of the Collaborative’s work is the formal release of the Discipline Disparities Briefing Paper Series three papers on policy, practice, and new research summarizing the state of our knowledge and offering practical, evidence-based recommendations for reducing disparities in discipline in our nation’s schools.

Report: Nearly 300,000 New Yorkers Flooded in Sandy Lived Outside FEMA Flood Zones

April 11, 2014 Comments off

Report: Nearly 300,000 New Yorkers Flooded in Sandy Lived Outside FEMA Flood Zones
Source: Natural Resources Defense Council

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood maps for New York City did not identify that nearly 65 percent of the area inundated during Hurricane Sandy—home to nearly 300,000 people—was at risk from coastal flooding, according to a new analysis from the Natural Resources Defense Council. The report tallies the human toll and impact to critical infrastructure like schools and hospitals.

40% of Children Miss Out on the Parenting Needed to Succeed in Life

April 10, 2014 Comments off

40% of Children Miss Out on the Parenting Needed to Succeed in Life
Source> Sutton Trust

Four in ten babies don’t develop the strong emotional bonds – what psychologists call “secure attachment” – with their parents that are crucial to success later in life. Disadvantaged children are more likely to face educational and behavioural problems when they grow older as a result, new Sutton Trust research finds today.

The review of international studies of attachment, Baby Bonds, by Sophie Moullin (Princeton University), Professor Jane Waldfogel (Colombia University and the London School of Economics) and Dr Liz Washbrook (University of Bristol), finds infants aged under three who do not form strong bonds with their mother or father are more likely to suffer from aggression, defiance and hyperactivity when they get older.

Few Americans Know Where Elected Officials and Candidates Stand on Government Support for Research and Innovation, New Polling Booklet Reveals

April 10, 2014 Comments off

Few Americans Know Where Elected Officials and Candidates Stand on Government Support for Research and Innovation, New Polling Booklet Reveals
Source: Research!America

Two-thirds of Americans (66%) say it’s important for candidates running for office to assign a high priority to funding medical research, according to America Speaks, Volume 14, a compilation of key questions from public opinion polls commissioned by Research!America. Polling shows that Americans place a high value on U.S. leadership in medical innovation, yet only 12% say they are very well informed about the positions of their senators and representative when it comes to their support of medical and scientific research. www.researchamerica.org/poll_summary.

To help close this knowledge gap, Research!America and partner organizations are launching a national voter education initiative, Ask Your Candidates! Is Medical Research Progress a Priority? Through online and grassroots activities, social media strategies and on-the-ground events, congressional candidates will be urged to share their views on government policies and support for medical innovation conducted in both the public and private sectors. www.askyourcandidates.org.

NRDC Report: Potentially Unsafe Chemicals in Food Threaten Public Health

April 9, 2014 Comments off

NRDC Report: Potentially Unsafe Chemicals in Food Threaten Public Health
Source: Natural Resources Defense Council

Federal protections to keep potentially unsafe chemicals out of our foods are woefully inadequate and may be putting the health of Americans at risk, a Natural Resources Defense Council investigation found.

The food safety protection system is marred by minimal supervision by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, rife with apparent conflicts of interest in safety evaluations, and rendered all but toothless by a gaping loophole that allows companies to simply declare as safe hundreds of chemicals added to our foods—without any notification to the FDA or the public, according to an NRDC report released today.

Death Sentences and Executions 2013

April 7, 2014 Comments off

Death Sentences and Executions 2013
Source: Amnesty International

2013 was marked by some challenging setbacks on the journey to abolition of the death penalty. Four countries – Indonesia, Kuwait, Nigeria and Viet Nam – resumed executions and there was a significant rise in the number of people executed during the year compared with 2012, driven primarily by increases in Iraq and Iran.

Executions were recorded in 22 countries during 2013, one more than in the previous year. As in 2012, it could not be confirmed if judicial executions took place in Egypt or Syria. The overall number of reported executions worldwide was 778, an increase of almost 15% compared with 2012. As in previous years, this figure does not include the thousands of people executed in China; with the death penalty treated as a state secret the lack of reliable data does not allow Amnesty International to publish credible minimum figures for China.

Boomers and Finances: An AARP Bulletin Survey

April 7, 2014 Comments off

Boomers and Finances: An AARP Bulletin Survey
Source: AARP Research

With an interest in learning more about what American Boomers perceive about their financial performance and situation, on behalf of the AARP Bulletin, in November 2013, AARP Research conducted a short telephone survey among a nationally representative sample of 714 individuals age 49-67 years old.

Key findings include:

  • Two-thirds (67%) of Boomers say they are doing at least somewhat well financially, with one-in-five (21%) doing extremely or very well and about half (46%) doing somewhat well.
  • Regarding how well Boomers thought they would be doing financially at their age, the majority (56%) say they are doing either better than expected (20%) or about the same as expected (36%).
  • About four-in-ten (39%) Boomers perceive they are doing better than their parents were doing financially, and over a quarter (26%) perceive they are doing the same as their parents were doing at the same age.
  • Over four-in-ten (43%) Boomers expect their children will be doing better financially and about one-fifth (18%) of them expect their children will be doing about the same as they are doing today when their children reach the age they are today.

Fiduciary Duty and Investment Advice: Attitudes of Plan Sponsors

April 4, 2014 Comments off

Fiduciary Duty and Investment Advice: Attitudes of Plan Sponsors
Source: AARP Research

This AARP survey of employers that sponsor retirement savings plans (“plan sponsors”) examines a range of issues related to investment advice available to plan participants from the financial institutions that provide their plan (the “DC provider”). It reveals widespread support for holding advice to a “fiduciary” standard; that is, requiring advice offered by DC providers to individual plan participants to be in the best interest of the participants.

Fact Sheet: Hunger by the Numbers in the African-American Community: Employment, Wages, and Fairness

April 4, 2014 Comments off

Fact Sheet: Hunger by the Numbers in the African-American Community: Employment, Wages, and Fairness (PDF)
Source: Bread for the World

Ending hunger in America is possible. However, the return of income inequality on a scale that hasn’t been witnessed since the Great Depression—and the high poverty and hunger rates that accompany it—indicates that it’s time for the U.S. government to step up.

In 2012, the average incomes of the top 1 percent of households rose by 19.6 percent, while the incomes of the other 99 percent grew by just 1 percent. Economic inequality manifests itself in disproportionate rates of hunger and poverty among communities of color and children in particular. Following is an analysis of hunger and poverty within the African-American community and the connection to employment, wages, and fairness.

New Report Examines Promise and Potential Dangers of New Financial Marketplace

April 4, 2014 Comments off

New Report Examines Promise and Potential Dangers of New Financial Marketplace
Source: U.S. Public Interest Research Group

U.S. PIRG Education Fund and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) released a comprehensive new report today [http://www.uspirgedfund.org/reports/usf/big-data-means-big-opportunities-and-big-challenges] focused on the realities of the new financial marketplace and the threats and opportunities its use poses to financial inclusion. The report examines the impact of digital technology, especially the unprecedented analytical and real-time actionable powers of “Big Data,” on consumer welfare. The groups immediately filed the report with the White House Big Data review headed by John Podesta, who serves as senior counselor to the President. The White House is to issue a report in April addressing the impact of “Big Data” practices on the public, including the possible need for additional consumer safeguards.

In addition to the undeniable convenience of online and mobile banking, explains the report, the new financial environment poses a number of challenges, especially for lower-income consumers. Increasingly, the public confronts an invisible “e-scoring” system that may limit their access to credit and other financial services. “We are being placed under a powerful ‘Big Data’ lens, through which, without meaningful transparency or control, decisions about our financial futures are being decided,” the report explains.

2013-2014 Winter Heating Costs for Older and Low-Income Households

April 2, 2014 Comments off

2013-2014 Winter Heating Costs for Older and Low-Income Households
Source: AARP Research

Record breaking cold weather this heating season will leave many older American households facing higher heating costs than last year. While heating costs continue to be higher for households heating with fuel oil than those heating with natural gas or electricity, costs to heat with natural gas, electricity, and propane have risen for many households across the United States.

This report analyzes data from the 2009 Residential Energy Consumption Surveys and the February 2014 Short-Term Energy Outlook. It examines heating-related energy consumption and expenditures among consumers age 65 and older based on income, heating fuel used, and geographic location. Winter heating costs are likely to be a greater burden on older low-income households than on similarly aged higher-income households, even though low-income households tend to use less heating fuel than other groups. This report will be updated monthly through March 2014 as new data are released.

Where America is sprawling and what it means

April 2, 2014 Comments off

Where America is sprawling and what it means (PDF)
Source: Smart Growth America

People in compact, connected metropolitan regions are more likely to move up the economic ladder, have lower household costs, enjoy more transportation choices and lead longer, safer, healthier lives according to a new report out today by Smart Growth America and the University of Utah’s Metropolitan Research Center.

Measuring Sprawl 2014 evaluates development in 221 major metropolitan areas in the United States, and ranks these areas based on how sprawling or compact they are. The report also examines how sprawl relates to life in those communities, based on factors like economic mobility, the cost of housing and transportation, life expectancy, obesity, chronic disease and safety.

Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children

April 1, 2014 Comments off

Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children
Source: Annie E. Casey Foundation

In this policy report, the Annie E. Casey Foundation explores the intersection of kids, race and opportunity. The report features the new Race for Results index, which compares how children are progressing on key milestones across racial and ethnic groups at the national and state level. The index is based on 12 indicators that measure a child’s success in each stage of life, from birth to adulthood, in the areas of early childhood; education and early work; family supports; and neighborhood context. The report also makes four policy recommendations to help ensure that all children and their families achieve their full potential.

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