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Mid- and Late-Career Teachers Struggle With Paltry Incomes

July 28, 2014 Comments off

Mid- and Late-Career Teachers Struggle With Paltry Incomes
Source: Center for American Progress

Low teacher pay is not news. Over the years, all sorts of observers have argued that skimpy teacher salaries keep highly qualified individuals out of the profession. One recent study found that a major difference between the education system in the United States and those in other nations with high-performing students is that the United States offers much lower pay to educators.

But for the most part, the conversation around teacher pay has examined entry-level teachers. The goal of this issue brief was to learn more about the salaries of mid- and late-career teachers and see if wages were high enough to attract and keep the nation’s most talented individuals. This research relied on a variety of databases, the results of which are deeply troubling. Our findings include:

  • Mid- and late-career teacher base salaries are painfully low in many states. In Colorado, teachers with a graduate degree and 10 years of experience make less than a trucker in the state. In Oklahoma, teachers with 15 years of experience and a master’s degree make less than sheet metal workers. And teachers in Georgia with 10 years of experience and a graduate degree make less than a flight attendant in the state. (See Appendix for state-by-state data on teacher salaries. We relied on “base teacher” salaries for our data, which typically does not include summer jobs or other forms of additional income.)
  • Teachers with 10 years of experience who are family breadwinners often qualify for a number of federally funded benefit programs designed for families needing financial support. We found that mid-career teachers who head families of four or more in multiple states such as Arizona and North Dakota qualify for several benefit programs, including the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the School Breakfast and Lunch Program. What’s more, teachers have fewer opportunities to grow their salaries compared to other professions.
  • To supplement their minimal salaries, large percentages of teachers work second jobs. We found that in 11 states, more than 20 percent of teachers rely on the financial support of a second job, and in some states such Maine, that number is as high as 25 percent. In these 11 states, the average base salary for a teacher with 10 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree is merely $39,673—less than a carpenter’s national average salary. (Note that teachers typically have summers off, and the data on teachers who work second jobs do not include any income that a teacher may have earned over the summer.)
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Return on Educational Investment: 2014 — A District-by-District Evaluation of U.S. Educational Productivity

July 21, 2014 Comments off

Return on Educational Investment: 2014 — A District-by-District Evaluation of U.S. Educational Productivity
Source: Center for American Progress

In 2011, the Center of American Progress released the first-ever attempt to evaluate the productivity of almost every major school district in the country. That project developed a set of relatively simple productivity metrics in order to measure the achievement that a school district produces relative to its spending, while controlling for factors outside a district’s control, such the cost of living and students living in poverty.

The findings of that first report were worrisome and underscored the fact that the nation suffers from a productivity crisis. The data suggested that low productivity might cost the nation’s school system billions of dollars a year. What’s more, too few states and districts tracked the bang that they received for their education buck.

In this updated report, CAP uses these same metrics to once again examine the productivity of the nation’s school districts. We embarked on this second evaluation for a number of reasons. In many areas, education leaders continue to face difficult budget choices, and more than 300,000 education-related jobs have been lost since the start of the Great Recession. At the same time, the advent of the new, more rigorous Common Core standards will demand that far more from educators, including better, tougher exams. In short, many educators are being asked to do more with less.

But still, school productivity has not become part of the reform conversation, and with this project, our hope is to shine a light on how productivity differs across districts, as well as to identify key areas of reform. Moreover, for the first time, we conducted a special analysis of educational fiscal practices, diving deep into state budgeting approaches. We believe that if our education system had a more robust way of tracking expenditures, it could do more to increase productivity. Together with this report, we have also released analysis by CAP Senior Policy Analyst Robert Hanna on twin districts. Hanna’s analysis looks more closely at the programs and practices of more effective districts.

Harnessing the Tax Code to Promote College Affordability: Options for Reform

June 17, 2014 Comments off

Harnessing the Tax Code to Promote College Affordability: Options for Reform
Source: Center for American Progress

The United States tax code is full of provisions designed to encourage or reward specific behaviors, such as owning a home or saving for retirement. Tax benefits for higher education are no exception: Contributions to some college savings accounts grow tax-free, college tuition is often tax deductible, and some student-loan borrowers are able to deduct the interest paid on their student loans just as they would the interest paid on their mortgage.

These higher education tax provisions have implications for access, affordability, and equity. Higher-income families benefit from tax-free savings toward future college costs through Section 529 college savings plans. The tax code, however, rewards middle-class families for savings less, because tax benefits are much smaller for those in lower tax brackets, and these families largely do not participate. While in school, parents and students face several competing tax incentives—such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit, Lifetime Learning Credit, and tuition and fees deduction—and an estimated 1.7 million tax filers each year do not make the optimal choices. In addition, the tax benefits available on student-loan interest help some struggling borrowers, but not others, because some earn too little to truly benefit.

Given that the federal budget contains more than $1 trillion in annual tax expenditures—government spending delivered through tax breaks or exceptions—it is no surprise that these expenditures face increased scrutiny. As tuition costs and student-loan debt have both increased dramatically, tax provisions should change to ensure the best possible outcomes for parents, students, and graduates.

Rooftop Solar Adoption in Emerging Residential Markets

June 6, 2014 Comments off

Rooftop Solar Adoption in Emerging Residential Markets
Source: Center for American Progress

Solar energy has become a tangible solution to rising electricity costs and carbon emissions for many Americans. Declining installation prices and solar-friendly policies in many states have led to tremendous growth in rooftop solar installations. In 2013, residential solar photovoltaic, or PV, capacity increased 60 percent over the previous year, reaching 792 megawatts. Today, a new solar power system is installed every four minutes in the United States.

The rooftop solar phenomenon took off in states such as California, Arizona, and New Jersey—the three largest U.S. solar markets—and has been spreading, albeit at a slower pace, to other states. Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York, for example, are developing strong residential solar markets, but the number of residential installations in each state is less than half of the total residential installations in Arizona and New Jersey and less than 10 percent of the total residential installations in California.

Last year, the Center for American Progress released an issue brief titled “Solar Power to the People: The Rise of Rooftop Solar Among the Middle Class,” which found that rooftop solar systems were being overwhelmingly adopted in middle-class neighborhoods with median incomes ranging from $40,000 to $90,000 in Arizona, California, and New Jersey. This issue brief explores the income make-up of rooftop solar adopters in the developing markets of Maryland, Massachusetts, and New York.

New Report Examines Teacher-Evaluation Plans

May 28, 2014 Comments off

New Report Examines Teacher-Evaluation Plans
Source: Center for American Progress

Today, the Center for American Progress released a new report examining the status of new education-evaluation plans being implemented across the nation as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, or ESEA, waivers.

In 2011, the Department of Education provided states with an opportunity for flexibility from certain requirements under ESEA, currently known as the No Child Left Behind, or NCLB, Act. The flexibility process requires states to develop and implement new educator-evaluation systems to help identify effective teachers, as well as those who can benefit from additional supports to improve their instructional practice. While some states required districts to adopt state-designed evaluation systems, other states gave school districts discretion in designing their own teacher-evaluation systems. Inevitably, one of the challenges those states that offered discretion now face is tracking and monitoring the variety of district teacher-evaluation plans. The capacity for a state department of education to effectively monitor these systems depends largely on the size of the state and the number of districts within that state.

Under the ESEA waiver-granting process, states agreed to certain reforms, such as developing or adopting college- and career-ready standards and teacher-accountability plans that include student-achievement data as a condition of being let out of certain requirements of NCLB. The waiver plans submitted by states seeking flexibility under ESEA are comprehensive and detailed, and implementation of those plans is well underway in the states that received waivers.

As the reforms begin to take hold, it is worth tracking just how states are implementing or adapting their waiver plans. In the report released today, the Center for American Progress reviewed state ESEA waiver plans as they relate to the implementation and monitoring of evaluation and support systems for teachers.

New Report Recommends Federal Action to Address Pervasive Profiling, Punishment, and Imprisonment of LGBT People and People Living with HIV

May 23, 2014 Comments off

New Report Recommends Federal Action to Address Pervasive Profiling, Punishment, and Imprisonment of LGBT People and People Living with HIV
Source: Center for American Progress

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, people and people living with HIV, or PLWH, face sweeping discrimination at all stages of the criminal legal system—including policing, adjudication, and incarceration—according to a new report published by the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law at Columbia Law School and co-authored by the Center for American Progress, The Center for HIV Law and Policy, and Streetwise & Safe, or SAS.

The report, “A Roadmap for Change: Federal Policy Recommendations for Addressing the Criminalization of LGBT People and People with HIV,” is one of the first reports of its kind to offer comprehensive federal policy recommendations to address the cycles of criminalization and discriminatory treatment faced by LGBT people and PLWH. Co-authored by Catherine Hanssens, Aisha C. Moodie-Mills, Andrea J. Ritchie, Dean Spade, and Urvashi Vaid with input from more than 50 legal, advocacy, and grassroots organizations working on LGBT and criminal justice policy, the report provides an extensive outline of policy measures that federal agencies can adopt to address discriminatory and abusive policing practices, improve conditions for LGBT prisoners and immigrants in detention, decriminalize HIV, and prevent LGBT youth and adults from coming in contact with the system in the first place.

New Analysis and Infographics Show the Dangerous and Costly Effects of Detainee Bed Quotas

May 22, 2014 Comments off

New Analysis and Infographics Show the Dangerous and Costly Effects of Detainee Bed Quotas
Source: Center for American Progress

New CAP analysis and infographics detail the dangerous and costly toll of the congressionally mandated bed quota on our immigration system. Beginning in 2009, Congress directed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, to detain a set number of immigrants each day in an attempt to force the department to increase deportations. Today, this arbitrary congressional quota requires that DHS maintain enough bed space to jail 34,000 immigrants every day—regardless of DHS’s actual need to detain immigrants and at a cost of more than $2 billion per year.

The bed quota restricts Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s, or ICE’s, ability to make individualized custody determinations, such as release on bond or placement in less restrictive and less costly alternatives to detention, which take into account the particular vulnerabilities of immigrants, particularly those from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, community.

An estimated 70 percent of immigrants in detention facilities fall into the mandatory detention category; this means that 30 percent of the 34,000 immigrants detained each day would be eligible for release if not for the quota. Removing the quota would save taxpayers at least $600 million per year and prevent tens of thousands of people from unnecessary imprisonment.

Oil and Gas Industry Investments in the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International; Reshaping American Energy, Land, and Wildlife Policy

May 14, 2014 Comments off

Oil and Gas Industry Investments in the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International; Reshaping American Energy, Land, and Wildlife Policy
Source: Center for American Progress

Two bedrock principles have guided the work and advocacy of American sportsmen for more than a century. First, under the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, wildlife in the United States is considered a public good to be conserved for everyone and accessible to everyone, not a commodity that can be bought and owned by the highest bidder. Second, since President Theodore Roosevelt’s creation of the first wildlife refuges and national forests, sportsmen have fought to protect wildlife habitat from development and fragmentation to ensure healthy game supplies.

These two principles, however, are coming under growing fire from an aggressive and coordinated campaign funded by the oil and gas industry.

As part of a major effort since 2008 to bolster its lobbying and political power, the oil and gas industry has steadily expanded its contributions and influence over several major conservative sportsmen’s organizations, including Safari Club International, or SCI, the National Rifle Association, or NRA, and the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation. The first two organizations have assumed an increasingly active and vocal role in advancing energy industry priorities, even when those positions are in apparent conflict with the interests of hunters and anglers who are their rank-and-file members. The third group, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, or CSF, is also heavily funded by oil and gas interests and plays a key role in providing energy companies, SCI, the NRA, gun manufacturers, and other corporate sponsors with direct access to members of Congress.

The growing influence of the oil and gas industry on these powerful groups is reshaping the politics, policies, and priorities of American land and wildlife conservation.

Cities at Work: Progressive Local Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class

February 26, 2014 Comments off

Cities at Work: Progressive Local Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class
Source: Center for American Progress

“Cities at Work: Progressive Local Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class” is COWS’s (or the Center on Wisconsin Strategy’s) local government companion to the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s “States at Work: Progressive State Policies to Rebuild the Middle Class” report.

Our report is based on the practical experience and struggle of elected officials and advocates from around the country in moving their communities onto the “high road” of shared prosperity, environmental sustainability, and efficient democratic government. Its goal is to arm progressive local elected leaders and advocates with a range of effective policies that, if adopted, would make a significant difference in getting on that high road. They will be able to use better democratic organization to add value, reduce waste, and capture and share locally the great benefits of doing both.

In the summary of their state report, our colleagues at the Center for American Progress Action Fund made a compelling case for why state and local governments need to take bold action to restore the middle class and ensure more access to it. The basic reason is that, over the past generation, American economic and political inequality has tremendously increased to the point that our status as a democratic society is severely threatened. In this summary of our report, we will assume the truth of that argument. Before getting to the particular policies we recommend for cities, however, we step back to argue that cities are a particularly important, and in many ways unique, solution to these and other social problems.

A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink

January 14, 2014 Comments off

A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink
Source: Center for American Progress (The Shriver Report)

The most common shared story in our country today is the financial insecurity of American families. Today, more than one in three Americans—more than 100 million people—live in poverty or on the edge of it. Half of all Americans will spend at least a few months churning into and out of poverty during their lifetimes. This economic immobility and inequality is a systemic and pervasive problem that President Barack Obama recently described as “the defining challenge of our time.”

The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink reveals this national crisis through the eyes of women. In an era when women have solidified their position as half of the U.S. workforce and a whopping two-thirds of the primary or co-breadwinners in American families, the reality is that a third of all American women are living at or near a space we call “the brink of poverty.” We define this as less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $47,000 per year for a family of four.

Forty-two million women, and the 28 million children who depend on them, are living one single incident—a doctor’s bill, a late paycheck, or a broken-down car—away from economic ruin. Women make up nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers, the vast majority of whom receive no paid sick days. This is at a time when women earn most of the college and advanced degrees in this country, make most of the consumer spending decisions by far, and are more than half of the nation’s voters.

The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink focuses the conversation on what working women need now to be successful in today’s economy, where women are powerful, but also powerless. Identifying why that is, why it matters, and what we as a nation can do about it is the mission of this report. What women need now is a country that supports the reality of women’s dual roles as by far the majority of the nation’s caregivers and breadwinners. At its heart, The Shriver Report is a call to the nation to modernize its relationship with women in order not only to strengthen our economy, but also to make it work better for everyone.

No Place Like Home: Addressing Poverty and Homelessness in the United States

December 14, 2013 Comments off

No Place Like Home: Addressing Poverty and Homelessness in the United States
Source: Center for American Progress

While owning a home is the cornerstone of the American Dream, growing income inequality, coupled with an affordable housing crisis, makes maintaining stable housing a challenge for millions of Americans. In his book, Making Room: The Economics of Homelessness, Columbia University Professor Brendan O’Flaherty explains, “Although homelessness in the past was a phenomenon of economic depression, much of the rise in the new homelessness has occurred in relatively prosperous times.” Through his research, he shows that around the 1980s, “an increase in inequality and a smaller middle class, made it more difficult for poor people to acquire housing that had been formerly used by the middle class.” In fact, today, almost half of the homeless population in this country work but do not earn enough income to pay for housing.

When examining the availability of low-cost housing over time, the extent to which affordable housing is a barrier today becomes clear. According to the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, there were 300,000 more low-cost rental units than low-income renter households in 1970—6.5 million units for 6.2 million households. By 1985, there was an affordable housing shortfall of 3.3 million units. By 2011, the affordable housing shortage reached 5.3 million units. Today, only one in four households eligible for rental subsidies actually receives assistance due to overwhelming demand, forcing many families onto lengthy waiting lists.

The State of Communities of Color in the U.S. Economy

November 5, 2013 Comments off

The State of Communities of Color in the U.S. Economy
Source: Center for American Progress

In 2010, communities of color comprised more than 36 percent of the U.S. population, but they are projected to be the majority of the nation’s population by 2043. As we rocket toward a more multiracial future, closing racial and ethnic gaps in earnings, education, and other requisite areas is imperative. While making these changes and addressing these issues will be challenging, what we stand to gain, both as individuals and as a nation, is enormous. In the recently published book All-In Nation: An America that Works for All, the Center for American Progress and PolicyLink present a road map for this equity-driven growth—a growth model that is inclusive, sustainable, and just and that ensures we grow together as a country, not apart. Analysis in All-In Nation shows that had we closed racial and ethnic gaps in 2011, average personal yearly income would have increased by 8.1 percent, tax revenue would have increased by $192 billion, and $1.2 trillion in gross domestic product, or GDP, would have been added to the U.S. economy, which would have benefited all Americans. What’s more, 13 million people would have been lifted out of poverty. That we could have—and should have—done so but did not speaks to the pressing need to reshape the conversation around equity in the United States.

Given the scope of what needs to be accomplished, every second counts. The economic downturn and financial crisis that occurred from December 2007 to June 2009, known as the Great Recession, upended domestic and world markets and decimated the global economy. Here at home, it negatively impacted the lives of millions of Americans, who saw their jobs disappear and their homes lost to foreclosure. We are currently in the fourth year of an economic recovery following the Great Recession, which began in June 2009, and the outlook continues to gradually improve, as economic growth is stabilizing and moderate job creation persists. That being said, America’s families, who have suffered for years from high and long-term unemployment, will remain in desperate need of stronger economic growth for a prolonged period in the foreseeable future.

Building an All-In Nation: A View from the American Public

October 23, 2013 Comments off

Building an All-In Nation: A View from the American Public
Source: Center for American Progress

It is an undeniable fact that the United States is becoming increasingly diverse, rapidly heading toward the day when there will no longer be any clear racial or ethnic majority in the U.S. population. Already, more than half of newborns today are children of color, and demographers predict that more than half of all youth will be of color before the end of this decade. As youth drive this demographic change, each generation is becoming more racially and ethnically mixed than the one before.

According to Census projections, by 2043, non-Hispanic whites will become a minority of our population. By 2050, they will be only 47 percent of the U.S. population, with communities of color combining to form a solid 53 percent majority. Hispanics will make up 28 percent of the population, up from 16 percent in 2010, and African Americans will make up 13 percent, about 1 percentage point higher than their level in 2010. Asians will make up 7 percent, up from 5 percent in 2010, and another 0.7 percent will be made up of American Indian/Alaska Natives, unchanged from their 2010 levels. Finally, multiracial individuals should double in size, from their current 2 percent of the population to 4 percent by 2050.

Earlier this year, the Center for American Progress and PolicyLink released All-In Nation: An America that Works for All—a comprehensive book analyzing these changing demographics and exploring policies to ensure that a more diverse workforce is prepared for the jobs of the future and that all people are in a position to contribute to and benefit from economic growth. The goal of the book was not only to stress the moral need to ensure greater opportunities for all people but also to highlight the clear economic benefits for the entire nation of reducing racial and ethnic disparities in education, employment, and other areas. As part of this research project and as a complement to the book, CAP and PolicyLink joined with the Rockefeller Foundation and Latino Decisions to assess how Americans view issues of rising diversity and policy proposals to better integrate these communities into the mainstream of American society and its economy.

Seeking Shelter: The Experiences and Unmet Needs of LGBT Homeless Youth

October 9, 2013 Comments off

Seeking Shelter: The Experiences and Unmet Needs of LGBT Homeless Youth
Source: Center for American Progress

In 2010, the Center for American Progress issued a landmark report on homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, youth. “On the Streets: The Federal Response to Gay and Transgender Homeless Youth” explored the drivers of homelessness among LGBT youth, the experiences they have on the street, and proposed federal interventions that could help address the epidemic of homelessness among LGBT children and young adults. Our goal here is to update that report, so we began with the same assumption as the original authors three years ago: Every child deserves a supportive and loving home. Unfortunately, our findings indicate that this is still not the reality for too many LGBT youth across the United States.

Over the past several years, there has been an increase in robust data collection from cities in all corners of the United States on the experiences of homeless youth, and many of these surveys and studies have observed and described the disparities experienced by LGBT youth in shelters and on the streets. There are also new service providers who have stepped up to serve vulnerable LGBT youth and help make their lives healthier, happier, and more stable. And more LGBT young people and adults who experienced homelessness as youth have come forward with bravery and candor to tell their stories. These new developments are encouraging, and help paint a more detailed picture of who LGBT homeless youth are and how they ended up out of their homes and separated from their families.

But LGBT youth continue to be disproportionately represented among homeless youth in our country, and their experiences of homelessness continue to be characterized by violence, discrimination, poor health, and unmet needs. Family rejection, harassment in schools, and the shortcomings of juvenile justice and child welfare continue to drive these elevated rates of homelessness. And all the while, federal funding for essential services to the well-being of these youth has remained stagnant. There is much more work to be done.

In this report, we once again explore who LGBT homeless youth are, how they become homeless, how their needs are being addressed, and what the federal government can do to eliminate homelessness among LGBT youth. In particular, we stress the following policy priorities that can assist in preventing homelessness among LGBT youth and change their lives for the better:

  • Reauthorize the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act with LGBT-specific provisions.
  • Establish standards that protect LGBT youth from bullying and harassment in schools.
  • Support initiatives that strengthen families with LGBT children, and that promote acceptance and understanding between parents and children.
  • Disassemble the school-to-prison pipeline.
  • Initiate efforts to research LGBT youth homelessness and track demographic data on homeless youth that includes sexual orientation and gender identity.

The State of Women in America: A 50-State Analysis of How Women Are Faring Across the Nation

September 26, 2013 Comments off

The State of Women in America: A 50-State Analysis of How Women Are Faring Across the Nation
Source: Center for American Progress

The role of women in the United States has changed dramatically over the past few decades. For one, more and more women have taken on new responsibilities outside the home by joining the paid workforce. While women made up only about one-third of the workforce in 1969, women today make up almost half of all workers in the United States. Women are also stepping up to lead the country; a record number of women ran for public office in 2012, and a record-high percentage of women are serving in Congress. In addition to making progress on issues of economics and leadership, women have made progress on health issues, which impact women’s personal well-being, as well as their economic security. Over the past few years, women have been able to end gender discrimination by big insurance companies and gain free contraception coverage because of the Affordable Care Act.

Despite women’s advancements, however, substantial inequalities remain. Although an increasing number of women are either the sole breadwinner for their family or share the role with their partners, women in the United States are paid only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. The pay gap is even larger for women of color. On average, African American women make 64 cents for every dollar that white men make. While 2012 was a watershed year for women in terms of getting elected to public office, women still comprise only 18.1 percent of Congress, despite making up more than half of the U.S. population. They also face challenges on health issues, as 2012 saw continued conservative efforts to erode women’s ability to make their own decisions about their health and well-being.

A deeper examination shows that disparities for women also exist among states. Women in Vermont, for example, make on average close to 85 cents for every dollar a man makes, while women in Wyoming make only 64 cents—more than 25 percent less than women in Vermont. On leadership, 15 states have no female elected leaders in the House of Representatives or the Senate. Lastly, while less than 10 percent of women in Vermont, Wisconsin, Hawaii, and Massachusetts are uninsured, nearly 25 percent of women in Texas do not have health insurance.

A Disaster in the Making: Addressing the Vulnerability of Low-Income Communities to Extreme Weather

August 31, 2013 Comments off

A Disaster in the Making: Addressing the Vulnerability of Low-Income Communities to Extreme Weather
Source: Center for American Progress

On October 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy hit the northeastern United States and became the deadliest and largest Atlantic hurricane of the year and the second costliest in U.S. history after Hurricane Katrina. Heeding the lessons that emerged from the blundered response to Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, the federal government was quick to react to Sandy with Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, officials arriving throughout the region and President Barack Obama surveying the damage from the ground.

Despite the quick response, however, many low-income residents of the region continued to face dire circumstances. Many low-income elderly and disabled residents of New York City’s public housing complexes were stranded in their apartments for weeks after the storm due to elevator outages. Other residents remained in the high rises, despite having no heat or power, because they had nowhere else to go or no means of getting out of their neighborhood. In other parts of the region, low-income people were unable to make it to food stamp centers for assistance. The estimated cost of the destruction wrought by Sandy was $65 billion, with low-income households greatly impacted.

American Retirement Savings Could Be Much Better

August 20, 2013 Comments off

American Retirement Savings Could Be Much Better
Source: Center for American Progress

The personal retirement-savings plans that most Americans use, such as 401(k)s and Individual Retirement Accounts, or IRAs, are unnecessarily costly and needlessly risky. But instituting another kind of retirement plan that combines the best elements of both defined-contribution and defined-benefit plans—such as the Center for American Progress’s proposed Secure, Accessible, Flexible, and Efficient, or SAFE, Retirement Plan, or the related USA Retirement Funds proposal from Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)—could provide a more secure retirement at a far lower cost, according to a new analysis by the Center for American Progress.
These two proposals, also known as collective defined-contribution plans, improve upon the 401(k) model in a number of ways. As described in greater detail in a fall 2012 report, titled “Making Saving for Retirement Easier, Cheaper, and More Secure,” CAP’s SAFE Retirement Plan combines elements of a traditional pension—including regular lifetime payments in retirement, professional management, and pooled investing—with elements of a 401(k), such as predictable costs for employers and portability for workers. (see text box)
Our actuarial analysis finds that CAP’s SAFE Retirement Plan significantly outperforms both 401(k)s and IRAs on cost and risk measures. The results of our study are striking:

  • The SAFE Plan costs only half as much for workers. A worker with a SAFE Plan would have to contribute only half as much of their paycheck as a worker saving in a typical 401(k) plan to have the same likelihood of maintaining their standard of living upon retirement.
  • The SAFE Plan reduces risk dramatically. A worker with a SAFE Plan is nearly 2.3 times as likely to maintain their standard of living in retirement as a worker with a typical 401(k) account making identical contributions.

Disastrous Spending: Federal Disaster-Relief Expenditures Rise amid More Extreme Weather

April 30, 2013 Comments off

Disastrous Spending: Federal Disaster-Relief Expenditures Rise amid More Extreme Weather
Source: Center for American Progress

Superstorm Sandy devastated New Jersey, New York, and other areas along the eastern seaboard six months ago on October 29, 2012. It took at least 72 lives in the United States and caused nearly $50 billion in damages. Congress eventually provided $60 billion in disaster relief and recovery aid after weeks of deliberating and partisan bickering. These recovery efforts continue to this day.

Sandy was the worst natural disaster in the United States in terms of destruction and deaths since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, but it wasn’t the only one. In 2011 and 2012 alone, the United States experienced 25 floods, storms, droughts, heat waves, and wildfires that each caused at least $1 billion in damages. Combined, these extreme weather events were responsible for 1,107 fatalities and up to $188 billion in economic damages.

The Center for American Progress conducted an analysis and found that the federal government—which means taxpayers—spent $136 billion total from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2013 on disaster relief. This adds up to an average of nearly $400 per household per year.

Nearly all of this disaster spending was for relief and recovery from these and other smaller natural disasters. Most of these disasters are symptomatic of the man-made climate change resulting from massive amounts of carbon emissions and other pollutants in the atmosphere, which warm the oceans and the Earth. As climate change accelerates, so will federal spending on disaster relief and recovery, which will ultimately be paid for by taxpayers.

How Pay Inequity Hurts Women of Color

April 12, 2013 Comments off

How Pay Inequity Hurts Women of Color

Source: Center for American Progress

As a group, women of color earn less than their white female peers—a reality that means they need to work longer to earn the same pay as white women and then even longer to match the earnings of white men. The gender- and race-based wage gap affects families of color with long-term consequences that hinder wealth accumulation.

Women currently make up about half of all workers in the U.S. labor force and among mothers in the labor force the majority are either breadwinners or share that responsibility with a partner. In 2010, 13.1 percent of women in the workforce were black, 4.7 percent were Asian, and 12.8 percent were Latina. What’s more, these women of color are increasingly the breadwinners in their families—53.3 percent of black households and 40.1 percent of Latino households.

This issue brief will examine our nation’s gender-based wage gap and its racial overlay. It will look specifically at the long-term implications of the wage gap on communities of color and then suggest policy recommendations to narrow and eventually eliminate the wage gap to ensure equal work earns equal pay.

The Economic Benefits of Passing the DREAM Act

October 1, 2012 Comments off

The Economic Benefits of Passing the DREAM Act

Source: Center for American Progress

Until now, much of the debate surrounding the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act—a bill to provide a pathway to legal status for eligible young people who were brought here as children and who complete high school and some college or military service—focused on legal, ethical, and logistical concerns. But there are other important benefits of enacting the DREAM Act, most importantly the boost to the economy.

This report takes a close look at this economic perspective. We present an analysis to understand what would happen if the United States were to grant a pathway to legal status to an estimated 2.1 million eligible youth in our country by passing the DREAM Act. Overall, we find that the passage of the DREAM Act would add $329 billion to the U.S. economy and create 1.4 million new jobs by 2030, demonstrating the potential of the proposed law to boost economic growth and improve our nation’s fiscal health.

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